Published on August 14th, 2018 | by Sam Rose
Old Vic Stamps Mark 200 Year Anniversary
Known as one of the most important venues in the UK’s performing history, The Old Vic has been an integral part of the development of modern British theatre. This year marks 200 years since the famous theatre first opened its doors and hosted some of the world’s finest actors.
In celebration of the iconic venue turning 200 years old, Royal Mail have announced and launched a series of 8 stamps highlighting some of The Old Vic’s most groundbreaking performances. Featuring talented actors such as Sir Laurence Olivier, Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Judi Dench and Richard Burton CBE, the stamps chronicle their roles in the venue’s most important shows spanning from 1955 to 2016.
Originally founded in 1818 by James King, Daniel Dunn and John Thomas Serres, The Old Vic began life by the original name of the Royal Coburg Theatre. Branded a ‘minor’ theatre, it was technically forbidden at the time to show serious drama until ownership of the theatre was passed onto George Bolwell Davidge in 1824. It was only at this point that the first major theatrical performance took place, after Davidge enlisted the service of renowned actor Edmund Kean to play six separate Shakespeare plays in one night.
After Davidge decided to move on and take the reigns of the Surrey Theatre in 1833, the theatre was purchased by two new owners by the names of Daniel Egerton and William Abbot. Attempting to capitalize on the abolishment of legal distinction between patent and minor theatres, both Egerton and Abbot renamed the venue as the Royal Victoria Theatre. The theatre was placed under the ‘protection and patronage’ of Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Duchess of Kent, who at the time was the presumptive heir to the Royal throne. The Duchess only visited the theatre once but was said to be impressed by the performances of light opera and dance that took place.
Rebuild of The Old Vic
Whilst several ownership changes marked the early establishment of The Old Vic, the venue had to be rebuilt during the Second World War due to the Blitz offensive. The Old Vic Company were severely affected by the damage caused during the wartime and were forced to re-establish themselves by hosting performances at the New Theatre. With Sir Ralph Richardson and Sir Laurence Olivier as leading stars, The Old Vic was then relaunched and reopened in 1950. After several years, the Old Vic Company dissolved, passing ownership of the theater onto Lord Olivier and the National Theatre Company.
After further ownership changes and developments, it was in 1985 that The Old Vic received its most significant restoration. Under the leadership of Toronto based department store entrepreneur Edwin ‘Honest Ed’ Mirvish, the theatre enjoyed some of its first major critical successes before being put up for sale in 1998 due to financial pressures. In the same year, a new charitable trust named The Old Vic Theatre Trust 2000 bought the building. The production company behind the theatre, went on to be renamed as Old Vic Productions Plc and since 2015, Matthew Warchus has been the artistic director of the venue.
Showcasing some of The Old Vic’s finest theatrical performances, the eight unique stamps released by Royal Mail make for an essential purchase for fans of the performing arts. These iconic plays are also featured in a collection of stamp cards and a carefully crafted Presentation Pack that details the history of The Old Vic building and some of the actors who have dedicated their life to the art of theatre itself.
The actors and performances shown in this stamp release are:
- 1st Class – The Dance of Death, 1967, starring Sir Laurence Olivier.
- 1st Class – King Lear, 2016, starring Glenda Jackson.
- £1.25 – Hamlet, 1975, starring Albert Finney.
- £1.25 – Hedda Gabler, 1970, starring Dame Maggie Smith.
- £1.45 – No Man’s Land, 1975, starring Sir Arthur John Gielgud and Sir Ralph Richardson.
- £1.45 – Carmen Jones, 1991, starring Sharon Benson.
- £1.55 – Romeo and Juliet, 1960, starring Dame Judi Dench and John Stride.
- £1.55 – Henry V, 1955, starring Richard Burton CBE.
These stamps are all available here on the Post Office Shop within our wide range of Collectible products, so why not celebrate the birth of British Theatre by purchasing them for yourself or as a gift for a loved one?