Peter O'Toole


‘I have an association with The Vic practically since ’54, and emotionally since about 1937. It’s now 1980. It’s been a dream of mine to be involved in the kind of demeanour, the stance the Vic takes in theatre, and it’s now been realised’

In 1963 The National Theatre was housed at The Old Vic. The very first performance on 22 October was Hamlet, directed by Laurence Olivier and starring a newly famous Peter O’Toole as the lead. O’Toole famously disregarded Olivier’s direction on the opening night: ‘It was tragic actually. If O’Toole had given on the first night the performance he gave on the last dress rehearsal it would have been an absolute sensation.’ Laurence Olivier

In 1980 Peter O’Toole returned to The Old Vic with what was to become an infamous, and vitally important, production of Macbeth. With rumours of inflatable scenery, a visit by Princess Margaret during rehearsals to lift the curse of the production and an insert into the programme on opening night from Artistic Director Timothy West stating that he was disowning the production, the play was the first commercial success for The Old Vic since the departure of The National Theatre in 1976.

‘Gruesome’ The Times

‘Heroically ludicrous’ The Daily Mail

‘A roaring-boy performance by Peter O’Toole that is about as subtle as a battering-ram’ The Guardian

Despite (or thanks to) the notoriety surrounding the production, Macbeth was a sell-out success.

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