Lighting up The Old Vic


In 1898 Sir William Ramsay, a Scottish chemist, and Morris M. Travers, an English chemist, discovered neon shortly after their discovery of the element krypton in 1898. Like krypton, neon was discovered through the study of liquefied air.

That same year, a 24-year-old Lilian Baylis left South Africa to come and work with her Aunt Emma at The Old Vic. 14 years later Emma Cons passed away, leaving the management of The Old Vic to Lilian Baylis – the same year that neon was sold commercially to those looking for eye-catching signs and advertisements, and this unlikely pairing were finally united in 2015.

Writing in The Old Vic Magazine in January 1921, Lilian wrote ‘”Audace, toujours de l’audace” is I am sure a fitting motto for The Old Vic. Last month it dared three things – King Lear, The Magic Flute and Tristan and Isolde.’

Since 2015, this motto has shone over the entrance to our auditorium in Lilian’s own hand writing in a neon design by Darren West, an installation that was part of Phase 1 of our Capital Project. Since then, our love of neon has grown and features in Mark’s Bar, stage door and displaying our current shows at the front of the theatre. As Lumiere London prepares to light up the city, come and see The Old Vic in all its neon glory. Share your pictures using #OV200.

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