SYLVIA - a note from Matthew Warchus
As you possibly already know, The Old Vic is 200 years old this year. It has an extraordinary history which I find by turns intimidating and inspiring. Its iconic reputation is primarily the result of the leadership of two exceptional women, first Emma Cons from 1880 and then Lilian Baylis from 1912. They created companies which were driven by a passionate belief in entertainment harnessed to social mission. They grappled with some of the same huge financial obstacles we grapple with now (did you know The Old Vic receives no regular government funding?) but their vision and values were unassailable. I enjoy looking back at their tenures and attempting to channel some of their fire and fervour. The words ‘Dare, Always Dare’ which hang in red neon in the entrance lobby are stolen from a quote which Lilian used to keep on her office desk. As current custodians of The Old Vic we aim to build a thriving future for this great theatre, and we draw a lot of inspiration from the historic love of adventure which precedes us.
On the night this theatre opened in 1818 the range of performances included ‘a wholly original song, specially composed’. I share that enthusiasm for new musical theatre projects. You will see them regularly pop up in our programming alongside new plays, classics and family shows. Since I started here as Artistic Director we have presented several contrasting examples — Dr. Seuss’s The Lorax, Groundhog Day, Cover My Tracks, Girl from the North Country — and now SYLVIA, the funk, soul, hip hop musical.
It makes me very happy to be celebrating the anniversary of the world-changing achievements of the campaign for Votes For Women with a show directed, choreographed and co-written by the incomparable Kate Prince, in this the bicentennial year of a theatre which owes so much to two exceptional women.