An update from The Old Vic's Artistic Director

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I hope this finds you well. We’re not all in the same boat of course. Many are in good health, some are very unwell, others are profoundly lonely, some tragically losing loved ones, some are fighting to save businesses, others just desperately bored, many are managing children in confinement. At the same time, with complete disregard for the crisis, a very welcome spring has sprung and blossom is bursting out in cleaner air under quieter skies.

Our shared primary focus continues to be assisting the exceptional frontline carers by maintaining social distancing as rigorously as possible. A month on from closing The Old Vic doors, these are the adjustments we’ve made: we have furloughed two thirds of our staff and all staff have accepted a 20% pay cut for the next six months. Those still working are doing an outstanding job of damage-limitation and forward planning, whilst our weekly Zoom Socials are keeping our collective spirits up. We are thinking hard about how best to connect with our audiences whilst our doors are closed. And we are particularly conscious of continuing to provide for the children and school students together with the older members of our community with whom we so much enjoy interacting regularly through our Old Vic clubs, training courses and activities. We are quickly developing some ways to stay connected with them, more of which soon. To say that we’re eager to return to presenting new productions, and resuming all our social mission projects as soon as we possibly can, would be a huge understatement. We’re not designed to be separated, are we. And Theatre is the very definition of connectedness.

At this point, nobody knows what the process of reopening theatres is going to look like; how long there is still to wait before the process starts, and how long after that before everything feels how it always used to feel. But it’s clear what responsibly we have to do is to make plans with a combination of as much positivity and as much pragmatism as we can muster.

Firstly, on behalf of all at The Old Vic, I’d like to convey our great sadness at being forced to postpone this summer’s production of the uplifting new musical Local Hero. This beautiful, heartwarming and politically resonant adaptation of the hit film was a huge success with critics and audiences following its world premiere with our partners The Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh last year. The brilliant creative team and wonderful cast were all about to dive into rehearsals in the next few weeks. We very much hope you will get to see this production before too long.

Secondly, I’d like to confirm that work continues on a daily basis to line up dates for the postponed run of Amy Herzog’s radiant play 4000 Miles with Eileen Atkins and Timothée Chalamet. This production was fully rehearsed at the point the lockdown started and we are very eager to share it. We will bring you more news on that as soon as we have it.

In the meantime, we are today very happy to be announcing the return of the immensely popular Old Vic production of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, in a glorious adaptation by Jack Thorne. This will be the fourth year in succession for this beloved family treat which has played to packed houses both here in London and also on Broadway.

We think it’s not unreasonable to expect that theatres will have reopened by the time this production is scheduled to
perform in November, and so would encourage you to share in our optimism and book now for what will no doubt be a perfect antidote to this very tough phase we are all currently navigating. If it becomes impossible to present the production you will be able to do one of three things: donate the funds, roll them over to a future production (this or another) by way of an account credit, or seek a refund.

There will, without question, be a time coming when The Old Vic will need to launch a critical and major fundraising campaign if we are to continue operating with the creative daring and vibrant social mission that we have determinedly aimed for. And clearly, the difficult process of rebuilding will be one that very many businesses and charities will need to undertake. That is for later, when the immediate health crisis has subsided and we have all made it to the other side. But for now, if you can afford it, simply buying into our future through purchasing a ticket for A Christmas Carol will play a significant part in supporting our return. We are a charity which operates with no government funding as a safety net and rely instead entirely on ticket sales and donations.

I have to say a huge vote of thanks to all our supporters who are sticking by us and supporting us through this crisis, most notably our Principal Partner, Royal Bank of Canada, and our Previews Partner, PwC, who demonstrate their extraordinary generosity, compassion and vision now more than ever. You know who your friends are when the going gets tough and, as ever, they have been steadfast.

We will bring you more updates when we have them but, in the meantime, let’s stay connected as best we can, salute the heroism of the NHS and all frontline workers, and look towards an ever-nearing brighter horizon. Here’s very much hoping that includes the darkness-into-light tale of transformation, optimism and rebirth – and indeed the celebration of theatre itself – which is A Christmas Carol.

Matthew Warchus
Artistic Director

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