Jeremy Irons returns to his alma mater alongside Lesley Manville are to star in a new production of A Long Day’s Journey Into Night as part of the theatre’s year-long celebrations marking its milestone anniversary.
To celebrate its history and its vision for the future, the special anniversary programme will feature five world-class productions – one from each century of the theatre’s life – as well as a production of a Shakespeare play to mark the 400th anniversary of his death.
Tom Morris, artistic director at Bristol Old Vic, said: “With the average lifespan of an 18th century theatre being just 17 years, 2016 represents a momentous year for the British theatre world and Bristol Old Vic.
“Since it first opened, this historic playhouse has been celebrated for its remarkable design and as a place where countless artists, from Sarah Siddons and Henry Irving, to Peter O’Toole, Daniel Day Lewis and Miranda Richardson, have found their voices.
“Its survival is a result of extreme good fortune and its amazing capacity to inspire loyalty in its artists, staff and public. This unique anniversary will celebrate the passion of those people over the last 250 years and the visions we might bring to the next 250.
“Our artistic programme will include work from Europe, the US and from Bristol, new writing, classic text, devised work and musical theatre; it will celebrate the diversity, innovation and talent that has shaped Bristol Old Vic into the globally-renowned theatrical institution that it is today; a place where the future potential of theatre is thrashed out and discovered.”
The 20th Century will be celebrated through Richard Eyre’s staging of the classic Long Day’s Journey Into Night.
This is the first time that the acclaimed British film, theatre, television and opera director has directed a production at Bristol Old Vic, the place which inspired him as a schoolboy to work in theatre after seeing Peter O’Toole play Hamlet in 1957.
Speaking about the production, Richard Eyre said: “The first play I ever saw – at the age of 15 – was at Bristol Old Vic. That evening ignited a lifetime’s attraction to theatre.
“To be back here over 50 years later to direct a play during the 250th anniversary is a real thrill. To direct Long Day’s Journey Into Night – one of the greatest (and saddest) plays ever written – is a real privilege.”
A thread of 21st century work running throughout the year will be launched with the return of Pink Mist, the critically acclaimed Bristol Old Vic production written by poet Owen Sheers, and continues with a new co-production with Kneehigh in June and a major new musical in November.
The 19th Century is represented by the return of Bristol Old Vic’s smash hit Jane Eyre and the opening of the theatre in 1766 will be celebrated in a major revival of an 18th Century classic.
Emma Stenning, chief executive of Bristol Old Vic, said: “We have devised a special programme for the year to mark a milestone that is important not just for Bristol Old Vic but for the city of Bristol and the wider theatrical community.
“It will include theatre of the highest calibre, exciting events and activities to engage the public in our celebrations, as well as collaborations with the community to build on our ethos of enabling access for all to this historic and beautiful theatre.”