Theatre stars demand Bristol Old Vic remains a producing company

A roll call of leading theatre talent, including Judi Dench, Emma Thompson and Richard Griffiths, have called on the board of the Bristol Old Vic to confirm that the venue will continue to produce its own work when it reopens, following a £7 million refurbishment.

In May, the board announced that the Theatre Royal Bristol – home to the Old Vic company – would be shutting for 18 months from August due to the immediate need for refurbishment. This announcement led to the departure of artistic director Simon Reade and the cancellation of an already-planned autumn season, which was to have included Kenneth Branagh directing Ivanov.

Now Dench, Thompson and Griffiths – alongside more than 100 other leading actors, directors and writers, including Lord of the Rings director Matthew Warchus, Royal Shakespeare Company associate director Gregory Doran and former artistic director Adrian Noble, Derek Jacobi, Jeremy Irons, Joan Plowright, Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart – have called on the theatre’s board to address a series of concerns they have raised relating to the venue’s closure from July 31.

In a statement, the group commented: “The refurbishment of the Theatre Royal is, of course, welcome. Audiences and actors know that it is sorely needed, but what is most important is the work that is produced on stage. At the moment, all decisions appear to be in the hands of arts council officials and board members, few of whom seem ever to have worked on a stage.

“Most of us have appeared with the company and all are members of Equity. We call for the immediate appointment of an artistic team, in particular an artistic director, so a programme of work can be planned for the period of closure. We further call on the Bristol Old Vic board, having consulted fully with audiences and performers, to make a public statement that the Bristol Old Vic remains a producing company.”

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