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The Old Vic set to be ‘the first theatre company to visit China’ – 40 years ago in The Stage

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 June 14, 1979: London’s Old Vic Theatre announced plans for an overseas tour of Hamlet to 12 cities, including landmark performances in China.

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We reported: “The Old Vic will be the first theatre company to visit China, and 18 performances will be staged at Elsinore. Derek Jacobi will play the Prince in this revival of Toby Robertson’s 1977 production. Also in the cast will be Jane Wymark as Ophelia, Brenda Bruce as Gertrude, Julian Glover as Claudius and Robert Eddison as Polonius. The production is being sponsored by Trident Television, who are to make a documentary about the company and Elsinore. Four performances in Peking and four in Shanghai have been arranged in association with the Chinese Ministry of Culture.

“Other tour destinations include Greece (Athens and Thessaloniki), Sweden, Finland, Japan (Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya), Melbourne and Sweden. Two UK dates are included: one week in Newcastle’s Theatre Royal and a week at the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, the latter engagement being a pioneering move aimed at helping get the theatre off the ground.”

That week’s issue also featured reviews of the musical Grease (“It all has tremendous energy, a lot of genuinely funny lines and songs that are often a witty pastiche of the period”) and Billie Whitelaw in Beckett’s Happy Days at London’s Royal Court (“There are passages in the long monologue which touch one… But there are also tedious stretches”).


If you’d like to read more stories from the history of theatre, all previous content from The Stage is available at the British Newspaper Archive in a convenient, easy-to-access format. Please visit: thestage.co.uk/archive

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