London’s Old Vic will be able to stage studio productions for the first time as further details of a £12 million plan to bring its education and community work in-house are announced.
Glenda Jackson has also been appointed a trustee of the London theatre, where she returned to the stage after 25 years to play King Lear in 2016.
Initial details of the redevelopment project were revealed by The Stage last week, when the Old Vic’s leadership team – Matthew Warchus and Kate Varah – described their aim of bolstering the theatre’s community and education output by creating a five-storey annexe connected to the current building.
The Old Vic has said that a lack of physical space to host this work has until now proved a “major barrier”, with most projects taking place off-site. The new annexe will bring this work in-house for the first time as well as providing space for new ventures.
These include formalising its ability to stage studio theatre performances in the annexe, such as intimate drama, music, comedy and dance, and the opening of a cafe and workspace which the Old Vic – which is unsubsidised – said would provide an ongoing income stream to help sustain its producing work.
The annexe will also include a Clore Learning Centre for schools and colleges, which will offer a library of playtexts free to schools and visitors and integrated education offices.
The addition of the new building will double the number of young people engaging with the Old Vic will be doubled – to 20,000 each year – which the theatre said would also enable it to bring its community projects for Lambeth and Southwark residents in-house.
In order to finance the £12 million plans, both local authorities have signed up to a cross-borough funding arrangement, in which each council will loan £3.75 million towards the total, which the Old Vic would then pay back over a 10-year period through philanthropic support.
Both councils’ cabinets will consider approving this arrangement at meetings in the coming weeks.
The Old Vic has also set itself a £4 million annual fundraising target as part of its revenue requirements, which is separate to its public funding repayments.
Under current plans, the annexe would be completed in 2022. The development will be based around a former pub building adjacent to the theatre, which was purchased by the Old Vic four years ago. The current tenant of the building is a restaurant and bar, Hello Darling, but its tenancy arrangements with the Old Vic have not been disclosed.
The Old Vic said the current design envisages a demolition and rebuild for the building, however a feasibility will be determined when the team working on the project begins in September.
Announcing the additional details of the project, executive director Kate Varah described it as “a once-in-a-generation opportunity”.
“With the visionary collaboration of Lambeth and Southwark councils, we will together ensure that this vibrant theatre sustains itself financially and that its wide-reaching social engagement is so deeply embedded that there can never be any doubt about the value of the Old Vic to those it serves,” she said.
The announcement comes alongside Jackson’s new role as a trustee. The actor and former MP said she felt privileged to be have been appointed to the board.
“Working on [the Old Vic’s] stage has always brought me great joy and to now have the opportunity to help support its future is a responsibility that I take very seriously. Providing young people with opportunities to access the arts is vital if we are to education effectively, inspire creative imagination and equip them with the skills to navigate through life.
“The Old Vic’s recognition of this is inspiring and I look forward to working with it to make its future plans a reality,” she said.