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10 Leigh/Olivier Destinations in England — #6

54 Eaton Square
Nearest tube stops: Victoria and Knightsbridge

54 Eaton Square in Belgravia, Westminster was the flat that was purchased by Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier in the late 1950s. As they were going through a period of estrangement before they actually divorced, Laurence Olivier did not stay here much, but after their split, he continued to pay the rent so Vivien could use it as her home in the city, which she continued to do until her death in 1967.

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10 Leigh/Olivier Destinations in England — #7

St Martin in the Fields
Trafalgar Square
London WC2N 4JJ
Nearest tube stop: Charing Cross

Hop on the tube to Charing Cross and you’ll find yourself in Trafalgar Square, home of the National Gallery and Nelson’s Column.  It is also home to the 18th century church of St Martin in the Fields.  According to wikipedia, the original church that stood at this site dated back to the 13th century, with graves dating back to Roman times.

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10 Leigh/Olivier Destinations in England — #8

Westminster Abbey
Nearest tube stop: Westminster

Just across Westminster Bridge next to the Houses of Parliament is Westminster Abbey, a grand cathedral where many luminaries from British history are interred and where coronations have been held for centuries.  One such famous person who rests there there is Laurence Olivier; his ashes are buried in Poet’s Corner next to the likes of Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy, Robert Browning, David Garrick and the real Henry V.

Attending mass at Westminster Abbey is free, but taking any sort of tour of the tombs and gravestones cost about 12 pounds (I’m pretty sure there is a student discount, though).

If you are a history nerd like me, you’ll probably find the admission price worth it, as well as an audio or guided tour.  Aside from all of the literary and acting elite in Poet’s corner, I found the Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots tombs the most interesting as one is buried on top of the other!  History is fascinating.

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10 Leigh/Olivier Destinations in England – #9

Royal National Theatre
South Bank
Nearest tube stop: Waterloo

A 5 minute walk from the Old Vic will find you outside Britain’s Royal National Theatre. Situated on London’s South Bank next door to the British Film Institute and Waterloo Bridge, the National Theatre is probably Laurence Olivier’s biggest lasting accomplishment in the theatrical world. Larry had been at the forefront of the modern movement to establish a national theatre in London since the 1950s. When the British government consented to funding the project in 1963, the National company, headed by Larry as its first Artistic Director, was based at the Old Vic while the new theatre was being constructed.

Along with being Artistic Director, Larry also appeared in some of his most critically acclaimed productions at the National: Othello, Long Days’ Journey Into Night, and the Dance of Death.  Peter Hall took over Larry’s position as Artistic Director upon Larry’s retirement in 1973.  The National has three separate theatres inside, the largest one having been named after Laurence Olivier (he told Michael Caine near the end of his life that he had to pay the full admission price to get in just like everyone else).

For those of you who are wondering if Vivien Leigh ever stepped foot in the  National to see Larry perform, the answer is yes.  She apparently took her grandson Neville to see a performance of Othello because she wanted to show Neville what “good acting” was.  In Godfrey Winn’s  autobiography, he comments:

One learnt to speak of the past now only in terms of present theatrical successes.  The Olivier Othello was rightly hailed as a masterpiece, the definitive interpretation.  Would this still have happened had they stayed together?  The only comment I would wish to make is that other people’s relationships are surely their own business.  I do remember Vivien one week-end speaking with overflowing admiration of a recent visit to the National Theater, and how she had visited the interpreter in his dressing-room to tell him so.

Thus it was good to be made aware that there was a bridge still between the two islands that had broken from the mainland.

In 2007, a statue of Larry as Hamlet was unveiled outside the theatre to mark his 100th birthday.

If you find yourself walking along the South Bank wondering where to find this theatre, well, it’s pretty hard to miss it.  It’s a giant modernist concrete building with colored banners outside that say “National Theatre.”  If you get the the BFI, turn around and it will be right behind you.

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10 Leigh/Olivier Destinations in England–#10

I feel like it was just yesterday when I found out I’d been accepted to graduate school in London.  That was back in January, and now I’m leaving in 10 days on life’s next big adventure.  I think it would be really fun to have a Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier fan meet-up/sight-seeing tour in London next Spring, so as soon as I get my school schedule, I’ll see if something can be organized!

Since there are only 10 days left, I thought it would be fun to do a countdown of 10 places in England related to Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier!  If you’re ever in the UK and come across these sites, stop and take a photo!

#10: The Old Vic
 The Cut
London SE1 8NB
Nearest Tube Stop: Waterloo



Laurence Olivier became a member of the Old Vic Company under director Lillian Bayliss in 1937/1938 after a very successful run in Romeo and Juliet in 1935, in which he alternated the roles of Romeo and Mercutio with John Gielgud. Vivien Leigh also acted at the Old Vic–though not as a member of the official repertoire company–in 1937 when Bayliss invited her to play Ophelia in Denmark. She also played Titania in the Old Vic production of A Midsummer Nights Dream directed by Tyrone Guthrie.

In the 1944-45 season, Larry became co-manager along with Ralph Richardson, and together they transformed the Old Vic into the premier repertoire company in Britain.

Other acting luminaries who have performed on the Ol Vic stage include Richard Burton and Peter O’Toole.
It is now managed by Kevin Spacey.

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