Category: theatre

Collections Cataloguing: Box 3

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Collections Cataloguing: Box 3

Hello, 2019! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season.

The new year has brought a new look to this site. I like to freshen things up every few years and just felt like returning to a basic blog layout to make things more user-friendly. Instead of a static page of blog posts you should now be able to easily visit old posts by using the “older posts” link at the bottom of each page. The photo gallery still has the old layout but it should be changed over soon. I’ve also highlighted in the sidebar two things I’m currently hard at work on: Insatgram and the Viv and Larry Patreon. Please do take a minute to familiarise yourself with the new layout and let me know if you find any broken links or things that just aren’t working.

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Now is the Winter of Our Discontent…


I don’t go to the theatre very often. I find it expensive and I guess I’m just more of a film person. However, as soon as I learned that Kevin Spacey was going to be starring in a new play at the Old Vic, I immediately purchased a ticket. Spacey is the artistic director at the Old Vic, and is a big fan of another famous Old Vic alumnus, Laurence Olivier. Like Olivier, Spacey has proved that he is capable of moving back and forth between film and stage and being very successful in both areas. I had previously seen Spacey act in the Old Vic production of The Philadelphia Story in 2005.

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Celebrating William Shakespeare

Hamlet at Kronborg Castle, Elsinore, Denmark, 1937. Vivien Leigh as Ophelia, Laurence Olivier as Hamlet

Since his death on April 23, 1616, William Shakespeare has continued his reign as the most famous playwright of all time. Countless film adaptations, not to mention stage performances, have been made of his work. In the 20th century, no one was more famous for staging Shakespeare than Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh. They performed in seven of the Bard’s most famous comedies and dramas during their 23 year relationship. Some of their joint endeavors were better critically received than others, but their command of the language and ability to surprise and move audiences proved successful. Actor Peter Wyngarde once said of Vivien and Larry: “The Oliviers brought speech to the English stage. Vivien was visual and Larry was oral. She learnt about ‘the word’ from him.”

Though Laurence Olivier almost unanimously received praise across the board for every Shakespeare play he ever did, critics were harder on Vivien. This was especially true of The Observer critic Kenneth Tynan who seemed determined to point out that Vivien was not in the same league as her husband when it came to the classics. Despite such reviews, Larry thought otherwise, saying in his book On Acting that Vivien was perfect for Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, and was the greatest Lady Macbeth he’d ever seen. He would know.

Romeo and Juliet, New York, 1940. Laurence Olivier as Romeo, Vivien Leigh as Juliet

Richard III, Australian Old Vic tour, 1948. Laurence Olivier as Richard, Vivien Leigh as Lady Anne

Antony and Cleopatra, London, 1951. Vivien Leigh as Cleopatra, Laurence Olivier as Mark Antony

Twelfth Night, Stratford on Avon, 1955. Vivien Leigh as Viola, Laurence Olivier as Malvolio

Macbeth, Stratford on Avon, 1955. Laurence Olivier as Macbeth, Vivien Leigh as Lady Macbeth

Titus Andronicus, Stratford on Avon, 1955. Laurence Olivier as Titus, Vivien Leigh as Lavinia

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Vivien Leigh in The Mask of Virtue

A few months ago, I purchased a couple of rare theatre magazines from the mid-1930s, which included spreads on two of Vivien Leigh’s earliest plays. One of these was the first magazine to feature Vivien on the cover, and contained a letter called Words, but if one of them were true? which she was commissioned to write for the magazine. The letter was addressed to her newfound public and contained her promise to work hard in effort to keep their respect.

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Inside the National Theatre Archive

This afternoon I had the great pleasure and opportunity to visit the National Theatre Archive to lend a hand with some video footage for next weekend’s Olivier’s Shakespeare: Violence and Memory colloquium and reception.  It started with meeting author Terry Coleman (Olivier the authorized biography) for tea on Tuesday at the Royal Academy of Art.  He will be presenting at the reception, and, being a visitor of, he knows my appreciation for Sir Laurence and asked if I’d like to help with some media.  I said “yes,” so he put me in touch with Gavin Clarke, the archivist at the National Theatre in London.

The NT Archive isn’t housed at the actual theatre on the South Bank, but rather at the National Theatre Studio in The Cut, right next door to The Old Vic, and the old offices occupied by the likes of Laurence Olivier and other executives were in Aquinas Street right behind the building.  This is because the National Theatre Company was based at The Old Vic until the NT on the South Bank was completed in 1976.
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