With the seeming contradiction between its name and tagline (“entertain something new”), it’s perhaps no surprise that The Old Vic has chosen to celebrate its bicentenary with a lineup of premieres that are, for the most part, a fusion of old and new.
Artistic Director Matthew Warchus’ statement on the new season seems in keeping with this sentiment: “We are celebrating it [The Old Vic] partly as a treasured historic icon but mostly as an adventurous, youthful, hub of creativity with a vibrant future ahead of it.”
In concrete terms, that means The Old Vic’s new season is entirely comprised of world premieres. A few are completely new pieces – such as Joe Penhall’s Mood Music. But some are old stories adapted in a new way – such as Fanny & Alexander. Patrick Ness’s novel A Monster Calls isn’t exactly a classic (though it’s well on its way to becoming one) but it’s not spanking new, either. The award-winning book has already been given the film treatment.
At first glance, Kate Prince’s musical dance production Sylvia seems entirely new: a blend of hip hop, soul, funk, and dance. But while Sylvia features original music and is newly commissioned, it tells an old story: that of British suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst. According to Warchus, Prince’s fresh approach to the story ensures Sylvia will avoid simply “treading old ground.”
Speaking of which, some may view The Old Vic’s production of Fanny & Alexander as nothing more than a repackaging of the 1982 film. But with an adaptation by BAFTA award-winner Stephen Beresford and Old Vic Associate Director Max Webster, this show promises to be anything but a bland rehashing of Ingrid Bergman’s landmark piece.
In addition, both Sylvia and Fanny & Alexander are perfectly timed as premieres: 2018 marks Ingrid Bergman’s 100th birthday, as well as the 100th birthday of women’s suffrage in Britain.
Fans of Patrick Ness’s novel should welcome the news that Sally Cookson will direct A Monster Calls at The Old Vic. Based on her track record, theatregoers are justified in expecting an inventive, moving production of this already beautiful story. From Peter Pan to Jane Eyre, Cookson constantly turns time-honored stories upside down to reveal new layers of meaning.
Meanwhile, if there’s any production in The Old Vic’s 2018 lineup that is entirely new, it’s Joe Penhall’s Mood Music, directed by Roger Michell. And with Penhall’s history as an award-winning playwright (Blue/Orange, Sunny Afternoon) and award-nominated screenwriter, Mood Music will probably be anything but disappointing.
As far as the future is concerned, The Old Vic assures us they’ll continue the tradition of reviving classics – as they have done famously in the past – alongside new works. For the time being, however, the venerable London theatre is “entertaining something new.”