The Vic Wells Association Newletter March 2007:

The OLD VIC,  Waterloo Road, SE1 8NB
SADLER'S WELLS, Rosebery Avenue, EC1R 4TN
(also at the PEACOCK THEATRE,
Portugal Street, Kingsway, London WC2A 2HT)

Founded 1923

By LILIAN BAYLIS, C.H., M.A.(Oxon) Hon.., LL.D.(Birm.)Hon,.
The Old Vic Association, The Old Vic Circle, The Old Vic Club,
 Sadler's Wells Society, Sadler's Wells Circle

President....................Dr. Wendy Toye, CBE, Hon.D.Litt.
Vice President.............................. Mr Nickolas Grace
Chairman.......................................Mr James Ranger

No. 456                                                               March 2007

James Penstone Celebration:

Tuesday 8th May

As stated in the last Broadsheet, the James Penstone Celebration will take place at Charterhouse on Tuesday 8th May, between 6.30-8.30pm. We hope to include as many members as possible on the guest list, particularly those who knew James well, but the number of guests are limited at Charterhouse and it will be impossible to include everybody that wants to be there.

If you would like to receive an invitation when I send them out towards the end of the month, please let me know as soon as possible, and I will do my utmost to fit in everyone that wants to be there, provided they apply by the date on the invitation. My address is: Flat 6, Oak House, 6 Carlton Drive, Putney, London SW15 2BZ. Tel: 020 8789 9227.   

Mary-Jane Burcher

Welcome and News

Welcome to my first issue of the Broadsheet as the new editor! I am sure you will all join me in applauding the work that Mary-Jane Burcher has done, and her continued support of the organisation. I hope to do James Penstone’s generous legacy to the Broadsheet, which will enable us to use more colour and more photographs. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have suggestions or ideas. My address is listed on the back, but you can also email me:

Shakespeare Party: Saturday April 21st

This year’s Shakespeare Party will take place at the Old Vic Theatre on Saturday 21st April, at 5-7pm. We hope to include the cast of The Entertainer, and we will invite the star, Robert Lindsay, to propose the toast to William. Tickets are £6 for members (£7.50 for guests), and can be obtained from Ruth Jeayes: 185, Honor Oak Road, Forest Hill, London, SE22 3RP. Please enclose a stamped addressed envelope with a cheque made payable to the Vic Wells Association. Ruth’s number is 020 8699 2376.

New Years Honours:

CBEs were awarded to: singer Rod Stewart; actor; composer John Rutter; actress Penelope Keith; film director Peter Greenaway; and actor John Wood.
OBEs were awarded to: Old Vic Theatre Director Sally Greene; Hugh Laurie; ballet photographer Zoe Donahue.
MBEs were awarded to: Johnny Briggs, Mike Baldwin in Coronation Street; ex-Royal Ballet artist Daryl Goffrey.

Knighthoods were awarded to percussionist Evelyn Glennie the percussionist and composer George Shearing.

 Mary-Jane Burcher

Lilian Baylis Lecture: Friday 4 May

Liz Schafer will be giving a platform lecture on Lilian Baylis and the founding of the National Theatre, at the Cottesloe Theatre on Friday 4 May at 6pm (lasting 45 min): five days before Baylis’s  133rd birthday. Tickets cost £3.50 (£2.50 concessions). Call 020 7452 3000 or book online at:

Historical Broadsheet Issues

Thanks to Margaret Nicolson, we now have copies of the Broadsheet in the British Library going back to the mid 1970s, and a copy of the 1951 newsletter (which marked the reopening of the Old Vic theatre after restoration work following bomb damage in 1941) which will be posted on the Vic-Wells Association website. Thanks for help from Kathleen Fletcher, Evelyn Risden and Celia Hedgeman. We still hope to get a more complete run of newsletters in the British Library, so if you find have any early issues you would like to donate please let Liz Schafer know.

Student Research

A third year student at Coventry University is keen to get in touch with a former Windmill Theatre Girl for research for her dissertation. If anyone could help out please email Mark Evans at:

Liz Schafer

The Old Vic

The Old Vic is one of the oldest and best-loved theatres in the world.

To us, great theatre is about great plays, great performances and great nights out. Our iconic building has a rich history of great productions from Olivier’s Hamlet to Ian McKellen’s Widow Twankey. And under the artistic leadership of Kevin Spacey, we continue to attract the best creative talent. We also nurture young actors, writers and directors, and work with schools and our neighbours to bring theatre to a wider audience.

From 23 February, we welcome Robert Lindsay and Pam Ferris in the 50th anniversary production of John Osborne’s The Entertainer. Lindsay plays struggling comedian Archie Rice, a music-hall performer in an age when music halls had all but disappeared. Driven by dreams of stardom and a desperation to equal his father's success, Archie is a man out of his time. Family tensions rise to a boil as he shamelessly cheats on his wife and tricks his dying father into financing one last revue. But throughout it all, Archie jigs and jabbers before his ever-diminishing audience and does whatever it takes to keep the show going. The show is booking until 19 May.

The Old Vic has no subsidy. Ticket sales alone are not enough to cover all of our costs, so the financial support of generous individuals, companies, trusts and foundations is vital to our existence. For more information, e-mail:
or visit:

Dagmar Walz

Sadler's Wells

I am grateful for the opportunity to write for the Broadsheet as Lilian Baylis has been on my mind a lot recently. I see her portrait at stage door every day; when I first took over the helm of Sadler’s Wells I found her glare rather intimidating (Who is this young upstart who claims to be running my theatre? I imagined her saying!).

I hope she would think kindly about Sadler’s Wells today, as I am determined to follow the example she set many years ago running the Old Vic and Sadler’s Wells. She wanted the Wells to produce and create new productions, and to sometimes premiere brand new works. Secondly, she was determined that the theatre and its high-quality work should be “available to the Artisans of Islington”. Today, we use different terms like ‘diverse audiences’ or ‘accessibility’, but the same spirit remains.

As an example, I was delighted to see the audience for our recent Sadler’s Wells Sampled weekend. The tickets were all £10 (£5 for the proms) and my worry was that we would get our regular audience but that they would just be getting a bargain! But no – the average age was around 25 and there were people from all walks of life here that weekend. I am also pleased to have brought back the creative spirit to Sadler’s Wells: we now have 9 associates and 2 resident companies creating work in our studios and presenting it on our stages at the Wells.

So I am happy to report a gleam in Lilian’s eye as I believe we still uphold her principle of the creation of great art that is available to all.

Alistair Spalding


Cinderella: Theatre Royal, Bath, January

One wet and cold January morning a small group of us assembled for our annual visit to one of England’s most beautiful cities. We were seeing Cinderella, a traditional pantomime: no rude jokes; no TV “stars” plugging commercial products; but a vibrant group of 14 professionals, and a talented group of girls from a local dance school. Chris Harris produced and co-starred in the show, together with Ruth Madoc as the Fairy Godmother. The energy of this small company of young actors gave the impression that they numbered twice as many.

Cinderella was bright and colourful, with opportunities for audience participation. The principal boy was rightly so a girl, with plenty of thigh-slapping and swapping of costumes. The sisters, not ugly but very comically spiteful, were played by Mark Buffery and Jon Monie, and tried to make poor Cinders’ life a misery. To complete this entertainment a selection of kids were brought on stage and quizzed by Buttons. Not forgetting the “Song Sheet” – one half of the audience against the other. After the show was over, we were entertained to tea to bring to an end a very enjoyable day out.

Tim Rooke

The Three Musketeers: RSC, Theatre Royal, Bristol, 13 January

The annual visit to the Theatre Royal in Bristol was made special this year when, on Saturday 13th January, fourteen of us assembled in what we had termed an outing in memory of James Penstone. The visits to the Bristol Old Vic were special to James, as he inaugurated them - a fact that was born out in the Chairman of the Theatre Club’s speech after the tea party they gave us following the show. The attraction this year was The Three Musketeers, an adventure with lots of irresistible twists and turns. From beginning to end, we sat entranced and bemused by the swashbuckling and hair-raising feats the three heroes got up to – all the cast were superb, and many of them were doubling and even trebling some of the roles. Most of us were sorry when it ended. The cast were obviously delighted with the enthusiastic (but well-deserved) ovation of the audience. Great fun!

After the matinee, we took tea with our hosts, the Bristol Old Vic Theatre Club, who had laid out a delicious repast for us. Ray Price said how good it was to have us once again, and how much the Club appreciated us making the journey every year. He ended his speech by proposing a toast to the memory of James Penstone, who was much in the thoughts of many of us that day.

Mary-Jane Burcher 

Dick Whittington: The Barbican, London, January

Our Vice President Nickolas Grace starred as King Rat in Dick Whittington at the Barbican. Not the most suitable venue for a pantomime, although the auditorium and stage were first class. We happened to attend a matinee for schools, so the theatre was packed with children: a lively audience and good for the performers.
Nickolas was a superb and deliciously wicked King Rat, and obviously relished the role, especially one scene in the sinister Rat’s lair – it was a very physical role for Nickolas, and he confessed to us afterwards that he would be relieved when the run was over! Roger Lloyd Pack, who has appeared on TV in shows such as Only Fools and Horses and The Vicar of Dibley, did a good well playing his first Dame, and Summer Strallon was a lively and leggy Dick. Thank goodness for female, thigh-slapping Principal Boys! A lot of money had obviously been spent on the pantomime; the settings and costumes were superb, and the story well-told. Hopefully it will go to a real theatre next year.

Mary-Jane Burcher

Faraday Lecture: Sadler’s Wells, 6th February

This free lecture, Winning Formula: Technology in the Fast Lane, was designed for young people to help them understand science and technology in the form of popular culture. Well-planned and executed, the lecture used videos, audience participation and experiments. I was ‘volunteered’ to race against a male teacher on the Formula 1 Simulators, which was great fun. These hi-tech machines were used by F1 drivers to practice, and are worth around £12,000 each! Thankfully, I won the race and proved that women can be good drivers!

I was glad to see Sadler’s Wells holding this event. It is so important for the arts to integrate with ‘real world’ projects. This was a great way to both broaden the Wells’ reputation, and introduce young people to the venue.

Imogen Walker 

The Vortex: Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, February

Until 6 years ago I had not seen a staged production of this Coward piece. Now I was visiting my 5th production! My main reason was for the designs of Lez Brotherston, surely one of the best in the business, and he did not disappoint. The main drawback was that Sir Noel wrote for a Proscenium Arch: this was performed in the round!

The Vortex is playing to full houses due to pop star Will Young; an odd choice (box office revenue aside) who didn’t come to grips with the character. His entry was camp, despite, according to the 1925 notices, Coward never especially stressing this. But to quote the master: he spoke the lines and didn’t fall over the furniture.

Florence Lancaster, Nicky’s mother, was given a satisfying performance by Diane Hardcastle, and Sam Heughan was a suitably vague Guards Officer, the latest in Florence’s long line of toy boys – hoping to keep youth a little longer. But the telling performance of the evening came from David Peart as the Father who knew of his wife’s sordid goings on, and resigned himself to living with it. The rest of the cast acquitted themselves well, but as in 1925 they are still a ghastly group.

Lez Brotherston’s design was a beautiful art deco black and silver circular platform on two levels complete with grand piano, wind-up gramophone, black Shellac Discs and other props like large glass mirrors, cocktails in various shaped glass, and chandeliers. I look forward to seeing a definitive cast production in the future.

Tim Rooke

Twelfth Night: Propeller Company, The Old Vic, January. Directed by Edward Hall

Furniture under shrouds and disembodied humming open this imaginative production; though the romantic mood was soon shaken up by Toby Belch squirting fizz from a dress-circle box as he yelled greetings at his carousing partners below. The ‘vulgar relief’ of Olivia’s suitors was physical, rude and very funny. But this was fun borne out of frustration and boredom. Viola and Antonio were spread-eagled on the massed company’s outstretched arms in a creation of the storm at sea. An all-male company; Maria’s gender was defined by her clothes. Viola, though, was long-haired and light-voiced, slight, gentle: a clever physical presentation – female yet not a parody of femininity. Olivia was more the female impersonator but appropriately so: she is a spoiled, indulged woman using female wiles to draw attention to herself and manipulate others. The impersonation was in the acting: ‘her’ hair was short and make-up plain.

For the ‘cross-gartered and yellow stockings’, Malvolio had trellis-patterned yellow tights (with glittery thong) under formal trousers. This was too broad and farcical for my taste but was received with general hilarity. Malvolio was comical in his aspirations but unusually bitter in his humiliation. Malvolio’s departure – “I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you” – reminds you that he has come out of this badly. The sky darkens for the final song from Feste, who combined a cheeky manner with a face that has seen a lot, but not all of it has made him happy. The singing throughout created sober interludes in the fun and confusion of the bittersweet play, focussing concentration on a special moment. This was a strong presentation; the presence of mute actors onstage when not playing their own scenes enhanced the pleasure of a Shakespearean world conjured up by actors’ bodies and voices.

Gerry Wakelin

Twelfth Night Party: The Old Vic, January 6th

The annual party was held not only on Twelfth Night but also with Twelfth Night playing in the Theatre. Over 100 100 Members and guests enjoyed the cutting of the cake and the launch of Professor Liz Schafer’s fascinating and well-researched biography of Lilian Baylis.

The cake was cut by director Edward Hall (Twelfth Night at the Old Vic, Dick Whittington at the Barbican, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at the National Theatre, Julius Caesar and Henry V at the RSC). Edward is Associate Director at the National Theatre, Old Vic and Watermill Theatre. Liz Schafer provided some background to her research, assisted by two of her students who dressed as the grand lady and quoted excerpts of her sayings both humorous and serious. Oliver Ford Davis launched the biography with a witty speech. Liz signed copies of the biography for the many Members who purchased a copy.

May I thank the Old Vic for allowing us to hold the party in the Lilian Baylis Bar area and our many Members who provided the excellent food and wine. I hope you enjoy the pictures of this splendid occasion.

James Ranger

A Triumphant Return for American Ballet Theatre, Sadler’s Wells, February

Sadler’s Wells persuaded ABT to return to London for the first time in 17 years, for the first time to the Wells. ABT showed a variety of works by all the key American choreographers: sparse on scenery, but strong on talent.

The opening night included Symphonie Concertante (Balanchine), two classic pas de deux (Swan Lake Act II and Le Corsaire) and one modern one, Sinatra Suite. The Balanchine was cleanly danced by the corps, with three stylish principals. Yet the excellent male was not quite tall enough for his two partners, with too little dancing to do. Balanchine said “ballet is woman”; this work wanted to keep it so! The SwanLake pas de deux was without scenery or context; Julie Kent and Marcello Gomes had to work hard to conjure some atmosphere. Angel Corella and Misty Copeland made much of Tharp’s Sinatra Suite, and the evening was completed by Tharp’s In the Upper Room: smoke-filled, as beloved by American politicians.

Later schedules included a beautifully-danced Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes (Mark Morris), showing the considerable strength of the company’s younger men. In Makarova’s La Bayadere Act II, the corp were excellent, and Corella had all brilliant technique, timing and style. The Green Table (Kurt Jooss) bore a remarkable current relevancy. Jerome Robbins’ crowd-pleasing Fancy Free was the best performance of this work I have seen, due to the principals: Steifel, Carreno, and Herman Cornejo. Let us hope it will not be another decade before the company revisit London.

 Richard Reavill 

Other rehearsals during this period may become open to Members. We attend rehearsals by kind permission of Sadler’s Wells and the Management of companies. Please be aware that dancers may not be in full costume and may ‘mark’ part of their roles. Please check with the Secretary, Richard Reavill (01491872574) for confirmation of times and dates. If you have registered your email address, Richard will send you this information automatically (his address is: . Please arrive at the Sadler’s Wells foyer 15 minutes before the start of the rehearsal and pay the £5 admission fee to the Committee member present.


Don’t forget!
21 April: Shakespeare Party
8th May: James Penstone Celebration

Sadler’s Wells       0870 737 7737                   

6-10 March:     English National Ballet
14-18 March:   Sasha Waltz and Guests
20-25 March:   Sylvie Guillem and Russell Maliphant
28-31 March:   Richard Alston Dance Company
12-14 April:     Pegasus Opera Company
17-22 April:     Sylvie Guillem and Akram Khan
25-28 April:     Mahabharata
5-7 May:          Breakin’ Convention 07
9-12 May:        Netherlands Dans Theater 2
22-26 May:      Rambert Dance Company
1-2 June:          Phoenix Dance Company
5-10 June:        Northern Ballet Theatre
13-16 June:      Savion Glover
19-22 June:      Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan
4-8 July:           Philippe Decoufle
10 July – 5 August: Matthew Bourne’s The Car Man

Peacock Theatre 0870 737 0337

Until 14 April:   Jump
2-4 May:          Jonzi D Productions
10-12 May:      Jasmin Vardimon Company
17-20 May:      London Children’s Ballet
23 May – 10 June: Havana Rakatan

Old Vic Theatre              0870 060 6628         

25 Feb onwards: The Entertainer


We are very grateful for donations made by Members and friends. These have helped us to carry out many of our activities and have enabled us to fulfil the original objectives of the Association. To enable us to gain the maximum tax benefit, please make your donations to our registered charity using the form within the this page.