Old Vic New Voices

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Old Vic New Voices Logo 2014

Old Vic New Voices (OVNV) is The Old Vic’s Education, Community and Emerging Talent programme, which aims to inspire young people, nurture new talent and open up The Old Vic to new and diverse audiences, working with around 8,000 people each year.[1] The programme was founded in 2001 by Kate Packenham, then an associate producer to Sally Greene,[2] The Old Vic’s Chief Executive. Steve Winter took over as Director in 2004 and ran the programme until March 2014.[3] He was replaced by Alexander Ferris.[4]


OVNV offers networking and training events, free rehearsal space and cash injections to help develop emerging theatre practitioners. Over the past seven years the programme has nurtured emerging actors, directors, producers and playwrights through a number of projects.[5]


In March 2013, The Stage reported that OVNV had announced an overhaul for the talent department, opening it up to people over the age of 30 for the first time and launching a space dedicated to the creation of new work, The OVNV Lab.[6]

The OVNV Lab is a rehearsal facility open six days a week, and designed to be a place to meet, devise, chat and collaborate free of charge. In its first two months, the OVNV Lab helped develop around 40 projects.[7]

It was also announced that through The TS Eliot Commissions, 20 writers from the UK and the USA will be commissioned over two years to write new work. These writers will be mentored by professionals associated with the Old Vic and some of the plays will be performed as part of an OVNV season in the West End.[6]

Other initiatives include Eversheds 20, sponsored by City Law firm Eversheds, which provides 20 actors with professional mentoring so they have a better opportunity to succeed in a highly competitive industry, and OVNV Startups, which awards start-up grants of £500 to allow new work to get off the ground at the research and development stage.[6]

Partnership with IdeasTap[edit]

In 2009, OVNV formed a partnership with IdeasTap, a creative online network and funding body for emerging arts talent. The partnership created numerous bespoke, member-led projects, including:

  • The Theatre 503 award (2009) which offered the members of www.ideastap.com a fully funded production with a four-week run at a high-profile London venue.[8]
  • Turning You On (2009), a course offering promotional skills that culminated in a viral advert used to promote IdeasTap.[8]
  • Script Doctor (2009), which gave all the writers who submitted a play to the Old Vic New Voices.[8]
  • Theatre503 Award 2009 an opportunity to win a 20-minute one-to-one session with a literary professional.[8]
  • Symposium (2010), an event inspired by Old Vic production of Inherit the Wind, that included a mix of new plays and debates focusing on the issues of the play.[8]
  • Producers Critique (2010), a project in which Old Vic New Voices worked in conjunction with Stage One to offer a free place on their prestigious Workshop for New Producers.[8]
  • Shoestring Theatre (2010), which offered workshops focusing on six key areas that can be tricky for a production company to navigate when putting on a small-scale theatre production with a limited budget.[8]
  • The 24 Hour Plays: Old Vic New Voices (2011 and 2012).[8]
  • Coming Up/Coming Up Later (2011).[8]
  • Epidemic (2012).[8]
  • OVNV Edinburgh Season (2012).[8]

The 24 Hour Plays: Old Vic New Voices[edit]

The 24 Hour Plays: Old Vic New Voices is an annual theatre project co-produced with New York’s 24 Hour Company that began in 2005 and grew out of a fundraising celebrity version.[9] Over the span of a single night and day 26 emerging theatre practitioners that have never worked together before must write, produce and perform new plays. At 10pm the companies, each consisting of a playwright, a director, a producer and a handful of actors, is put together for the first time. The playwrights have all night to come up with a script; cast and crew have from 7am to rehearse it and learn their lines, before the play is performed on The Old Vic stage the next evening at 8pm.[10]

Alumni from the project include writers Mike Bartlett and Joel Horwood, Paines Plough’s co-directors James Grieve and George Perrin and actors including Bryony Hannah, Charity Wakefield and Gethin Anthony. Producers from the project currently hold senior posts at the Donmar Warehouse, Lyric Hammersmith and Nimax Theatres.[9]

After a run of eight years, OVNV announced that there would be no project in 2013 but that it may return in the future.[6]

Edinburgh Season[edit]

In Summer 2012, in partnership with Underbelly and IdeasTap, OVNV presented five pieces of new writing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Over 265 pieces of new work applied to be part of the season.[11]

The winning plays were Bitch Boxer by Charlotte Josephine, Chapel Street by Luke Barnes, Glory Dazed by Cat Jones, One Hour Only by Sabrina Mahfouz, and Strong Arm by Finlay Robertson.[12]

Kevin Spacey said of the project: ‘The work selected promises to be of outstanding quality, and I am thrilled that we are able to help it gain the profile it deserves, as well as provide the artists producing it with a launch-pad for their careers."[11]

Time Warner Ignite[edit]

In 2010, OVNV partnered with the American media corporation Time Warner to launch Time Warner Ignite, a two-year programme to spark creativity among 18-25 year old emerging artists with the production of four new plays at the new Waterloo East Theatre.[13]

The two-year programme offered workshops, commissions and theatrical and film production opportunities to members of OVNV’s emerging talent programme. Around each of The Old Vic's four annual main-house shows, four emerging writers were commissioned to write a short play response. These plays were then produced as one-off special industry showings at Waterloo East theatre with emerging actors, directors and producers.[13]

At each of the eight presentations, audiences voted for one of the four plays to be adapted into films. The creative teams worked with emerging film-makers and industry mentors to create a professional short, which were uploaded to IdeasTap.com. Four of these films were selected via an online poll on the website and shown at a VIP industry screening in 2012.[13]

The TS Eliot US/UK Exchange[edit]

The TS Eliot US/UK Exchange ran from 2010-2012 and encouraged collaboration between emerging UK and US theatre practitioners.

In 2010 and 2011, the project offered 50 British and 50 American artists the chance to explore theatrical life on the opposite side of the Atlantic. In its inaugural year, the project was launched by actor Jeremy Irons.[14]

In 2011 The Old Vic’s Artistic Director Kevin Spacey praised the programme, stating that "The TS Eliot US/UK Exchange shows The Old Vic's dedication to encouraging transatlantic collaboration. Last year's programme was an extraordinary success and we have found another exciting team to forge lasting creative partnerships across the Atlantic. There is no doubt that relationships created on this project will bear fruit for many years to come".[15]

In 2012, the project culminated by presenting five new plays by emerging American playwrights, with UK actors, directors and producers at The Old Vic.[16] Alumni from the project include playwright Ella Hickson and actress and playwright Sarah Solemani.

Talent Alumni[edit]

Alumni from OVNV Talent projects include:


OVNV has worked with over 60,000 students from schools across London through their Education programme. The education projects give schools access to free theatre tickets to every Old Vic production, alongside bespoke learning experiences at the theatre, in the classroom and online, thanks to funding all of these projects are delivered for free.[17]

Schools’ Club[edit]

The flagship education project Schools’ Club works with 40 specially selected schools from across London for a full academic year. Each of the chosen schools selects up to 30 students from years 9-13 to participate; this can be a pre-existing or new group. These 1,200 students are given the opportunity to take part in four exclusive pre-show workshops during the year before attending every production in the Old Vic season. The workshops are delivered by carefully trained professional theatre facilitators and prepare the students for each play by exploring the characters, plot and themes, as well as developing confidence and interpersonal skills. Schools also receive a Teachers’ Pack; teacher training sessions throughout the year and backstage tours.[17]

Staging Success[edit]

OVNV ran Staging Success, sponsored by Barclays Capital, from 2010 to 2012 to give students access to leading industry professionals. The programme gave schools the opportunity to bring 30 students each to the Old Vic Theatre to learn about how plays are produced, marketed and staged and designed. The students took part in workshops with industry professionals to decide how they would take a play ‘from page to stage’ before receiving free tickets to The Old Vic’s main house show in the evening.[18]

Think Tank[edit]

OVNV have a strong link with the Whitgift School in Croydon, a specialist school that focuses on co-curricular activities such as drama, music and sport. The Old Vic’s Artistic Director Kevin Spacey has visited the school for a masterclass. Following on from this, Think Tank, a unique creative arts project aimed at primary-aged school children, was established by OVNV and Whitgift in 2011 to identify and develop promising talent.[19]

Health Wealth[edit]

In 2012, OVNV produced Health Wealth, a theatre in education project that toured to 46 schools, playing to 7,786 11-14 year olds. The project featured a workshop and a play written by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm focusing on issue surrounding health and obesity.[20] The play built on the research carried out with schools, teachers, students and health experts for the Community project Epidemic.[21]


OVNV’s Community programme offers members of the local community free workshops, theatre ticket offers and produces large-scale theatre productions. The productions are performed and stage-managed by volunteers from across London, and written to reflect concerns raised by the local community.[22]

The Old Vic Community Company[edit]

In 2013, it was announced that building on the multi award-winning community work already undertaken, OVNV will create London’s largest inclusive Community Company, reaching out to the most talented and outspoken individuals from all walks of life who want to make a difference to their community. The Company will explore shared social issues, empowering participants with the skills and platforms to express themselves collectively as theatre makers.[23] Over three years, 200 people will take part in workshops, projects, pop-up performances and theatre productions.[24] There will also be opportunities for aspiring writers to be part of the project through a Writers on Attachment programme.[24]

Ages (2015)[edit]

Ages will be the second production from The Old Vic Community Company. The specially commissioned play with cutting-edge scientific views and a platform for opinion will start a debate about what it means to grow up and grow old in the city.

Inspired by testimonies of real Londoners, Ages will feature music, movement and drama.

Research and Development workshops took place October – November 2014, with around 200 people coming along to share their views. [25]

Housed (2014)[edit]

From estate agents to squatters, from support workers to oligarchs, we are all united in a race to get a place. But who can afford to go the distance? Luckily Sam’s got a chance to make a change, to make things better somehow. Sam’s going to tell us the answer. He just doesn't know what it is yet.

David Watson’s epic tale, based on the testimonies of over 200 Londoners, was a response to the mounting housing crisis and asked what it means to find some space in a city that’s squeezing you out.

Housed played to packed houses at The Old Vic and Hotel Elephant in July 2014.

Previous Productions[edit]

Epidemic (2012)[edit]

In 2012 Old Vic New Voices produced the community musical Epidemic at The Old Vic Tunnels (29). The production focused on the public health issues of obesity and mental health and was backed by the Wellcome Trust.[26] Written by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, the production was the culmination of 18 months of research including one-on-one interviews, group workshops, creative writing sessions, and community events. It focused on the character of Marlon, who needs help from a system he doesn't trust and runs away to find answers; the musical featured 10 new songs.[27]

Epidemic won an Arts and Health Award from the Royal Society for Public Health in recognition of “innovative theatre work highlighting the major public health challenges of mental illness and obesity”.[28]

Platform (2010)[edit]

Platform was a promenade piece staged for a week at The Old Vic Tunnels that looked at what it meant to be a Londoner in 2010.[29] The show featured a largely non-professional cast and crew of 120 people, ranging in age from 17 to 75 from diverse backgrounds and professions,[30] including students, city workers, former drug addicts and a 74-year-old former hospital social worker.

The script for Platform was created from 200 hours of interviews by writers Duncan Macmillan and Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, themselves part of OVNV's emerging talent programme.[29]

The British Theatre Guide said: “Platform is truly inventive and its affection and passion for London and her people unmistakeably shine through".[30]

The Evening Standard described the project as “a striking testament to [The Old Vic’s] imperviousness to arts cuts.[31]

Kevin Spacey said of the project: "I'm delighted we're doing our third community show and have managed to pull off something as remarkable and crazily ambitious as a 120-strong acting company. The show pulls all these stories of different Londoners together. And what's really pleasing is that it's so positive and upbeat about the city".[31]

Branded (2008)[edit]

OVNV’s second community production, Branded, was written by Simon Bent, and staged at The Old Vic from 1–3 May 2008, for five performances, all free of charge.[32] The piece, commissioned as part of OVNV’s Go for Green outreach and community project, featured a cast and crew of 50, aged from 16 to 60, selected through a series of London-wide open auditions.[33] The play used a diverse selection of skills including; free-running, poetry, dance and physical theatre, to tell the story of the launch of an environmentally-friendly range of training shoes.[32]

Funders of the programme included Adventure Ecology, HSBC and the Hunter Foundation.[33]


Somme Theatre (2006)[edit]

OVNV’s first community production, Somme Theatre, was a collaboration with the Imperial War Museum which saw a cast of locals perform a play, On the Middle Day, about the Battle of the Somme.[35] The play was staged to mark the 90th anniversary of the battle in which the British Army lost 58,000 troops, and included a cameo appearance by the The Old Vic’s artistic director Kevin Spacey as the voice of King George V.[35]

Somme Theatre was funded by a £46,100 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.[35] The project was named the UK’s favourite Lottery-funded heritage project at The National Lottery Awards in 2007; the awards were chosen by the public.[35]


  1. ^ "Old Vic New Voices". Old Vic New Voices. 29 November 2013. 
  2. ^ "Year of the Producer: The Donmar Warehouse's Kate Packenham on commercial vs subsidised". What's On Stage. 30 July 2012. 
  3. ^ "Old Vic New Voices director Steve Winter steps down". The Stage. 27 February 2014. 
  4. ^ "Old Vic New Voices director Steve Winter steps down". The Stage. 27 February 2014. 
  5. ^ "Old Vic New Voices: Talent". Old Vic New Voices. 29 November 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d "Old Vic announces overhaul of it's Talent development arm". The Stage. 1 March 2013. 
  7. ^ "The lab giving theatre makers a leg-up". The Guardian. 2 May 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Past Partners". IdeasTap. 29 November 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "24 Hour Plays: Round the clock drama". The Guardian. 28 October 2011. 
  10. ^ "What a difference a day makes". The Daily Telegraph. 25 July 2005. 
  11. ^ a b "Underbelly at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2012". Underbelly. 30 July 2012. 
  12. ^ "New Voices Edinburgh Winners". IdeasTap. 22 March 2012. 
  13. ^ a b c "Ignite!". The British Theatre Guide. 25 November 2010. 
  14. ^ "Jeremy Irons part of US/UK Exchange at The Old Vic". JeremyIrons.net. 16 February 2010. 
  15. ^ "Old Vic Theatre announces 2011 US/UK Exchange artists". BroadwayWorld.com. 21 April 2011. 
  16. ^ "The TS Eliot US/UK Exchange 2012". IdeasTap. 5 April 2012. 
  17. ^ a b "Old Vic New Voices: Education". Old Vic New Voices. 29 November 2013. 
  18. ^ "Free workshop day at The Old Vic including free tickets to see an Old Vic production". IdeasTap. 9 July 2012. 
  19. ^ "Co-Curricular: Drama at Whitgift". Whitgift School. 4 June 2013. 
  20. ^ "Interview: Morgan Lloyd Malcolm". A Younger Theatre. 9 October 2012. 
  21. ^ "Health Wealth". IdeasTap. 29 November 2013. 
  22. ^ "Old Vic New Voices: Community". Old Vic New Voices. 29 November 2013. 
  23. ^ "Old Vic New Voices Season 2013". Performance Media Arts Club. 25 March 2013. 
  24. ^ a b "Joing the Old Vic Community Company". Arts Award Voice. 19 July 2013. 
  25. ^ http://www.oldvictheatre.com/oldvicnewvoices/community/the-old-vic-community-company/ages/
  26. ^ "Musical therapy". The Guardian. 20 May 2012. 
  27. ^ "Epidemic: catching the community bug". The Guardian. 2 May 2013. 
  28. ^ "Kids Company, MAC-UK and The Old Vic announced as winners of the RSPH Arts and Health Awards". Royal Society for Public Health. 13 September 2012. 
  29. ^ a b "Platform Playwrights". IdeasTap. 19 September 2010. 
  30. ^ a b "Theatre review: Platform". British Theatre Guide. 14 November 2010. 
  31. ^ a b "We need to talk about Kevin Spacey". The Evening Standard. 4 November 2010. 
  32. ^ a b "Bent brands Old Vic green in community project". What's On Stage. 30 April 2008. 
  33. ^ a b >"Old Vic launches green community scheme". The Stage. 7 February 2008. 
  34. ^ http://www.oldvictheatre.com/oldvicnewvoices/community/the-old-vic-community-company/housed/
  35. ^ a b c d "Old Vic Somme Theatre project wins Lottery Award". London SE1 Community Magazine. 17 September 2007. 

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