The CQS Space
The Old Vic Theatre
Installed 2008, 2014 and ongoing...
The Old Vic - one of London's leading private theatres- is perhaps too strongly contrained by its deep, narrow form. Artistic Director Matthew Warchus made the bold proposal to transform the theatre from its familiar Victorian proscenium form into a radical in-the-round configuration. This decision followed an initial study we carried out in 2004 demonstrating the possibilities for radical, temporary reconfiguartion of the auditirium.
Together with the Old Vic's team we conceived a modular structure which can be removed and replaced easily during future seasons. We adapted our previous designs from May to June of 2008; prefabrication of the structure began in July, and installation took three weeks in August and September. It conserves close to the existing capacity (850 seats), meaning that the theatre can continue to offer challenging work without subsidy. The space seeks to optimise the existing building's elongated form by bringing all of the audience closer to the action; we have also reconfigured some of the permanent seating to improve sightlines and density in this form and also when the theatre reverts to the original proscenium.
The first reinstall in 2014 -benefitting from the 'rehearsal' of the process in 2008- took only a week, meaning that the typical build times for a set (crucial in the context of a private economy) are now coincident with the timing for transforming the auditorium as a whole.
"The Old Vic has always seemed a remote, chilly auditorium. But suddenly this transformation brings everyone closer to the action in every sense; and brings each level closer to each other, too. The building feels as if it was always meant to be like this; and not only does it give London its first large-scale in-the-round theatre since the mid-80s, but it also makes this one of most exciting uses of space in town."
"The Old Vic has had an exhilarating personality-rethink. Taking temporary leave of its traditional end-on proscenium arch set-up, this venerable venue has been reconfigured as an in-the-round theatre. With the floor raised to just below the level of the old dress circle, the actors and the audience, who are arranged right around them, now very much share the same space – a room that is a miraculous combination of intimacy and grandeur.."