Arts and culture

Working together to help a beacon of British culture survive and thrive


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Every year since 2015, The Old Vic has invested in 12 of the country's most up-and-coming gifted writers, producers, directors and other creatives through a special emerging talent programme. That tradition continues—even in the midst of a pandemic.

A new diverse group of individuals will bring three original pieces of work to life, in collaboration with Shoreditch Town Hall.

For more than two centuries, the venerable theatre has been indispensable in cultivating and mentoring talented individuals and providing a home to showcase their artistry. It has survived some of the darkest periods in world history—from the physical destruction of the Second World War to the financial devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic—and remains steadfast in its mission of seeding the next generation of artists.

“Nurturing the theatre makers of tomorrow has always been part of The Old Vic's DNA,” says the theatre's executive director, Kate Varah. “Our theatre has been a crucible of creativity and innovation."

An independent theatre that does not have the security of regular government subsidies, The Old Vic lost 90 percent of its income overnight when the pandemic hit in March, Varah says, putting their talent incubator efforts at risk without funding support.

“We are so moved by, and grateful for, RBC's continued compassion and generosity to support The Old Vic in our greatest time of need to ensure our beacon of British culture not just survives, but thrives,” says Varah.

old vic theatre artists announced for 2020

Photo credits to Ben Carpenter and Manuel Harlan

Penny Babakhani, Milli Bhatia, Nicola Chang, Poppy Corbett, Tim Foley, Chi-San Howard, Hannah Joss, Nassy Konan, Cindy Lin, Reece McMahon, Madelaine Moore and Nessah Muthy are the latest beneficiaries of the year-long, paid opportunity; they are producers, directors, writers, and a composer, set and costume designer and movement director.

Nessah Muthy's Jineologi, Poppy Corbett's Fake Melania, and Tim Foley's Gobble Gobble Gobble Gobble Goblin will be presented at Shoreditch Town Hall during a three-week season of work in Spring 2021.

“As a world-renowned beacon of the British arts, which plays a vital role in the UK theatre landscape and the ecology of the creative industries, The Old Vic is in a unique position to provide emerging artists with an industry respected platform through which to showcase their talents,” says Varah.

RBC's expanded support as principal partner of The Old Vic's Emerging Talent Programme means the theatre's four flagship projects can continue to help make pursuing a career in the theatrical arts an appealing and viable choice for people across all backgrounds, Varah adds. And it comes at an especially critical time, not only for the theatre itself, but the arts sector and the UK as a whole.

The partnership also supports the Baylis and Associate Baylis Director  programmes and the OV Connect  network. The director programmes offer an annual, paid opportunity for a mid-career director to lead a full-scale production at The Old Vic, as well as a residency programme for up to three emerging directors to assist with a main stage production. Connect helps alumni of The Old Vic talent programmes with ongoing development and networking experiences.

“Graduates” of these programmes have found success in a variety of ways, from forming their own theatre companies and garnering Olivier Award successes to landing significant posts and career advancement.

The Old Vic's partnership with RBC underpins the bank's European launch of its Emerging Artist Project, a programme devoted to helping up-and-coming artists with access and exposure to new audiences, as well as mentoring, education, and networking support.

In 2019, more than 185 organisations and 5,900  emerging artists across Canada benefitted from $8 million in RBC funding. Since 2003, the bank has invested more than CAD$80 million (£46.2 million) in arts organisations and more than 25,000 artists are alumni of these programmes.

RBC's support shows it understands “theatrical experiences have the unique power to bring people together, to contribute to the wellbeing and economic strength of a nation, to empower young people with transferable skills,” says Varah, adding that RBC demonstrates it also recognises “the profound value of arts and culture …. [and] the transformational power of theatre.”