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Wednesday, October 7, 1998 Published at 17:11 GMT 18:11 UK


New look for Old Vic

The Old Vic: Rescue bid saved the theatre from going dark forever

BBC News 24's Josh Barrett reports from the Old Vic party
London's historic Old Vic theatre has been relaunched after escaping the threat of closure - but it still needs £2m to guarantee its future.

The venue, near the South Bank, has played host to such great names as Sir John Gielgud, Laurence Olivier, and Richard Burton.

But it faced closure after its Canadian owners decided to sell it earlier this year. It faced a future as a bar or lapdancing club until a £3.5m rescue bid was launched by fans of the theatre including Hollywood star Kevin Spacey.

22 months to find more money

[ image: Peter O'Toole and Kevin Spacey entertain guests]
Peter O'Toole and Kevin Spacey entertain guests
So far, the group has raised £1.5m of the total - and the Old Vic Theatre Trust has got 22 months to find the rest.

Starting with Peter Schaffer's Amadeus, the theatre will be available for groups to hire out for their own performances, and will not put on any of its own shows to save money.

Mr Spacey - who recently played in The Iceman Cometh at north London's Almeida Theatre - led guests at a celebrity party to celebrate the relaunch on Tuesday night.

He said: "This was where the National Theatre began. When they we building it, they used this stage.

"The greatest have played here, and the greatest to come shall play here."

Sharing memories of theatre

[ image: Guests celebrate the theatre's relaunch]
Guests celebrate the theatre's relaunch
He was joined on stage by Peter O'Toole, who shared some of his memories of the theatre.

Other guests included Jane Asher, Patricia Routledge, Prunella Scales and Timothy West.

Theatre impressario and trust director Sally Greene said: "I am thrilled we are relaunching the Old Vic with a celebration of its illustrious history and a glimpse of its exciting future - the new direction for the Old Vic."

But the trust's efforts will come to nothing if they fail to raise the remaining £2m within the next 22 months.

Amadeus, which is directed by Sir Peter Hall and stars David Suchet, re-opens the theatre on October 21.

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