Royal Mail issued a set of eight stamps on August 30 to mark the bicentenary of The Old Vic theatre, one of the most influential venues in the history of the British performing arts.

Opened in May 1818, on reclaimed marshland south of the newly built Waterloo Bridge in London, the Old Vic was originally called the Royal Coburg Theatre, and from 1833 the Royal Victoria. It adopted its current name after 1871, when it was rebuilt with a finer 2,300-seater auditorium.

It had a spell as a temperence cafe, doubled as a ballet venue and a lecture hall, and was badly damaged by bombing in World War II, before re-establishing itself as the world’s premier Shakespearean theatre in the second half of the 20th century.

It has been the crucible of many prestigious performing arts companies, and many famous actors made their names on its stage. The stamps illustrate 10 of them (albeit without naming them), in commemorating eight famous productions from 1955 to 2016. Four of these are Shakespearean.

The theatre celebrated its 200th anniversary on May 11, and the stamp issue was originally planned for that date, but had to be postponed for reasons which have not been disclosed.

Designed by Hat-Trick Design, it was printed in litho by International Security Printers, and comes in four horizontally se-tenant pairs.

1st class The Dance of Death (1967)

August Strindberg’s play, translated by C D Locock, was directed by Glen Byam Shaw and starred Laurence Olivier.

1st class King Lear (2016)

William Shakespeare’s play, directed by Deborah Warner, starred Glenda Jackson.

£1.25 Hamlet (1975)

William Shakespeare’s play, directed by Peter Hall, starred Albert Finney.

£1.25 Hedda Gabler (1970)

Henrik Ibsen’s play, translated by Michael Meyer, was directed by Ingmar Bergman and starred Maggie Smith.

£1.45 No Man’s Land (1975)

Harold Pinter’s play, directed by Peter Hall, starred John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson.

£1.45 Carmen Jones (1991)

Oscar Hammerstein II’s musical, directed by Simon Callow, starred Sharon Benson.

£1.55 Romeo & Juliet (1960)

William Shakespeare’s play, directed by Franco Zeffirelli, starred Judi Dench and John Stride.

£1.55 Henry V (1955)

William Shakespeare’s play, directed by Michael Benthall, starred Richard Burton.

 

OTHER PRODUCTS

A presentation pack, stamp cards and a first day cover are also available.

 

PRICES

Set of 8 stamps   £9.84

Presentation pack   £10.35

Stamp cards   £3.60

First day cover   £12.23

 

VERDICT

COMMEMORATIVE WORTH   4/5

The Old Vic has a long and illustrious history, although the stamp designs concentrate on the recent past

QUALITY OF DESIGN   2/5

A subtle colour palette aims to focus attention on the poses and expressions of the actors

WOW FACTOR    2/5

The hope must be that the actors’ famous faces grab the attention of the casual viewer