Our new Backstage Bar

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Just under a fortnight ago we officially opened our Backstage Bar alongside previews of the Timothy West starring King Learand we’re ecstatic to share that it’s gone down quite the storm!

In the run up to our redevelopment works which commenced mid-June, our team of contractors were quietly working behind the scenes to craft the cracking bar space you see before you now.

Sitting at the heart of our Theatre, our Paintshop has been transformed to accommodate both you and the same excellent selection of beverages you’ve come to know and love from the best of the South West including our 250th Anniversary Ale ‘1766′ from Bath Ales.

BackstageBar23  BackstageBar22

In our opening week, we were named ‘Bar of the Week‘ by Bristol 24/7 which particularly praised the “various elements which other bars would call design features but here are just part of the fabric of the high-ceilinged space which not so long ago was purely functional.” 

We’re pleased our redevelopment works provide a unique opportunity to share a true ‘backstage’ look at our Theatre – a sentiment shared by those of you who have already passed through our new Stage Door entrance.
Following our Backstage Bar’s grand opening on 18 June, the compliments have continued to flood in. Here are some of our top visitor comments so far:

“You have created a fabulous “Banksy” feeling to the temporary entrance/bar area, great music and feel to the space.”

“Loved the ‘temporary bar’. Will be sad when it goes in a couple of years!”

“Loving the alternative rustic look during restoration and helpful friendly staff as ever”

“I loved the new backstage bar area and look forward to spending more time there, and also seeing how the renovations adapt and develop over the next few months.”

Our exciting redevelopment will see our front of house spaces transformed into a beautiful combination of the historic and new – all ready for 2018. Until then, just kick back and relax with a drink or two on one of our backstage sofas and, as always, we hope you enjoy your show!

For more information and regular updates about our redevelopment works, visit our redevelopment page here.

Our Redevelopment

In 2009 we set about a plan to raise £25,000,000 with which we would fully refurbish your theatre; the first phase of works, refurbishing the glorious Georgian auditorium was completed in 2012 to award-winning acclaim.

But we’ve been acutely aware that the front of house at Bristol Old Vic has been letting the side down, with awkward, inaccessible spaces and poor facilities that do little to make your visit as enjoyable as we want it to be.

By 2018, coming to Bristol Old Vic will be a very different experience. A building able to give you a terrific welcome, offering you great food and drink in a new front of house; not just pre show, but throughout the day.

It will be a beautiful combination of historic and new architecture; spaces that you might simply want to come and spend time in with your family and friends, and places that you might want actively to explore as we develop ways to tell our 250-year history through new artworks and activities.

You’ll soon see the hoardings go up on King Street as the contractors move in. Don’t worry! The theatre itself is still open, you’ll just need to head around the corner onto Queen Charlotte Street, turning left onto The Rackhay to come in the Stage Door entrance, joining us in the Backstage Bar before the show. And, do come and say hello to us in Number 16 King Street, just opposite Renato’s, where our day time Box Office and many of our staff will be working during the build. It’s a beautiful building that we’re lucky to have as our temporary home.

Do keep an eye on our website, here on our blog and in local press for updates. It’s going to be quite the adventure!

Theatre Entrance

From Saturday 18 June, the exciting first preview of King Lear, you will be invited to enter the Theatre via stage door, walking the footsteps of such legends as Peter O’Toole, Daniel Day Lewis and Miranda Richardson.

Our new Theatre entrance can be accessed through Rackhay (BS1 4HJ)off Queen Charlotte Street around the corner from King Street.

Box Office

From Monday 13 June, our customer facing Box Office will move across King Street and can be found at No. 16. We will be open Monday to Friday 10am-4pm and you can purchase tickets here for any Bristol Old Vic performance across any venue.

On performance days, our Box Office will be situated in the Backstage Bar opening 90 mins prior to each performance. Our phone lines remain unchanged; Mon to Fri 10am-6pm and Sat 12pm-6pm and, of course, you can book tickets online.

Backstage Bar

During our redevelopment works, we have transformed our backstage area into an exciting pop up space. The Backstage Bar sits in the heart of our Theatre and opens 90 minutes prior to each performance. On offer will be an excellent selection of beverages from the best of the South West including Bath Ales. So why not join us for this unique experience?


Customers requiring wheelchair access to our Theatre can utilise the Stage Door lift which provides entry to both the Backstage Bar and the performance space. As Rackhay is a fire access road, regrettably there is no drop off point however, there are three Disabled Bays immediately opposite on the ground floor of the Queen Charlotte Street NCP car park.


It is not possible to drop-off or pick-up from Rackhay as this is a one-way, dead end street which must remain empty for Fire Access. Vehicle access to Rackhay will be controlled by our staff for all performances.

There are still good parking facilities in the surrounding area especially at the NCP on Queen Charlotte Street.

If arriving by Taxi please request drop-off and pick-up from King Street where you can follow signs to the Rackhay.

Coaches are able to drop-off and pick-up on King Street around the corner from our stage door entrance.

Our Studio

This month we say goodbye to our beloved Studio in its current form. A place where many of you have experienced fantastic productions from every corner of the globe.

Bristol Old Vic Studio will continue to present work from visiting artists in an alternative venue from Spring 2017. And this Christmas we’re delighted to present our Early Years Christmas show Little Tim and the Brave Sea Captain at The Lantern at Colston Hall between 2 Nov-8 Jan.

In 2018 we look forward to opening our new 188 seat Studio in the basement of the beautiful Coopers’ Hall.


If you are able to support the UK’s oldest continuously working theatre, or want to learn more about the redevelopment visit: bristololdvic250.org.uk

Four Questions #2: Tom Morris, Artistic Director

We asked Tom Morris four questions about his experience of the redevelopment project:

What has been the most surprising discovery for you during this process?

The most exciting discovery has been the original dimensions and position of the stage – which vindicate the experiments we carried out for Juliet and her Romeo and Swallows and Amazons.  James Saunders(on), who designed this theatre, really knew what he was doing.  The greatest actor of the day, David Garrick said:

“You cannot have a better man for your business than Saunderson, clear brain’d to ye skull of him”.

What has been the most exciting moment for you so far?

The most exciting moment was standing in the old stage-right slip entrance, unveiled for the first time since Phipps chopped back the fore-stage in 1880.  We’ll be using that entrance again this summer.

You can still see the stains of sweat and greasepaint where the 18th century actors used to lean before making their entrances.

What are you still looking forward to?

Putting shows on.

What’s the best thing about your role on the project?

The opportunity to make this theatre sing again, like it did in 1766.

Four Questions #1: Sarah Smith, Project Director

Here’s the first in a series of posts where we ask key people involved in the refurbishment four questions about the project. First up, Sarah Smith, Project Director:

What has been the most surprising discovery for you during this process?

We’ve discovered so much about the auditorium during the refurbishment – in particular, the original flag-stone floor under the stage, the original level of the Pit (stalls).  It’s been fascinating discussing how these discoveries inform our knowledge of this history of the theatre with the archaeologists.

What has been the most exciting moment for you so far?

Exposing the timbers of the roof and finding them in pretty good condition after 245 years.

What are you looking forward to most?

I think completing the work in the auditorium and seeing the reaction of our audiences when we re-open.

What’s the best thing about your role on the project?

The privelege of being involved in the refurbishment of the oldest working theatre in the country.