Designed by architect Rudolph Cabanel, the Old Vic Theatre opened in May 1818. Built with material from the recently demolished Savoy Palace, it was initially called the Royal Colburg in honour of Prince Leopold and Princess Charlotte. Without the intervention of Joseph Glossop, son of a wealthy Soho merchant, who put the money the theatre would have perhaps never been finished.
Away from the West End and separated by the Thames, it was initially housing melodramas for the local population. Various managements followed until it was redecorated in 1833 and reopened under the official name of the Royal Victoria. The new name didn't change much in the theatre programs and melodramas at cheap prices were produced until the Old Vic closed in 1880.
In 1912, the nomination of Lilian Baylis as Old Vic Theatre manager opened a new era of success! Known for being extremely religious and tight with money, she once prayed "Lord God, please send me a good actor, but send him Cheap". During her management the greatest producers and actors gathered to make the Old Vic Theatre the first in history to present all of Shakespeare's plays in the First Folio.
As many other theatres during World War II, the building was bombed in 1941 and remained closed for the duration of the war. After the death of Lilian Baylis, the Old Vic Theatre became the home of National Theatre Company for 13 years under the management of Laurence Oliver. Ever since, the theatre housed really successful productions. However, in 1982, it was put up for sale and was acquired by Canadians Ed and David Mirvish who restored the building to its former splendour. The auditorium was also enlarged to allow a seating capacity of 1078 seats.
3 years after the announcement from the Mirvishes of their intention to sell, a non-profit-making-trust, initially chaired by Alex Bernstein with director Stephen Daldry, actor Kevin Spacey and impresario Sally Green, raised money to acquire the Old Vic Theatre in 2000. Since then, production includes The Iceman Cometh, Amadeus, Jeffrey Bernard is Unwell and Speed The Plow.