Mirvishes put the Old Vic up for sale

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The Independent Online
The Canadian owners of the Old Vic, the birthplace of British ballet and first home of the National Theatre, are to sell the building for pounds 7.5m, leaving the Peter Hall Company homeless after December.

David Mirvish, whose father, Ed, bought and restored the theatre 15 years ago, said yesterday that the Toronto familywas no longer able to bear the losses made at the Old Vic. Although the Peter Hall Company is now playing to houses of 68 per cent, and Waiting for Godot is one of London's greatest hits, poor business earlier this year has led to a loss of pounds 500,000 so far on the company's first season.

Over the years of the Mirvishes' benevolent ownership, seasons at the theatre near Waterloo station have accumulated losses of more than pounds 20m. The Old Vic has found it difficult to compete with the nearby National Theatre, which causes concern about its future. Asked yesterday about prospective purchasers, Sir Peter Hall said: "I'm worried about it. Somebody might want to turn it into a night-club or a theme park."

The future of his company seems assured, however. A season has already been planned for next year, and is expected to play in a West End theatre. Dame Judi Dench has agreed to play the lead in Eduardo de Filippo's Filumena. Sir Peter also proposes to direct Shaw's Major Barbara, a new translation of Moliere's Le Misanthrope, and the classic tale of Chicago journalism, The Front Page.

A further possibility is that Sir Peter's work will be financed by the Malaysian government. The Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, was recently sufficiently impressed by the company's work at the Old Vic to ask Sir Peter whether he would be willing to take it to Kuala Lumpur for a month-long season each year.