21 JUNE 1963, Page 9

Old Vicarious

Starbuck, are you grieving over the Old Vic's bereaving? Certainly it was a nostalgic moment, the company giving its final performance last week, but there was really nothing sad about it. The place closes only to re-open again in the autumn as the embryo of our future National Theatre. - Lillian Bayliss would have been delighted. But I suppose one's nostalgia is for those school trips—anyone who went to school near London must surely have had them—when the Old Vic represented the whole of London theatre, when every production was perfect and every leading young actress heart-breaking. One of my oddest schoolboy memories is of talking to a drunk outside the Old Vic who told me that he was Vic Oliver and had been so named be- cause he was the brother of Laurence Oliver and had been born on the stage of the Old Vic when his mother was playing Lady Macbeth. And then the later visits to the gallery where one sat crammed haunch to haunch with tiresome girls who swooned and screamed for the leading actor and never noticed Shakespeare. When Richard Burton and John Neville were alternating each night as Othello and Iago, I walked down the stairs behind two Burton fans. 'Wasn't Richard Burton wonderful as thingurnmy' said one pony- tail. 'Yes' replied the other, 'we must come and see him tomorrow as whatsit.' Of course, it is no longer called the Old Vic, when other children will still flock there to forge their first theatrical memories. There's the rub: other children. It is Starbuck that you mourn for.