A celebration of David Garrick

18 Jan 2019

20 Jan 2019 marks the 240th anniversary of the death of David Garrick, one of the greatest actors of his time and an acclaimed playwright, theatre manager and producer. 

His legacy as a performer is perhaps best summarised by the historian Rev Nicolas Tindal, who said that:

The 'deaf' hear him in his 'action', and the 'blind' see him in his 'voice'.

When it opened on 30 May 1766, the managers of the Theatre advertised the first performance as a ‘Concert of Music and a Specimen of Rhetorick’ with a prologue and epilogue by David Garrick. The playbill from this evening still exists, carefully preserved by Bristol Archives.

On 24 Sep 2018, following a 2-year multi-million-pound redevelopment, Bristol Old Vic reopened, revealing our brand-new glass-fronted foyer, protected by sun-shading shutters which incorporate those first words ever spoken on stage in 1766, written by David Garrick.

Alongside former Bristol city poet Miles Chambers' poem Bristol, Bristol, the new shutters highlight the theatre's long history and look forward to its future role in the whole community.

These are the words forever immortalised on our foyers' shutters:

Before you, see one of your stage directors

Or, if you please, one of those strange projectors

Whose heated brain in fatal magic bound

Seeks for that stone that never can be found.

But in projection comes the dreadful stroke

The glasses burst and all is bounce and smoke.

Though doubtless still our fate, I bite my thumbs

And my heart fails me for projection comes.


Your smiles would chase our fears, still I could dream

Rich as a nabob, with my golden scheme!

That all the world’s a stage you cannot deny

And what’s our stage? A shop, I’ll tell you why:


You are customers, the tradesmen we.

And well for us you pay before you see.

We give no trust, a ready money trade

Should you stop payment, we are bankrupts made.


To feast your mind and soothe each worldly care

Ye’ll largely traffic in dramatic ware.

When swells our shop a warehouse to your eyes

And we, from small retailers, merchants rise.


From Shakespeare’s golden mines we’ll fetch the ore

And land his riches on this happy shore

For we theatric merchants never quit

His boundless stores of universal wit.


But we in vain shall richly laden come

Unless deep water brings us safely home,

Unless your favour in full tides will flow

Ship crew and cargo to the bottom go!


Indulge us then and from our hearts receive

Our warmest wishes – all we have to give.

May honour’d commerce with her sails unfurl’d

Still bring you treasures from each distant world -


From east to west extend this city’s name

Still to her sons increasing wealth with fame

And may this merit be our honest boast

To give you pleasure and no virtue lost.