A celebration of David Garrick18 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.