About Bristol Old Vic Theatre School

About Bristol Old Vic Theatre School


The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School was opened in 1946 by Laurence Olivier as a training school for the Bristol Old Vic Company. It initially began its life in one room in a beautiful though cramped building behind the Bristol Old Vic stage door. It was affectionately then known as the ’fruit school’ as it was close to the fruit and vegetable markets, which surrounded the theatre.

In 1954, Dorothy Reynolds and Julian Slade wrote for the Theatre School, the musical Salad Days. It went on to achieve enormous though totally unexpected success, with extended runs both in the West End and on Broadway. The show gave the Theatre School the much-needed funds to move to bigger premises in Downside Road - the School's current site. The building was officially opened in 1956 by Dame Sybil Thorndike.

In 2003 the reputation and work of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School was recognised by the government when it was invited to join a new scheme designed to provide secure funding for students. The Conservatoire of Dance and Drama invited the School along with RADA, the London Contemporary Dance School and the Northern School of Contemporary Dance to be a founder member ensuring the Theatre School can take the most talented students regardless of their own personal financial circumstances.

Conservatoire for Dance & Drama

A Government initiative to secure the future of conservatoire-level dance and drama.

The School is a part of the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama, an exciting new Government initiative to secure the future of conservatoire-level dance and drama vocational training in Britain, enabling the most talented students to gain access and benefit, irrespective of background or financial circumstances.

The CDD schools are:

Location & Access

Bristol Old Vic Theatre School is located in Bristol, the gateway to the South West of England. Only an hour and a half train journey from London and Birmingham, Bristol has a reputation as one of the most vibrant cities in the UK. It has a thriving arts scene, being home to the country’s oldest working theatre, The Bristol Old Vic; the contemporary arts space The Arnolfini; the independent cinema and media centre, Watershed; the innovative theatre space, The Tobacco Factory and the concert venue, The Colston Hall. Its café and bar scene is bustling and eclectic and its music scene has an established international reputation due to the success of such Bristol musicians as Portishead, Massive Attack, Tricky and Andy Shepherd.

The city is well placed for easy access to some of the most beautiful countryside in England, with Somerset, Dorset, Cornwall and Devon only a short distance away and enjoying good transport links.

Bristol is easy to reach by train from all cities in the UK and by road, being serviced by both the M4 and M5 motorways. It also has an international airport.

The main Bristol Old Vic Theatre School premises at 1-3 Downside Road are accessible to wheelchair users and we have considerable experience of working with and adapting our programmes to students with a wide range of impairments and we welcome applications from disabled students. Places are offered solely on the basis of suitability and potential for a successful career in the profession. If you wish to discuss your access needs before applying, please contact the Admissions Administrator for advice and further information, or email enquiries@oldvic.ac.uk. We encourage you to disclose any relevant information when filling in your application forms so we can make appropriate arrangements for audition or interview.

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Bristol Old Vic Theatre School Ltd, 1-2 Downside Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2XF
Admin: 0117 973 3535 | Box Office: 0117 973 3955 |

Photos: Craig Fuller, Farrows Creative, Graham Burke, Stewart McPherson.

Registered in England number 02430025 | Registered charity number 900280 | VAT number 520494954

Conservatoire for Dance and drama University of the West of England