Olivier’s former wife Joan Plowright will join Derek Jacobi, Eileen Atkins, Claire Bloom, Anna Carteret, Charles Kay, Clive Merrison, Edward Petherbridge, Ronald Pickup and Billie Whitelaw in honouring the National’s founding director in a showcase of film clips, stage extracts and reminiscent readings recalling Olivier’s contribution to 20th-century performance.
The sculpture of Olivier, which will have a permanent place on the corner of the Theatre Square at the NT’s riverside entrance, is being designed by Angela Conner and will capture him as Hamlet, one of more than 120 stage roles Olivier played during his lifetime. Hamlet co-starred Peter O'Toole and was the first play produced by the National Theatre in 1963, then at the Old Vic, where it was based for over 12 years before its current South Bank home was completed.
Olivier appeared in and directed many of the NT's most successful productions at the Old Vic, including Othello, Uncle Vanya, The Dance of Death, A Flea in Her Ear, Saturday Sunday Monday and Long Day's Journey Into Night. He was made a life peer in 1970 and was awarded the Order of Merit in 1981. He died in 1989.
To coincide with celebratory events, the National’s neighbour, BFI Southbank, will present a season of Olivier films in August and September, including 1940’s Rebecca, 1982’s King Lear and Henry V from 1944.
Olivier was born on 22 May 1907 in Dorking, Surrey, where locals are this week celebrating with an Olivier film festival, exhibition and talk from his eldest son Tarquin (See News, 14 May 2007).
- by Malcolm Rock