The Old Vic Theatre

Jocelyn Herbert designed four plays at the Old Vic Theatre. In 1964 she designed Samuel Beckett’s Play, directed by George Devine. There followed three productions for the National Theatre at the Old Vic: Othello directed by John Dexter with Laurence Olivier in the title role (1964); Mother Courage and Her Children, directed by Bill Gaskill (1965), and A Woman Killed with Kindness by Thomas Heywood, directed by John Dexter (1971).

Herbert wrote of the design for Play:

The urns had to be high but not as high as the actors, who couldn’t really squat because their knees would have come out too far, so I built the urns up on a platform and the cast stood below it. The urns opened at the back and could be fastened with a flap and I put foam rubber at the top with chamois over that because they had to fit as tightly as possible round the actors’ shoulders. The actors were given something to hold onto during the performance. We chose dessicated wigs made as if they were the actors’ own hair, but thinning and gone to seed. We made make-up out of oatmeal mixed with water and a little glue – the kind you use to stick on moustaches – and put ordinary make-up on first and then covered the actors’ faces with the mixture. Lastly, we added grey and white pancake. They looked like old stone and the surface of their skin appeared to flake off during the performance. The urns were textured so that the actors seemed to be continuous with them. (Courtney, 1993, page 98)