Larry & Viv

Larry & Viv

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Europe is still shattered by the effects of World War II. For the British, austerity makes life bleak. They may have won the war, but i t feels as if they have lost the peace. For 26-year-old Jed Winscombe, who has been incarcerated during the war as a conscientious objector, the future seems grim. His ambition to become a playwright is coming to nothing.

The British Government, seeking to reward Australia and New Zealand for their support during the war, and to fly the flag, requests that London’s famous Old Vic Company organise a theatre tour Down Under. The company responds with enthusiasm, signing the world’s most glamorous stars of stage and screen, husband and wife team Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, to lead the tour. Jed Winscombe sees an advertisement for a stage hand for the Old Vic Company’s tour.

He applies for the role, is interviewed by Sir Laurence and is awarded a contract. It will be his first time abroad. The Old Vic Company leaves England by sea in February 1948.For the next seven months the actors perform the plays of Shakespeare, Sheridan and Wilder throughout Australia and New Zealand, enthralling audiences everywhere. Huge crowds gather outside the players’ hotels and theatres, longing for a glimpse of the celebrity actors.

The Old Vic Company’s performances are a sell-out. Jed finds love in Australia and New Zealand, but Sir Laurence and Lady Olivier’s ostensibly shimmering marriage is losing its lustre. Events reach a startling climax in Wellington, the last city on the Old Vic Company’s tour. And for all members of the company, life after the tour will never be the same again.

Larry & Viv recreates post-war life vividly and authentically. The tour comes alive again, in a narrative teeming with characters both real and imaginary. Famous New Zealanders – including Ngaio Marsh, Frank Sargeson and Charles Brasch – make appearances, while the great theatres of our cities, mostly named after St James, provide grand settings for the Old Vic Company’s acclaimed performances.