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Young Vic announces new season of work for 2021

Kwame Kwei-Armah

Young Vic Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah announceD a new season of work, welcoming theatre-makers and audiences back through the doors to create and experience live performance for the first time since the Young Vic’s 50th Birthday celebrations in October 2020.

AT A GLANCE…

LEGENDARY TALES, REIMAGINED

  • The season opens with Changing Destiny, Booker Prize-winner Ben Okri’s stunning new adaptation of the 4,000-year-old Egyptian poem of Sinuhe the Warrior King, directed by Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah and designed by award-winning architect Sir David Adjaye
  • The complete creative team announced for the highly-anticipated Hamlet, with Cush Jumbo in the title role, directed by her long-time collaborator Greg Hersov

PLAYS THAT EXPLORE OUR PAST AND SPEAK TO OUR PRESENT

  • Best of Enemies, a new play by Olivier Award-winner James Graham, follows the debates that changed politics and television forever, directed by Jeremy Herrin in a co-production with Headlong
  • Klippies, the acclaimed debut by Jessica Siâna coming-of-age drama set in the twentieth year of South Africa’s democracy about the intensity of first love, directed by Genesis Future Directors Award recipient Diyan Zora

PLAYING WITH DIGITAL

  • A unique collaboration between human and computer minds, AI is a play developed by Chinonyerem Odimba and Nina Segal, written alongside GPT-3 OpenAI technology. Using this advanced deep-learning artificial intelligence system to generate human-like script and dialogue, Genesis Fellow and Associate Director Jennifer Tang and Company will create a new play for the stage. In this unique hybrid of research and performance, the script will be brought to life over a series of evenings by the writers, actors and company, alongside insights into how the artists collaborated with the AI
  • Best Seat in Your House, an innovative multi-camera immersive broadcast experience inviting audiences to play with the broadcast form. Viewers choose between taking The Director’s Chair – with the possibility to cut live to any camera in the theatre at any time throughout a show ­– or relax and enjoy the live edit of a show with The Director’s Cut

FOR AND WITH OUR LOCAL COMMUNTY

  • Young Vic Taking Part present the third YV Unpacked tour, taking a professional production to venues such as elderly care homes, homeless shelters and rehabilitation centres. Love Reign, an eclectic piece of new writing about friendship, is Written by Shereen Jasmin Phillips and Directed by Stef O’Driscoll
  • Taking Part also bring the world of theatre and ballroom together in an explosive evening of music, dance, walking and partying with Sundown Kiki, a bold celebration of Queer South London in all its glory, with Creative Direction by Jay Jay Revlon, Directed by Tristan Fynn-Aiduenu

Kwame Kwei-Armah, Young Vic Artistic Director, said: “This pandemic has wielded an unquantifiable wound to theatre-makers and theatres, the repercussions of which we will continue to feel for a long time. We have seen a year of racial reckoning reverberate through our sector, a cry of pain and a call to do better. To announce a new season of work fills my heart with optimism, as it comes with the hope that artists can return to their craft, and as we rebuild, we improve on what was good, and take time to undo the broken systems and structures.

My message with this new season is Welcome Back and Welcome HomeThe Young Vic is a civic centre and a home-away-from-home for our community. It is a space for us to hear extraordinary stories told by the world’s finest artists that help us see the world through someone else’s eyes.

With Ben Okri’s Changing Destiny and Shakespeare’s Hamlet we bring you the tales you thought you knew, and present them afresh. These stories have withstood the test of time because they continue speak to what it means to be human, and I believe now, more than ever, they deliver messages we need to hear. We also bring you bold work to illuminate our present. Our co-production with Headlong, Best of Enemies is a new play from James Graham that places its fingers on the political pulse of 1960s America, but could not feel more current today.

Emerging from the pandemic into a world which feels more digitalised than ever before, our ambitious experiment with technology continues. With AI, we ask great human and computer minds to come together, to see how each may inform the other in the creation of art. With Best Seat in Your House – our offer of multi-camera broadcasts – we invite audiences to play with technology, redefining the live streaming experience for ultimate flexibility and choice. 

Our Directors Program, which for the last twelve months has served over 4,000 artists, will continue adapting to meet the needs of its members, including finding ways to interrogate the structures that limit our future generations of theatre-makers. They continue helping artists develop their craft; in this season we see a new version of Klippies, directed by Genesis Future Directors Award recipient Diyan Zora.

And Taking Part, our creative engagement department, will continue extending its arms as wide as possible to our local boroughs, touring a brand new play Love Reign to venues like hospitals, prisons, and residential homes, and with Sundown Kiki, they welcome Queer South London to our space to tell their stories.

Both the Young Vic Directors Program and Taking Part, supported by the wider YV team, have overcome the hurdles of this pandemic year to reach their networks and connect them to art. I feel this moment is a celebration of their achievements, as much as it is anticipating the excellence to come.

So, we can’t wait to welcome you back into our theatre. Some elements, such as the measures we have in place to ensure your safety, might feel slightly different as protecting our staff and audiences is – and always will be – our priority. But much will feel exactly like the Young Vic home you remember. We are committed to keeping ticket prices low, starting at £10. We continue with our £5 first previews. We will keep giving 10% of our tickets free to those who experience barriers to accessing the arts, our local communities, and early-career artists – irrespective of box office demand. So join us to participate in the magic of live theatre, as we take you from Ancient Egypt to Artificial Intelligence, and everything in between.

Welcome back and welcome home.”

Young Vic: Cast announced for The New Tomorrow

Young Vic

Kwame Kwei-Armah, Artistic Director of the Young Vic, today announced the cast of The New Tomorrow, a weekend of pop-up performances celebrating the Young Vic’s 50th birthday. The New Tomorrow– the first piece of live theatre at the Young Vic since the pandemic closed UK theatres in March – will interrogate
the change that has come and is coming, and what the next 50 years might hold.

Ronkẹ Adékọluẹ́jọ́, Adjoa Andoh, Matthew Dunster, Paapa Essiedu, Martina Laird, Anoushka Lucas and Sophie Stone will perform short works from writers and artists Jade Anouka, Marina Carr, Jasmine Lee-Jones, Ruth Madeley, Amy Ng, Stef Smith, Jack Thorne, Isobel Waller-Bridge and Steve Waters, directed by Young Vic Genesis Fellow and Associate Director Jennifer Tang. The performance will be hosted by Kwame Kwei-Armah, and also feature speeches from activists Shahidha Bari and Tom Gill, with Kwame Kwei-Armah Jr. as DJ.

Tickets for The New Tomorrow have been previously won via ticket lottery, however the performance will be live streamed for free from the Young Vic
via Facebook Live on Sunday 4 October at 4pm.

Together with the 50th Projection Project and The Unforgotten, The New Tomorrow marks the beginning of We are the New Tide, the Young Vic’s year-long 50th birthday programme which will run until September 2021.

The New Tomorrow is co-produced with Benjamin Lowy and Emily Vaughan-Barratt for Wessex Grove.

 

 

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Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah must face the music

FOLLOWING today’s revelations surrounding the world premiere of Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah’s Tree I, for one, felt sick.

Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley say their contribution to Elba’s new musical was erased.

“When the show Tree was publicly announced to headline the Manchester International Festival (ahead of a move to The Young Vic), on October 30th 2018 we received messages from friends and colleagues congratulating us,” Henley write and Allen Martin write on Medium.

They continue. “Between June and October [of 2018], there were multiple emails and phone-calls between Tori, Sarah and MIF suggesting that delays were merely down to difficult scheduling with Idris and Kwame’s diaries,” the article says. “We now know that the project was continuing to be developed without us.”

“We thought we were writing the piece, and now Kwame had ear-marked himself for the role and had utilised our ideas, characters and story development in his revised synopsis.”

Young Vic Artistic Director, Kwame Kwei-Armah – listed as the production’s director and co-creator of the performance – has denied the allegations.

An arrogant and combative approach that’s unlikely to reverse backlash or win any support, I’d have thought. It should have never gotten this far.

A great shame, as I genuinely admire what Kwame has been cooking up at the Young Vic, which is currently the most buzzing and dynamic theatre in London right now. At a glance, he is a remarkable cultural leader and God knows we need them right now.

Kwame further expanded publicly stating: ‘Perception is always greater than fact… It has always been our understanding that your entitlements related to the workshop and not the project as a whole – the latter being Idris’ personal brainchild.’ Good grief.

Of course, it is one sided at the moment – but let’s get some perspective; if half of the account is true, it is not acceptable and it is not good enough. If it is 100% true. and factual, then credit where it is due and an apology from Kwame and Idris is priority.

So, the pair sought legal advice and were told they would face fees upward of £20,000 to defend themselves in court. They have now set up Burn Bright to foster female writers in as well as to raise money to cover legal fees.

In a recent Guardian profile, Elba and Kweigh-Armah discussed the Tree devising process:
Was the script a collaborative process, too? “We did it together,” Kwei-Armah replies, as Elba points towards Kwei-Armah and stage whispers: “He wrote it.” Not for the first time, they both laugh. Kwei-Armah continues: “Alfie came in, and literally within an hour, our magnificent choreographer, Gregory Maqoma, was holding him upside down.

How does, how can this happen, and with someone of the profile of Idris Elba involved? It all stands or falls then, almost entirely, on the truth. These disturbing revelations are a bit less of a surprise, though, to honest. So much lip service is given to supporting equality and inclusivity yet precious little fast action and legislation.

Anyway, nothing will change by leaving it to us men (because 99 times out of 100 – it is us men) to ‘realise’ their inappropriate behaviour. At least if this does bring forward a root and branch look at the cultural industries codes of practices, brings a focus (the creative workplace in this case) and a reset moment, taught, part of contract and employment procedures and reinforced then finally, something may begin to change.

It is a bleak time that we find ourselves in and the political map of the world seems riddled with, in fact, ‘cultures’ that actively diminishes and perpetuates women as inferior, or needing to be isolated, or covered, or stripped of any meaningful sense of individuality and parity. Something needs to shift gears.

Ultimately, though, when re-reading the Medium piece just now, I was reminded of Ian McKellen’s recent statement on abuses of power.

“When it comes to abuse by people in positions of power, the correct response is clear. The accusers must be heard and the accused given the opportunity to clear their names. If the accusations prove credible, the abuser’s access to power should be removed.”

Do the right thing, boys: face the music, apologise pronto and credit these brilliant women or else cancel the show.

Tree is at Upper Campfield Market Hall, Manchester, as part of Manchester international festival, 29 June-13 July. Then at the Young Vic, London, 29 July-24 August.

Full cast announced for Blood Wedding

Blood Wedding

Young Vic Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah today announced the complete cast for Blood Wedding. Multiple award-winning director Yaël Farber (Les Blancs, Mies Julie, The Crucible) brings Federico García Lorca’s famous tragedy to the Young Vic this September in a new version by Marina Carr.

 We’re all curious about what might hurt us…

What do you do when the day that is supposed to be the happiest of your life becomes a living nightmare? A repressed, passionate love affair rears its head on the day two young people tie the knot. What is done cannot be undone.

 The full cast for Blood Wedding includes Bríd Brennan, Scarlett Brookes, Gavin Drea, Aoife DuffinAnnie Firbank, Olwen Fouéré, Roger Jean Nsengiyumva, Faaiz MbeliziSteffan Rhodri, Thalissa Teixeira and David Walmsley.

 Written by Marina Carr, Directed by Yaël Farber, with Design by Susan Hilferty, Lighting by Natasha Chivers, Sound by Emma Laxton, Composition byIsobel Waller-Bridge and Movement by Imogen Knight.