Kwame Kwei-Armah announces first season as Artistic Director at Young Vic

Kwame Kwei Armah

Kwame Kwei Armah

  • A musical adaptation of Kwame Kwei-Armah and Shaina Taub’s Twelfth Night
  • Black Panther’s Danai Gurira’s play The Convert
  •  Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train  by Stephen Adly Guirgis to be directed by Winner Kate Hewitt
  •  Genesis Future Director Award Winner announced as Debbie Hannan who will direct Things of Dry Hours by Naomi Wallace in the Clare
  • A new strand of work, YV Unpacked, taking the highest quality theatre to the community
  • Digital project My England, a celebration of Englishness from playwrights across the country
  • The Young Vic to host VR experience Draw Me CloseNational Theatre and National Film Board of Canada production
  • Crying in the Wilderness to join the Young Vic as new Associate Company
  • Initial casting for Twelfth Night is also announced: Gabrielle Brooks as Viola; Gbemisola Ikumelo as Maria; Jonathan Livingstone as Antonio and Silas Wyatt-Barke as Sir Andrew Aguecheek
  •  £5 First Previews announced – all Main House show first preview tickets will be sold at just £5 via a TodayTix lottery 
Kwame Kwei-Armah, Artistic Director, said:
 The Young Vic as a producing theatre has become synonymous with staging international works created by some of the world’s finest directors, performers and creatives; productions and projects that say something about the world that we live in. My first season as Artistic Director will attempt to balance on those shoulders the things that are important to me: joy, community, politics and these are deeply embedded in all that we do.

That’s why the musical reworking of Twelfth Night – that I previously directed at The Public Theater in New York – is the show that I have chosen to kick-start my tenure with. A show that stands community members shoulder to shoulder with professional artists, it’s filled with joyful, soulful music by Shaina Taub; it’s a celebration.

After this we will see Danai Gurira’s The Convert and Stephen Adly Guirgis’s Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Trainboth, in my opinion, modern classics one portraying Rhodesia 1896 and the other prison in Rikers Island. Both plays ripe for interpretation by some of the most interesting young directors in the country.

Alongside these productions, today we announce two projects that will develop throughout the year. My England: a series of monologues from across England created by playwrights, actors and directors telling us how they define “Englishness” in our potentially fractious society. Through this we are committing to pushing the boundaries further, taking theatre outside our four walls and performing the highest quality shows in prisons, community hubs and centres across London. The first of these shows, Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind, looks at the sexually oppressive culture of Germany in the nineteenth century.”


Twelfth Night
by William Shakespeare
Conceived by Kwame Kwei-Armah and Shaina Taub
Music and Lyrics by Shaina Taub
Directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah and Oskar Eustis
Tuesday 2 October – Saturday 17 November 2018
Press Night: Monday 8 October 2018

A Young Vic adaptation of Kwame Kwei-Armah and Shaina Taub’s Twelfth Night, originally performed at The Public Theater in New York as part of their Public Works program in 2016, and revisited this summer as part of their free Shakespeare in the Park Delacorte season.

This musical reworking of Shakespeare’s comedy with music and lyrics by critically acclaimed songwriter Shania Taub, will be designed for the Young Vic stage by Rob Jones with Oskar Eustis, Artistic Director of The Public Theater, co-directing with Kwame Kwei-Armah.

Initial casting includes: Gabrielle Brooks as Viola; Gbemisola Ikumelo as Maria; Jonathan Livingstoneas Antonio and Silas Wyatt-Barke as Sir Andrew Aguecheek.. These professional artists will perform alongside community members from Southwark and Lambeth in this classic tale of love and disguise.

The Convert
by Danai Gurira
Main House Friday 7 December 2018 – Saturday 19 January 2019
Press Night: Friday 14 December

Black Panther star and Tony-nominated writer Danai Gurira’s striking play explores the impact of colonialism and Catholicism on black identity.

Set in 1896 Rhodesia, a young girl is taken into the household of a black Roman Catholic missionary, escaping a forced marriage at the cost of leaving behind her family and converting to Catholicism.

Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train
by Stephen Adly Guirgis directed by Kate Hewitt
Thursday 14 February – Saturday 30 March 2019
Press Night: Wednesday 20 February 2019

From Pulitzer Prize-winner Stephen Adly Guirgis (The Motherfucker with the Hat) Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train takes places in a prison in Rikers Island New York. A frightened young man accused of murdering a cult leader is confronted with a charismatic born-again serial killer and a sadistic guard. Will one man’s redemption lead to another’s damnation?

Originally directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, this adaption will be directed by Kate Hewitt, winner of the JMK Award 2014.


Things of Dry Hours
by Naomi Wallace and directed by 2018 Genesis Future Director Award Winner Debbie Hannan
Wednesday 15 August – Saturday 25 August 2018

2018 Genesis Award winner Debbie Hannan directs this tantalizing, poetic play. Weaving the spiritual into the political, Things of Dry Hours interrogates the idea that humans cannot change; are we really all that black and white?

Due to the nature of the Genesis Future Director Award, there will be no press night performance. 


 YV Unpacked is a new strand of work, taking the highest quality theatre to people who do not normally think that theatre is for them. We will be taking shows to refugee centres, prisons, community hubs and homeless shelters as part of this work. The first work to be taken out to the community is: Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind, directed Caroline Byrne.
My England is a celebration of playwrights from across regions of England. The works look at what it means to be English. Monologues will be recorded and shown on the Young Vic social media channels.

Confirmed commissions include work from: Lucy J Skilbeck, Omar El-Khairy, Polly Stenham, Barrie Rutter, Jack Thorne and May Sumbqanyambe.

Draw Me Close by Jordan Tannahill is a preview of the National Theatre and National Film Board of Canada production, presented by Young Vic. Draw Me Close blurs the worlds of live performance, virtual reality and animation to create a vivid memoir about the relationship between a mother and her son in the wake of her terminal-cancer diagnosis.
 Crying in the Wilderness Productions join the Young Vic as an Associate Company. Crying in the Wilderness Productions is dedicated to producing groundbreaking productions which are anchored to an intercultural philosophical practice. They have produced work in collaboration with the Bush Theatre, Arcola Theatre and at Stratford Circus Theatre.