David Lan interview - ‘The first thing I wanted to do at the Young Vic was stop it from being knocked down’

Today marks David Lan’s final day in charge of the Young Vic, bring to an end his 18-year reign at the helm of the Lambeth theatre. But when he first started, he didn’t necessarily have his programming award-winning plays for almost two decades. Instead, there were more pressing matters at hand. 

“The first thing I wanted to do when I started was to stop it from being knocked down”, he says, just before he accepts a Special Award from the Critics’ Circle in London yesterday. “The auditorium is a brilliant auditorium, but is was in serious disrepair. I had to make the case for that building, which I think we did.” 

By leading the £12.5million refurbishment of the venue, which closed the theatre for three years, Lan is integral to the success of the space. 

But he did have an idea about how he wanted to run the theatre creatively, by creating a “temporary community of friends who would make theatre together”. 

“There was a very strong central idea about inventive, imaginative and – on the whole – younger artists. That was a big idea. I think we got some distance along that way.”

Lan is stepping down from his position at the venue this year, and it follows award-winning seasons and productions such as Dennis Kelly’s Love and Money, the premiere of Tarrell Alvin McCarney’s The Brothers Size, or more recently shows like Cuttin’ It

He is being replaced at the theatre by Kwame Kwei-Armah, currently leading Center Stage in Baltimore. Does Lan have any advice for the incoming artistic director?

“Do your own thing. It’s the only thing you can do, and he doesn’t need me to tell him this. 

“I’d say this to any artistic director starting out: just find the thing that you love, that you can do better than anybody else, and just do that. You’ve got to find a relationship with your audience that’s true to you, and then you’re in with a chance.”

Photo courtesy Peter Jones

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