Kwame Kwei-Armah announces first season as artistic director of Young Vic

Young Vic

Kwame Kwei-Armah has announced his first season as the artistic director of the Young Vic, including a musical adaptation of Twelfth Night.

Formerly artistic director of Center Stage in Baltimore, Kwei-Armah succeeds David Lan following his 19 year tenure at the theatre.

Setting out his vision for the theatre under his leadership, Kwei-Armah 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.”

The season begins on 2nd October with a musical version of Twelfth Night, conceived by Kwei-Armah and Shaina Taub. The new adaptation will be directed by Kwei-Armah and Oskar Eustis, and will star Gabrielle Brooks as Viola, Gbemisola Ikumelo as Maria, Jonathan Livingstone as Antonio and Silas Wyatt-Barke as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, who will all perform alongside members of the Southward and Lambeth community. With designs by Rob Jones, it officially opens on 8th October, and runs until 17th November.

From 7th December, Danai Gurira’s play The Convert will run. Tony Award winner Gurira starred in the Marvel blockbuster Black Panther, and her play is about the impact of colonialism and Catholicism on black identity. It is set in 19th century Rhodesia as a young girl is taken to the home of a black Roman Catholic missionary. It will run until 19th January.

Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train will run from 14th February 2019 to 30th March. The play is set in a prison on Rikers Island in New York as a man who is accused of murdering a cult leader is confronted by a serial killer and a guard. It was originally directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman when it ran off-Broadway in 2000, and this production will be directed by Kate Hewitt.

In the Clare Studio, Naomi Wallace’s play Things of Dry Hours will be directed by Genesis Future Director Award winner Debbie Hannan. The poetic play is about the idea that humans cannot change, and runs from 15th to 25th August.

There will also be a new strand of work for people who don’t typically think theatre is for them called YV Unpacked. Frank Wedekind’s Spring Awakening will be the first production which will be performed refugee centres, prisons and homeless shelters, and it will be directed by Caroline Byrne.

My England will be a celebration of playwrights from across England, exploring what it means to be English. The monologues will be shared on the theatre’s social media channels, and confirmed playwrights producing work include: 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 production by the National Theatre and National Film Board of Canada. It blends real life, virtual reality and animation to tell the story of a relationship between a mother and son following her terminal cancer diagnosis.

It has also been announced that Crying in the Wilderness Productions, who produce shows ‘anchored to an intercultural philosophical practice’ will join the Young Vic as an associate company.  

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