Booker Winner & Brecht Fest Reopen New Young VicDate: 5 July 2006
Young Vic artistic director David Lan (pictured) today unveiled details of the reopening season at the landmark Southwark theatre, which has been closed since July 2004 while undergoing a £12.45 million makeover (See News, 24 Feb 2004).
At the ‘new’ Young Vic – which has two new performance spaces in addition to the restored main house – the new season will run from October 2006 to June 2007, comprising seven productions and culminating with the world premiere stage adaptation of DBC Pierre’s 2003 Booker Prize-winning novel Vernon God Little, directed by Rufus Norris. Other season highlights include new plays by Debbie Tucker Green and Dennis Kelly; a season of work by Bertolt Brecht, featuring new translations by TV impressionist Rory Bremner and others; and the venue’s first musical Christmas show.
The season kicks off in the 500-seat, semi in-the-round main house with Tobias and the Angel, running from 11 to 21 October 2006. The community opera, with words by Lan and music by Jonathan Dove, was the first production in the Young Vic’s Walkabout season during its two years away from home. Then staged at Waterloo’s nearby St John’s Church, it’s now being revived to inaugurate the new building. Once again, 80 locals from Lambeth and Southwark will be recruited to perform in the show’s choir along with professional actors and singers. John Fulljames directs.
Next up in the main house will be another piece of music theatre, the world premiere of the Young Vic’s new Christmas show, The Enchanted Pig, with music by Dove and words by Alasdair Middleton. Based on a Romanian folktale, it tells the story of a princess who seeks to break the spell that’s turned her husband into a smelly pig. Directed by Fulljames, it runs from 14 December 2006 (previews from 1 December) to 27 January 2007.
Lan himself directs Thomas Otway’s rarely performed Restoration comedy The Soldier’s Fortune, running from 22 February to 31 March 2007 (previews from 15 February). Set in 1680, it revolves around Beaugard and Courtine who, returning empty-handed to London from wars abroad, hit upon a scheme to improve their fortunes. The new production is designed by Lizzie Clachan.
Vernon God Little completes the schedule in the main house, where it receives its world premiere on 2 May 2007 (previews from 27 April) and continues until 9 June 2007. In the sheriff’s office, fast-talking Vernon sits in his underpants, staring at his Nikes, after his best friend Jesus killed all their classmates before committing suicide. Australian-born DBC Pierre’s Booker Prize winner, his debut novel, has been adapted by Tanya Ronder. The production is directed by Rufus Norris and designed by Ian MacNeil with sound by Paul Arditti.
Norris – an associate director at the Young Vic whose other credits include Tintin, Sleeping Beauty (Young Vic), Festen (Almeida, West End and Broadway) and, opened last month at the National, Market Boy - explained today why he wanted to bring Vernon God Little to the stage: “It’s a very strong story. It has a terrific energy that just cranks up and cranks up and cranks up.” He added: “I try not to do anything that doesn’t scare me to death, and this scares me to death.”
Two new theatres
The Young Vic’s new auditoria are named in honour of two theatre women who recently died: designer Maria Bjornson (1949-2002) and director Clare Venables (1943-2003). Although neither worked at the Young Vic, Lan said today that they “inspired us”, especially him.
In the 160-seat Maria, the season commences with Love and Money, the latest play by Dennis Kelly (After the End, Osama the Hero). Billed as a hard-hitting modern drama involving office romance by email and credit card debts, Love and Money is directed by Young Vic associate director Matthew Dunster. It’s co-produced with Manchester’s Royal Exchange, where it runs from 27 October to 11 November 2006, before transferring to the Young Vic from 21 November to 16 December 2006 (previews from 16 November).
Generations, the new play by Debbie Tucker Green (trade, stoning mary, born bad) will also be housed in the Maria, from 27 February to 10 March 2007 (previews from 22 February). Accompanied by a gospel choir, it explodes the secrets of a South African family. Sacha Wares directs the short piece, clocking in at just 30 minutes, with two performances nightly.
Four short, early plays by Bertolt Brecht make up “The Big Brecht Fest” (so titled by Rory Bremner), presented as two double bills: A Respectable Wedding) (translated by Bremner, directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins) and The Jewish Wife (translated by Martin Crimp, directed by Katie Mitchell), Senora Carrar’s Rifles (translated by Biyi Bandele, directed by Paul Hunter) and How Much Is Your Iron? (translated by Enda Walsh, directed by Orla O'Loughlin). The Brecht plays are performed in both the Maria and 80-seat Clare auditorium, with the first double bill running from 29 March to 14 April 2007 and the second from 20 April to 5 May 2007.
Bricks & mortar
Today’s press briefing was held in the still-under-construction Maria, the sound of drills and jackhammers punctuating proceedings. Lan described the first public event in the space as “a very special, rather moving, quite exciting, very long-awaited moment”. The renovated theatre complex reopens in October, on time and on budget, and said Lan, “the new Young Vic is everything we could have wanted and more, much more.... It’s the old Young Vic made new”, a place where there are “three theatres in which we can be truer to ourselves than ever before”.
Though itinerant for the past two years, the Young Vic has remained active, producing 22 shows over 22 months at 41 theatres in 30 cities across the UK and Europe as part of its Walkabout season (See News, 7 Jul 2004). As a result, said Lan, “we are stronger, more robust, more experienced, more adventurous than ever before”, though he added “the truth is, we just can’t wait to get home”.
Lan has deemed the first season of programme in the new Young Vic as “typically eclectic and wide-ranging”. “Even in our first season, we will not play safe,” he promised, the theatre’s mantra being “maximum artistic risk, minimum financial risk”. Also announced today, Indhu Rubasingham has been appointed associate director alongside Rufus Norris and Matthew Dunster, while Luc Bondy and Gisli Orn Gardarsson, of Iceland’s Theatre Vesturport, have been made international associates.
The new Young Vic, designed by Haworth Tompkins Architects, retains the renowned semi-in-the-round auditorium and the original butchers’ shop, which previously served as a foyer, albeit with improvements. The new Maria and Clare have been built to its west for performances and rehearsals. The rest of the site was razed to make way for new facilities, including expanded offices, dressing rooms, a terrace and more public spaces. The reconstruction has been funded by a £5 million National Lottery grant, with the rest raised via a high-profile fundraising campaign championed by actor Jude Law.
- by Terri Paddock