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Kwame Kwei-Armah: 'Theatre in Britain has practiced Brexit for as long as I can remember'

At the launch of a series of new plays addressing the changing international role of Great Britain, the upcoming artistic director of the Young Vic, Kwame Kwei-Armah, spoke on Europe

Roy Williams Rosemary Jenkinson and Kwame Kwei-Armah
© Helen Maybanks

At a symposium at the RSA, the upcoming artistic director of the Young Vic Kwame Kwei-Armah spoke about his attitude to Europe and Great Britain's international role.

On a panel of playwrights including James Graham, April de Angelis, Brad Birch, Tanika Gupta, Roy Williams and Rosemary Jenkinson, Kwei Armah said: "The challenge of Brexit to theatre in an increasingly borderless world is: do we want interdependence? I think theatre in Britain has practiced Brexit for as long as I can remember. I think we privilege the English word.

"We even take the Scandinavian stuff and English it up so we think it's from Wolverhampton, and I think the big question is: do we care?"

He added: "We think of internationalism through the lens of: there's this British new play, there's this English new play, there's this Irish new play, there's this American new play. And there's this Scandinavian new play and it looks like British.

"I'm really interested to see how we integrate with Europe on the plays that we put on our stages and the plays we commission and how we approach it in the way opera does. Opera isn't afraid of internationalism, it's not afraid of language and we are."

It was announced that Kwei-Armah would replace David Lan as artistic director of the Young Vic today, after Lan announced he would be stepping down next year.

The symposium took place as a launch event for The United Kingdom and Europe, Nations on the World Stage, which is an initiative spearheaded by Royal & Derngate, Lyric Theatre Belfast, Lyceum Theatre and Sherman Theatre to commission playwrights to focus on the changing nature of Britain internationally. The plays will be announced in due course. Each play will be performed in each of the home nations of the project and across Europe.

The full video of the event can be viewed here.