The Young Vic Theatre

Emerging from a bomb crater and built around a butcher's shop, the Young Vic has always been a unique theatrical venue. As it prepares to reopen after a makeover, artistic director David Lan and architect Steve Tompkins give Time Out an exclusive sneak preview

  • The Young Vic Theatre

    The Young Vic's new auditorium, ready for opening night

  • After two years of walkabout, the Young Vic has moved back home and will reopen its doors on October 11 with the community opera ‘Tobias and the Angel’. Anybody walking down The Cut can already appreciate many aspects of the quirky, delightful new building – especially Clem Crosby’s vast abstract mural, protected by a metal mesh, which runs down the length of the theatre’s exterior wall and is lit up at night from behind.

    The new offices

    When the theatre – built on a bombsite in under a year – first opened in 1970, it cost £60,000 and was intended to last only five years. The new £7 million building designed by Haworth Tompkins is more permanent, but retains some of the informal aesthetic of the first. Perhaps most surprisingly, the old butcher’s shop – used by the original architect, Bill Howell, as the theatre’s foyer – has been retained. Two new small theatres, the Maria and the Clare have also been added. Artistic director David Lan and architect Steve Tompkins discuss how the new building emerged.

    Steve Tompkins
    The Young Vic’s roots were in a temporary building and its aesthetic has always been rough and light-footed. I think it was key that we had to keep those values. If we were to obliterate the informality of the theatre with a smart, slick new building, it would have been catastrophic.

    David Lan Steve tells me that one of the things I said at the beginning was ‘Don’t let it seem finished’.

    ST Big note. Of course, architects are programmed in their DNA to finish things and so it’s interesting deliberately not to do that. Working so closely with David and his team gave us the confidence to break the architectural rules. We weren’t fetishistic about everything lining up and all that stuff that architects tend to obsess about.

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