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Young Vic

  • Theatre
  • Waterloo
  • Recommended
Young Vic_CREDIT_Philip Vile.jpg
© Philip Vile

Time Out says

This edgy Waterloo theatre has a formidable artistic reputation

The Young Vic more than lives up to its name, with its slick modern exterior, buzzing bar, and a forward-looking line-up that makes it feel metaphorically as well as literally miles away from London's fustier West End houses. Under current boss Kwame Kwei-Armah, who cut his teeth on the New York theatre scene, it's thriving, with a renewed focus on connecting with the Southwark community that surrounds it, and on championing works by people of colour.

Kwei-Armah is building on the legacy of the theatre's longtime artistic director David Lan, who stepped down in 2018 after 18 years in the job. During that time, he oversaw a major renovation which created the current box office area from an old butcher's shop (you can still see traces of the original tiles), spruced up the theatre's fully flexible 420-seater auditorium, and added two smaller studio spaces, the Maria and the Clare. And he presided over an eclectic programme with a striking international focus. 

The Young Vic's popular Cut bar and restaurant is perma-busy with crowds drawn by its bright, airy set-up and central location. But it's just the most public-facing part of the theatre's many efforts to get people through its doors. The Taking Part team puts on parallel productions devised by local residents, building on a community focus that's been present from the theatre's earliest days. It started life as a youth-focused offshoot of the National Theatre in 1969, then housed in the Old Vic down the road, and its current breeze-block building was hastily thrown up in 1970. It was only designed to last for five years, but after a full-on refurb and with an impressive artistic legacy to hold onto, it looks all set to last for another half century. 


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‘Further than the Furthest Thing’ review

  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Drama

Zinnie Harris’s second play ‘Further than the Furthest Thing’ isn’t necessarily a masterpiece. But there’s much about it that is still compelling, and once it gets going Jennifer Tang’s Young Vic revival feels intensely worthwhile. The 1999 drama is based on real-life 1961 events on the extremely remote British territory of Tristan da Cunha, a far-flung group of volcanic islands midway between South America and Africa. As the play begins, wayward son of the island Francis (Archie Madekwe) has returned after a spell working in South Africa. He has been raised by his formidable aunt Mill (Jenna Russell) and on-edge uncle Bill (Cyril Nri), two idiosyncratic island folk who speak with endearingly idiosyncratic accents as they fret over the three eggs (‘h’eggs’) that Mill has acquired by way of a celebration of Francis’s return. The young man has brought a guest: creepy, vulpine South African glass jar magnate Mr Hansen (Gerald Kyd), whose haughty mainland demeanour gets him off to a rocky start with Mill and Bill. But he ultimately wows them: with some nifty magic tricks, and with a proposal that he’ll bring industry to the island by opening a crawfish processing plant. There’s a rambling quality to the first half, which sets the play up as a showdown between salt-of-the-earth islanders and the sharp-suited representative of Big Jar.  Tang’s fitfully bombastic staging, with an extremely nifty eco-friendly, amphitheatre-style set from Soutra Gilmour, teeters between viscerally ent

The Second Woman

  • Experimental

The great Ruth Wilson will star in this unbelievably audacious 24-hour show, which was due to run at the Young Vic as part of LIFT’s cancelled 2020 programme, and finally arrive in 2023 as a LIFT co-production. In a nutshell, ‘The Second Woman’ will see Wilson perform the same scene 100 times, with a different man performing opposite her in each run through. The scene they perform is adapted from John Cervantez’s 1977 film ‘Opening Night’, and features a seemingly estranged man and woman eat some food, have a dance, and then he leaves. The magic of Nat Randall and Anna Breckon’s show – which has been performed across the world – lies in the skilful use of live video to bring to life the different dynamics and fluctuating power relationships between Wilson and her hundred men. The show will run from 4pm Friday to 4pm Saturday and there are three tiers of ticketing: a 24-hour ticket, entry from either 9.30pm, midnight, 2am, 4am, 6am, 8am or 10am, or on the door tickets (which will inevitably become available because most audience members will have no intention of stay for 24 hours). In all versions, once you’re in you’re in, but only short breaks outside the auditorium are permitted (so toilet yes, go out for a meal no, pop home to sleep for 12 hours absolutely not).

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