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Young Vic

  • Theatre
  • Waterloo
  • Recommended
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© 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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‘Oklahoma!’ review

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Musicals

I’m struggling to think of a hornier theatre production than Daniel Fish’s radical revamp of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s 1943 musical ‘Oklahoma!’. A big pre-pandemic hit in New York – where it was dubbed ‘sexy Oklahoma!’ – the first half in particular of Fish’s deceptively barebones production leans really creatively into the fact that very little happens in ‘Oklahoma!’ beyond its characters thirsting after each other, and thirsting hard. Rather than any sort of recreation of the town of Claremore and its surrounds, Laura Jellinek and Grace Laubacher’s design sets everything in a sort of barebones wooden dancehall with the audience set up traverse on two sides, the band sprawled out across one, the house lights dazzlingly bright, and tables groaning with anachronistic tinnies of Bud Light. It’s discombobulating: perhaps we’re in 1906 (when ‘Oklahoma!’ is set); perhaps we’re in a sort of spiritual limbo common to all boring rural towns. The musical’s signature song ‘Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’ feels ironic in this no place, and its lyrics are often refrained and twisted into weird, bitter patterns.  What fills the void is lust. There is no coyness in the show’s two central love triangles: Anouska Lucas’s farmgirl Laurey Williams vacillates between looking impassively cool and like a desperate horndog as she’s wooed by Arthur Darvill’s cocksure cowboy Curley and Patrick Vaill’s brooding farmhand Jud. At one point Laurey is clearly ready to pounce upon her exuberant friend Ado Anni

Who Killed My Father

  • Drama

Belgian director Ivo van Hove made his name in the UK with his monumental Young Vic production of ‘A View from the Bridge’. Now he’s back at the theatre – for the first time under Kwame Kwei-Armah’s regime – with the UK premiere of his adaptation of Édouard Louis’s book ‘Who Killed My Father’. An angry, tender portrait of the author’s father which he wrote after a visit in which he was shocked to see his decline as a result of heavy drinking and a lifetime working in heavy industry in northern France, Van Hove has adapted the book into a monologue which will be performed by the great Dutch actor Hans Kesting: a regular collaborator with the director, he’s been a highlight of many of Van Hove’s touring productions, but this is a rare opportunity to see him performing in English, for a relatively long series of shows. 


  • Musicals

Does the world need an all-singing version of the life story of Nelson Mandela? We’re about to find out! New musical ‘Mandela’ – fully endorsed by the iconic South African leader’s family – has been in development for some time, having already had work-in-progress tryouts in Indiana. With Broadway director Schele Williams and Broadway writer Laiona Michelle at the helm, it isn’t hard to see where this musical is intended to end up – this season at the hip Young Vic is presumably a final litmus test before the show is launched upon the Great White Way. With music and lyrics by South African somngwriters Greg Dean Borowsky, ShaunBorowsky and Bongi Duma, it promises to tell an uplifting story – which Mandela’s ultimately is, though it’ll be interesting to see how grittily the hardship of his life (including 27 years in prison) is reflected. Casting is resolutely TBC, though if it is indeed Broadway-bound don’t be shocked if a decent sized US stage name comes attached to the title role.

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