Author Archives: youngvicstaff

A once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget

Members of the community chorus

I first heard about Wild Swans back in December, reading the call for chorus auditions through the Young Vic e-newsletter. Despite some initial reservations about time commmitment required and nervousness regarding my own notable lack of performance skills, I thought ‘Why not!?’ It sounded like a really unique opportunity, especially as they were calling for two large choruses to support the cast. I am also a fan of Young Vic already and knowing their reputation for new writing and creative productions, I was curious about how they would adapt Jung Chang’s epic bestseller for the stage.

Now, with one week left to go before the show ends on 13 May, and my time on the stage finished as part of chorus A, I look back on my experience and feel truly happy and grateful that I have been part of something so incredible, that has brought so many people together and touched our lives in ways we couldn’t have expected back in January, when we first auditioned.

For instance, after telling them that I was part of the chorus, the Chinese Youth Club that made a huge difference in my life growing up – the Pagoda Arts Group from Liverpool – came to see a weekend matinee performance of Wild Swans, bringing fifteen young people down to London from Liverpool. I know seeing the production will have had a positive impact on their lives, as a still relatively marginalised community growing up in a still relatively poor part of the UK, with less opportunity to access the arts. The visit gave them a chance to see for the first time, a critically-acclaimed play at a major London theatre, featuring an all Asian cast, about a history that has probably affected their own families. Following the visit, the organisers fed back that there were tears, and that the young people were blown away by the production.

It makes me hugely proud to have been involved in Wild Swans with the chorus, wonderful cast, talented writing and creative team and hardworking backstage crew. Not only has the production received deserved praise across the board from critics and the public alike (it sold out quickly and really has been the hot ticket for London theatre this month!), it has also made a difference to the Chinese community here in the UK. Furthermore, the production has made me delve into my own heritage and discover some of the consequences that the Mao era had on my own family.

Now that the Wild Swans journey is ending, I will take away with me memories of backstage banter, market scene hilarity, endless practice of songs and placard-waving, and a fabulous karaoke night finale. I’ve met some incredibly talented people and most importantly made some great friends. Wild Swans has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget. Thank you Young Vic!

Sharon Chou, member of the community chorus of Wild Swans

#40 Facts: The Young Vic is haunted….

Some of the ushers think that the Young Vic is haunted!

Next time you’re visiting, maybe ask one of the ushers the story? That’s if you’re  brave enough! Ahhh… Spooky!

40 Facts: Main House doors are toilet doors!

Did you know…. The doors to the Main House started their life as the doors to our public toilets in the old building!

What a life those doors have had! 



To Win or Not To Win FREE Hamlet Tickets?

Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Hamlet or another? I ask the average non- or semi-Shakespeare fan what their favourite story from arguably our most influential author is, and it usually has some correlation with what they studied back in the classroom.

If that is the case then I guess mine should be Macbeth, following my captivating performance as Macduff in Drama Studies (Year 9). My teacher (a harsh critic) called me “brittle”, whilst of course my mother found my display worthy of an Oscar (and ice-cream on the way home).

Nevertheless, I seem to lean towards Hamlet for some reason. I never studied it, or acted in it (‘brittle boy’ never made it past Year 9 Drama) and when I mention it to my inner circle (which consists of some very borderline Shakespeare fans), I get that timeless query: “Is that the one with ‘To be or not to be…’” Despite that lack of inspiration, a combination of internet exploring, coupled with DVDs watching many from Sir Lawrence Olivier to Kenneth Branagh take on the role of the Prince of Denmark drowning in a sea of treachery, revenge, incest, moral corruption, madness and revenge means this classic, powerful tragic tale still gets my vote every time.

That’s explains my personal excitement, and why I can rest assured a mouth-watering on stage adaptation with Michael Sheen (Underworld, Twilight, Frost/Nixon, Kingdom of Heaven) in lead role, awaits those lining up to watch Hamlet at the Young Vic Theatre this winter.

And for any teenagers around the UK (some of which may be shifting through Shakespeare for their new year exams), the Young Vic + Penguin’s Spinebreakers Hamlet Script Writing Competition is your time to showcase your own play-writing skills for a chance to experience Hamlet full on. This is not only a fun opportunity, but a chance to step into Shakespeare’s shoes and inspire David Lan (Young Vic’s Artistic Director) with your own storytelling on the themes of ‘madness and revenge’. 2 winners in return will receive a FREE pair of tickets to watch Hamlet at the Young Vic as well as autographed posters and programmes, with 13 runners-up getting a Spinebreakers special edition of the book.

The Hamlet Script-Writing Competition runs until 9 January 2012. Enter here.

From Dwain Lucktung, editor of Penguin’s

#40 Facts: We were only meant to be here for 5 years!

The Young Vic building was actually intended to be a temporary venue. It wasn’t thought it would last longer than 5 years…

This photo shows the opening of our original  building back in 1970… little did they know it would last so long!

Who’s your favourite mum?

#TantalisingTuesdays time! Tell us who your favourite mum is (and why) for your chance to win a pair of tickets to our 5-star show The Beauty Queen of Leenane. If you’ve already seen the show – we’ll send you a programme. If you have a programme already, we’ll send you something else really good.

Either leave a comment here, email or post on our Facebook wall.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane, now playing, is all about a very complicated mother-daughter relationship. Mag, who is played by Rosaleen Linehan, has been described as a ‘monster of passive-aggressive manipulation’ (The Stage), a ‘cantankerous hypochondriac’  (Independent) and a ‘house-ridden, tyrannical mother’ (New York Times) — altogether an absolutely unforgettable character. This has got us thinking about other memorable mothers, and we’ve asked some of our staffers who their favourite famous mums are! Here they are:

Chris, our Box Office & Sales Manager’s favourite mum is Norman’s mother in the movie Psycho. She’s a pretty scary figure, but Chris says, ‘It’s not like my mother is a maniac or a raving thing. She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?’

Vicki, our Development Officer loves Edina from Absolutely Fabulous, whose children set a good example for her rather than the other way around. Vickie says, ‘Eddie is hilarious — she’s everything a mother shouldn’t be.’

Anca, one of our Marketing Managers, says that her favourite mums(!) are more figurative: Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn, the women who developed teaching sign language to non-signing families to communicate with their hearing infants/toddlers. ‘It’s amazing being able to sign with my nephew… from about 11 months, he would sign ‘please’, pass me a book and then climb into my lap so that I would read a book to him,’ Anca says.

Liza, PA to our Artistic Director David Lan, says her favourite famous mum is Diana Rigg, the gorgeous star of The Avengers. Why? ‘My mum was the spitting image of her — she used to get stopped in the street!’

Alan, our Director of Marketing, Press & Sales says that his favourite mother is his own!

Some other mothers we talked about are Medea, Mrs. Bennet , Princess Diana, Molly Weasley, and the ‘Tiger Mother’ — who’s your favourite unforgettable mum?

Benny’s Pom-pom Antennae

Read Stage 1 of Benny the Beeboy’s life >>
Read Stage 2 of Benny the Beeboy’s life >>

We have been busy making our oversized bee antennae for Benny the Beeboy (fellow competitor of the Great Human Bird Competition from My Dad’s a Birdman).

The designer wanted the antennae to look like wool pom-poms. We cut out our doughnut shaped cardboard pieces and sandwiched them together. We then made a small ball of wool and tying it securely through the hole, then began to wind the wool around the doughnut ring.

Step 1: Cardboard doughnuts

Step 2: Sandwiched together

Step 3: Wrap wool around cardboard

Step 4: All finished

Once we had enough wool wound around we then very carefully cut through the outer edge of the ring. Before removing the cardboard we tied a piece of wool through the middle of the two cardboard rings. When this was secure, we removed the cardboard and fluffed out the pom-pom.

Step 5: Cut around the outside edge

Step 6: Remove cardboard and fluff out

We attached the pom-pom to some garden wire and then secured it to an alice band.

Step 7: Attach to the alice band

Our pom-poms are intentionally very large, if you were to make them you might want to make them smaller as although they are made of wool they are very heavy. We are going to secure them to the person wearing them’s head in a special way which you can see during the show.

- Catherine, Head of Costume

(Fake) Benny the beeboy

Read Stage I of Benny’s life >>

Stage 2 of Benny’s life
We are progressing with the bee! We have created a toile of the bee costume for the person playing the bee to practice in. A toile is where we make up a cheap version of the pattern so that we can check that is works before we cut out the real fabric. In this case we also wanted to check that the costume was comfortable . The wings are made and attached to the toile ( being modelled by our wardrobe work placement Naomi Emmanuel ).

The designer has seen and approved the toile and now that we know the costume works we will start cutting out the real fabric . We are going to make the yellow and black stripes of the bee by using two lycra fabrics , one in yellow and one in black. We have worked the stripes into the pattern. You cannot see them on the toile because it is all black, but it is imprtant when first creating the pattern to look ahead at how it will look when it is finished.

Our next project for the bee is the antennae . . . .

- Catherine (Head of Costume)

My Dad’s a Birdman opens tomorrow, Thursday 25 November. Come see Benny the Beeboy in this uplifting tale from the award-winning author David Almond, with fun catchy tunes by Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe of Pet Shop Boys!


Lately, our Costume team has been busy (as bees) with building fancy, fun costumes for our Christmas children’s show My Dad’s a Birdman. One of the more challenging costumes is for one of the fellow entries of the Great Human Bird Competition – the bee! Over these few weeks, keep your eyes peeled on our blog to see how the costume is coming along, as our Head of Costume Catherine reports:

Making a bee costume for one of the Birdman competition entrants:

Because the person has to jump onto a crash mat, the costume cannot have any hard parts or sharp edges. The frame or skeleton is being made out of plastazote tubing which is strong and flexible but also soft.

Over the skeleton goes the skin, which will give the bee the lovely round bottom the designer wants. This is made out of plastazote sheeting, cut into little orange segment shapes, covered in stretchy fabric and then stitched together to make a round shape.

- Catherine (Head of Costume)

Two months and 173* emails later…

Read PART ONE of Mark Bixter on producing 40 Years Young, which took place on September 12, 2010.


So we have a raft of ideas but no actors to make them happen, no people to interview, no equipment to record interviews with and finally no audience so it’s time to make ideas a reality.

We start by designing an invitation so we can spread the word as we track people down. Chris and I like the idea of having an image of the Young Vic surrounded by the different logos it has had since opening, but we have no knowledge of how to make that happen so we suck up to marketing and people who can use photoshop – 2 days later an invite exists.

We start trying to speak to all the artistic directors. David Lan the current one is easy – he is sat at his desk so apart from the arduous task of climbing some stairs to speak to him we discover pretty easily that he would like A Raisin in the Sun to be the show from his time. Some faxes go to and fro to Frank Dunlop in New York and we settle on Scapino – the first show ever performed at the Young Vic. We get hold of Tim Supple but he is busy – finding a time to meet is not easy, eventually we pin him down and he will direct an extract from Grimm Tales. Julia Bardsley is working in Brazil but would be interested in recreating an art installation piece she created in response to her final Young Vic show Hamlet? We find a time when David Thacker will be in London and after meeting up, he says he would like to direct an extract from Arthur Miller’s version of An Enemy of the People. Last but by no means least we try to find Michael Bogdanov – he is very elusive rumours are he has been spotted in Wales but these rumours lead us nowhere, then we hear he is in Germany but nobody seems to have an email for him there – will we ever discover the true location of the missing artistic director?

So we have nearly got all the artistic directors extracts sorted. Next we start looking through the history of shows and wonder how we can best represent the range of Shakespeare productions that have been performed over 40 years. The breadth of productions and actors is remarkable from Roy Hudd playing Dogberry to Trevor Eve playing Leontes to Katherine Hunter playing King Lear. We start the task of seeing who would be available to revisit parts they played up to 40 years earlier. Two months and 173* emails later we end up with an incredible line up of actors; Rudloph Walker playing Othello, Kate Fahy and Amanda Boxer playing Desdemona, David Calder playing Iago, Georgia Slowe and Suzan Sylvester playing Juliet, Christopher Timothy playing Macbeth, Brian Protheroe playing Polixenes and Bill Wallis playing Prospero – we can’t believe our luck.

Next we start to look at how we can best represent our work with young people and the local community. We settle on an extract from Tobias and the Angel a community opera twice staged by the Young Vic and an extract from Hobson’s Choice, (a play that has bookended the Young Vic’s life with a production in 1972 and again in 2003 in a new version by Tanika Gupta) with two young people who have worked with us in the past. 84* emails later and we have Jamie Laing and Darren Abrahams from Tobias and the Angel, 10 wonderful members of the community chorus and after a morning of auditions Zeni Zekabanja and Stephen Adekalu for the Hobson’s Choice extract.

Fast forward a few weeks and another 317* emails and we have a wonderful line up that includes Abram Wilson playing the trumpet, Akiya Henry as compere, Emily Woodward to read the ode written by Laurence Olivier for the opening of the theatre which was originally read by her dad Edward Woodward, Noma Dumezweni and Ray Fearon doing A Raisin in the Sun, the aforementioned Shakespeareans and Hobson’s Choice, Martin Crimp reading an essay “The Writer”, a new piece of writing by Matthew Dunster performed by Esther Coles, Sean Jackson and Mark Arends, Grimm Tales performed by Leo Wringer, Paul M Meston, Sarah Cameron, Sylvia Hallett and Dan Milne, An Enemy of the People performed by Rob Edwards, Tom Mannion, Kika Markham, Marjorie Yates, Rudolph Walker, Howard Crossley, Roger Watkins, Brian Protheroe, Margot Leicester, Harry Miller and Suzan Sylvester, David Lan reading a new ode he has written in response to Oliviers , Frank Dunlop speaking and original company members Jim Dale, Cleo Sylvestre, Seymour Matthews, Tamara Ustinov, Sam Kelly and Nicky Henson performing a song from Scapino. The club room will be taken over by Julia Bardsley for her exhibition “The Alm”. We will have music in the bar with singers Jamie Laing and Darren Abrahams and the community chorus from Tobias and the Angel, Melanie Marshall performing a song from Simply Heavenly, Kacey Ainsworth, Clare Francis, Mark Fleischmann and Jud Charlton from the old youth theatre performing What Keeps Mankind Alive from The Threepenny Opera, Nick Lumley performing Song of the King from Joseph (which started life at the Young Vic) and finally Jud Charlton returning to sing Baba O’Reilly by The Who (who rehearsed and recorded at the Young Vic in the early 70s). We have also roped in facilities manager Damian Ball and press and marketing assistant Simon Thompson who have hidden talents as pianist and drummer respectively and Kim Alwyn box office assistant and wonderful designer who will oversee the transformation of the bar. Meanwhile we have sent another 67* emails arranging to meet and interview people for listening posts and have conducted 48 interviews. So everything is in place, we just need to make it happen and also track down Michael Bogdanov. One week to go…

*Please note all email figures are entirely fictitious.