Young Vic announces plans for two major Taking Part initiatives made for and with our local community

The Young Vic today announces its plans for two major Taking Part initiatives, delivering the Taking Part core mission of creating the highest quality work for and with the local community.

YV Unpacked: She Ventures and He Wins

Following the success of YV: Unpacked Spring Awakening in 2018, Young Vic Taking Part will tour the groundbreaking play, She Ventures and He Wins, to spaces in the local boroughs, including community venues, prisons, elderly care homes, homeless shelters and rehabilitation centres, bringing theatre to those who would not otherwise easily have access to it.

She Ventures and He Wins was written in the late 17th century by one of the earliest known female playwrights, ‘Ariadne’, and iscredited with starting the great theatrical tradition of cross-dressing.

YV Unpacked: She Ventures and He Wins is directed by Sasha Milavic Davies, with musical direction and original composition by Joseph Atkins.

Full cast includes Robert Jackson, Lucy Jane Parkinson, Boadicea Ricketts, Caleb Roberts, Elexi Walker and Arthur Wilson.

The tour will conclude with a public performance run at the Young Vic, 9 – 14 December 2019, with tickets on sale today.


In November 2019, Young Vic Taking Part launches TWENTY TWENTY, a year-long project to form sustained, meaningful creative relationships with three extraordinary organisations working within the Lambeth and Southwark community: Blackfriars Settlement, Certitude and Thames Reach.

The result of this 12 month collaboration will be three plays commissioned around the themes of Home, Heritage & History, to be performed in late 2020.

The TWENTY TWENTY plays will be written by Jasmine Lee Jones, Nessah Muthy and Tolani Shoneye, with direction by Milli Bhatia, Jade Lewis and Audrey Sheffield, and performed by community companies from Blackfriars Settlement, Certitude and Thames Reach.

The creative collaborators

Kwame Kwei-Armah, Artistic Director of the Young Vic, said: “Theatres have long been perceived as places that people come to, that people visit. The importance of the Taking Part team, and specifically the two extraordinary projects announced today, is that they recognise that this needs to be different if everyone is to have the option of theatre in their life. The community is the engine of the enterprise, and Taking Part fulfil completely the double meaning of their name; ‘Taking Part’ by staging participatory theatre with our communities, but also ‘Taking Part’ of the Young Vic magic out of this building, and serving everyone in our community with it.”

Find out more about TWENTY TWENTY:

Meet our Costume Team | LoveCostume2019

Today we’re celebrating our brilliant costume department team on Costume Professionals Appreciation Day 2019 as they feverishly prepare for the opening of our next production Tree which runs from 29 July.

Costume Professionals Appreciation Day 2019 Photo by Anthony Lee © Young Vic (1)

(L to R) Keshini Ranasinghe, Naomi SL Thompson, Sydney Florence, Rebecca Barnett, Catherine Kodicek and Kinnetia Isidore.

We sat down with Catherine Kodicek (Head of Costume), Kinnetia Isidore (Deputy Head of Costume), and Rebecca Barnett (Waredrobe Manager) to find out more about what it’s like to work as costume professional at the Young Vic.

What is it like to work in a costume department?

K: Every day is different, it’s a bit like going on a mad adventure with a team of people with different skills all working towards a shared goal.

C: It is very satisfying to work in costume. The hours can be long and you lose a lot of your evenings but the sense of camaraderie and teamwork is so rewarding. Also, the work is exciting, choosing the right costume, finding the right fabric, searching for the right vintage piece, nailing a quick change, restoring a costume to perfection night after night, there are so many different aspects to the costume world it is an unconventional ‘day to day’.

Costume Professionals Appreciation Day 2019 Photo by Anthony Lee © Young Vic (5).jpg

I can get really excited about finding the perfect button or the exact garment because I know that these elements will enhance the whole production. And whether the piece is going to challenge the audience’s opinions and assumptions or make them laugh or give them a much-needed escape, the costumes are an integral part of it and you have contributed to it and made that connection to another person.

R: I absolutely love working in costume. It means the world to me to be able to do my passion for a living! For me working in costume allows me to become a huge part of the magic of a show. The job can sometimes be intense and thankless but when you open a show and get to see all your hard work and effort come to life it’s something truly magical and it still gives me goosebumps and such an adrenaline rush!

Costume Professionals Appreciation Day 2019 Photo by Anthony Lee © Young Vic (2)

How did you get into costume?

K: It began as an excuse to fuel my vintage clothing shopping addiction and I ended up doing a degree in costume design.

C: I worked in a bank for six years before realising that my Amateur Dramatics costume work was more exciting and gave me more joy. I completed a costume production degree at Rose Bruford College as a mature student, working throughout my holidays and evenings so that when I graduated I had a pretty good CV. I was then very lucky to get a full-time job in the Basingstoke Haymarket when it was a producing house and never looked back.

R: I studied technical theatre at university and did a placement module in which I was a wardrobe assistant on Evita, Slovenia. I was very fortunate that my design tutor was also a working designer and asked me to do the show with him in the summer. From there I made contacts and started doing more and more shows and had a tour as Wardrobe deputy lined up for when I finished.

Costume Professionals Appreciation Day 2019 Photo by Anthony Lee © Young Vic (6)

Rebecca (Wardrobe Manager)

What is the difference between working in costume for theatre and working in Film or TV?

K: Working in costume in theatre is like being in a family, there is nothing like the atmosphere backstage before a show. I think you can get away with being a bit more creative when you don’t have the pressures of viewing costumes under the eye of an HD camera. I feel you are able to build strong bonds and relationships with backstage teams and casts throughout the run of a show, there is something about the excitement of live performance that brings everybody together.

C: Theatre and live events like Opera and Dance are immediate. You can spend a lot of time working on the creation of the show and in technical rehearsal, although the best part is getting to see the show performed in front of an audience. The sense of shared common purpose with a fixed deadline is also galvanizing. Everyone is working towards the same deadline. In film or tv, you may be waiting two years in post-production to see the fruits of your labor.

Costume Professionals Appreciation Day 2019 Photo by Anthony Lee © Young Vic (3).jpg

Once the show opens, it is your job to replicate the show for each audience so that it feels fresh and new every time. No two performances are the same. Unlike film where it is set, theatre audiences reactions form part of the show, there is nothing like standing backstage and hearing an audience react to a line being spoken live onstage.

Costume Professionals Appreciation Day 2019 Photo by Anthony Lee © Young Vic (7).jpg

R: Part of the joy of my job is the live aspect of it. The rush of a quick change and the crazy moments when you have to quickly fix a garment in the seconds when actors come off stage! I have loved theatre from a very young age and think it is truly a privilege and joy to be a part of!

Tree runs at the Young Vic from 29th July until 24th August. Book now.

Photos by Anthony Lee

Meet Caitriona Shoobridge | Director of Ivan and the Dogs

Genesis Future Directors Award winner Caitriona Shoobridge has recently directed Hattie Naylor’s Ivan and the Dogs which runs in The Clare studio until 20 July.

This one-person play with Alex Austin as Ivan explores the need for kindness and trust in the face of adversity.

We sat down with Cat to find out more about her career and her Young Vic debut.

Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into directing?

I belonged to a youth theatre from quite a young age and just became obsessed with theatre. I didn’t really find my ‘thing’ at school and so didn’t do higher education but theatre I always kept coming back to. It’s been the constant thing in my life and has opened my eyes to many different worlds, cultures and possibilities. 

What do you love about the play ‘Ivan and the Dogs’ by Hattie Naylor?

It is such an extraordinarily unique piece of writing. My favourite thing about it is that it feels both ancient and familiar to us as fairytales do but at the same time is also incredibly pertinent to the world right now. 

Alex Austin in Ivan and the Dogs. Designer Basia Bińkowska. Lighting Designer Elliot Griggs. Photo by Anthony Lee

Can you describe Ivan and the Dogs in just 5 words?

No, it is too epic!

What has been your best moment while directing this show?

I don’t think I can pick out a single moment as the whole journey from start to finish has been brilliant. One of my favourite things about making it has been collaborating with an extraordinary creative team and company. That has been pure joy. 

The sound design is really integral part of this production. Can you tell us more about that? Who are the voices we can hear?

Yeah, there are 19 offstage characters that Ivan encounters in his story who are given to us in a soundscape in Russian dialogue. We used the idea of the soundscape as the central part of the concept for design and thought; what is the most we can do with this? What if we made the entire world from sound?

Have you learnt anything new from this experience?

There are so many things! A big one is definitely having a creative team around you that you trust to share your biggest ideas with and who you can take a risk with. Another would be holding your nerve when executing that idea. And finally the ability to zoom out from it at the end of the process and understand that your work consists of everything you’ve done on the journey and not just what happens on the night. 

Alex Austin in Ivan and the Dogs. Photo by Anthony Lee.

What are your top tips for anybody reading this who is interested in becoming a director?

Really think about who you are as person and what you as an individual you bring to your work. I find that theatres are only interested in finding out who you are and not listening to what you may think they want to hear. Oh and join the Young Vic Directors Program!

Tell us about how it felt to be a 2019 Genesis Foundation Future Directors Award Recipient? 

Best feeling ever.

What has it been like working at the Young Vic? What’s been your favourite part?

The Young Vic is undoubtedly one of my favourite theatres. It’s incredibly supportive of emerging directors from the core artistic team to production to front of house everyone is brilliant and there’s something to learn from everyone. I’ll remember this experience for a long time. 

What are you looking forward to doing after this production?

Spending time with my daughters and hopefully making another one? 

Ivan and the Dogs runs at the Young Vic until 20th July. Availability is limited but returns are released online. A returns queue is open from one hour before each performance.

Director Caitriona Shoobridge
Designer  Basia Bińkowska
Lighting Designer  Elliot Griggs
Sound Designer  Xana
Casting Director  Lotte Hines
Movement Director  Natasha Nixon
Voice Coach Anne-Marie Speed
Boris Karloff Trainee Assistant Directors Tian Brown-Sampson, Grace Duggan

With Alex Austin

Key Facts: Tree

From Kwame Kwei-Armah: “This has been a painful period not just for the parties involved but also for the sector.  As the Artistic Director of the Young Vic, my responsibility is to answer to the statements made by Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley factually and truthfully, but also to hear the pain.”

Statements made by Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley in their article published on Medium on 2nd July 2019, entitled ‘Tree. A Story of Gender and Power in Theatre.’:

TORI & SARAH’S STATEMENT: “Female writers removed from theatre production ‘Tree’ after working on it for four years.”


Tori and Sarah were approached by Idris Elba in 2015 to help him develop his idea for a production based on his original concept, which was inspired by his personal story and his ‘mi Mandela’ album. In 2016 Green Door Pictures and Duchess Street Productions engaged Tori and Sarah to write a script for consideration, which was then workshopped.

This is work that was paid for in full at the time by Green Door Pictures and Duchess Street Productions, which was not taken up by any producers.

Any work which Tori and Sarah undertook historically was not for the current 2019 production of Tree, which is a new story based on Idris’s original idea.

TORI & SARAH’S STATEMENT: This production of Tree “has failed to acknowledge the original writers for their work.”


The Producers of the 2019 production of Tree have always acknowledged that Tori and Sarah worked with Idris Elba in 2015-16 on a script based on his original concept for a production.

Tori and Sarah are not the original writers of the 2019 Tree script, which is why they are not credited as such.

They have been acknowledged in the 2019 Tree programme foreword, in a piece written by Idris Elba where he gave thanks to those who had helped him on the journey to develop his idea along the way.

In addition to this, in acknowledgement of their historical connection to an earlier interpretation of Idris Elba’s idea, and through a desire to involve them in the new production and encourage new writing talent, Idris and Kwame invited Tori and Sarah to be part of the creative process, exploring the new direction for the 2019 production of Tree.

TORI & SARAH’S STATEMENT: Tori and Sarah mention having a document which they cite as being “a commissioning agreement, which gave us the right to veto any other writer brought in, and to approve any changes in the script. It also entitled us to a royalty should the show go ahead”


This document is a Deal Memo with Green Door Pictures and Duchess Street Productions from March 2016, relating to Tori and Sarah’s script which they were engaged to write for consideration. Any terms within that Deal Memo relate to the 2016 script.

When Manchester International Festival (MIF) decided they were interested in exploring Idris’s original concept, but in a new direction of travel – specifically for a large-scale show in Manchester – the Young Vic and Kwame Kwei-Armah were invited to collaborate.

Idris requested that Kwame meet with Tori and Sarah.  On 29th May 2018 Kwame, Tori and Sarah met to discuss how they could move the creative process forward. Kwame explained that the next step was for Idris, Kwame, Sarah and Tori to meet, to brainstorm the new direction of travel.

In the week following this meeting, MIF emailed Tori and Sarah to request their agent’s details in order to start the formal approach. Tori and Sarah responded to acknowledge the meeting went well. They also acknowledged this production was effectively a brand new piece, and the intention to abandon the old version.

TORI & SARAH’S STATEMENT:Between June and October, there were multiple emails and phone-calls between Tori, Sarah and MIF suggesting that delays were merely down to difficult scheduling with Idris and Kwame’s diaries, along with reassurances that the project was happening.”


Due to Idris’s busy schedule, the planned initial creative meetings between Idris, Kwame, Sarah and Tori could not happen. Due to the demands of a production less than a year away, and a workshop just a few months away, in order to catch up on lost creative time Kwame wrote a first draft of an outline, intended to act as a jumping off point for discussion for the four parties, which he sent to Idris on 3rd September.

TORI & SARAH’S STATEMENT: Tori and Sarah say that on the 18th October they received Kwame’s draft outline and that they “were a bit confused as to why Kwame would be writing a synopsis. When the email came later that day, in the cover letter at the top it had Kwame’s clear intention to write the piece stating ‘when I sit to write the first draft…’. This was very surprising to us after what he had told us when we met.”


Kwame did not have intentions to write the script himself. The cover letter was referring to the document itself, this first draft outline, in an attempt to describe its purpose as a catalyst for debate, in which he said ‘when I sit to write the first draft’ that it was ‘written as a very basic guide… that will help shape the future of this narrative’.

After receiving Kwame’s first draft outline, written to be a catalyst for creative discussion, Tori and Sarah declined invitations from producers to meet for conversations. They then stated their dissatisfaction with how they perceived the new direction of travel.

TORI & SARAH’S STATEMENT: “we weren’t informed about the announcement, nor were we mentioned anywhere in it, and it was the first indication that we were being pushed off the project by far more powerful people in theatre.”


MIF communicated with Tori and Sarah’s representatives in the lead up to the announcement and they were informed of the 26th October 2018 announcement date and the 29th/30th October 2018 on-sale dates.

Before the announcement, a formal offer was made via Tori and Sarah’s agents for them to write a draft script for a workshop in January 2019. Tori and Sarah did not agree to the terms of the offer.

As no official agreements were in place about who would write the show at the point of on-sale, the MIF and Young Vic announcements of Tree did not contain any ‘written by’ credits.

TORI & SARAH’S STATEMENT: “the same people who we initially trusted… then threatened us with legal action if we spoke up.”


Tori and Sarah introduced the threat of legal action with a breach of contract case which has been refuted by legal representatives of Green Door Pictures, the commissioner of Tree.

TORI & SARAH’S STATEMENT: “the levels of intimidation and disrespect we faced were totally unacceptable”


Tori and Sarah were communicated to via their agents in a friendly and professional manner by representatives from MIF and Green Door Pictures.

Those producers took continuous measures to include Tori and Sarah in the new project out of respect for their historic connection in helping Idris develop a previous interpretation of his idea for a production.

Despite the threat of legal action, between January to the start of rehearsals, producers remained in dialogue on the subject of how things could be resolved, including mediation, in a wish to find an viable solution, subject to Tori and Sarah reading the 2019 Tree script.

TORI & SARAH’S STATEMENT: “The official line from their side is that it’s a completely different project”


The script for the 2019 production of Tree, and Tori and Sarah’s 2016 workshopped script are different projects. The 2016 workshop was a naturalistic musical about a bi-racial teenager from London, embroiled in gang culture, whose mother sent him to South Africa to visit his half-sister. The 2019 production is a non-naturalistic piece of immersive theatre, with movement and dreamscape choreography at its heart. Its core narrative is about land reform in the Orange Free State province of Bloemfontein with a storyline that follows a 33-year-old bi-racial man, who goes to visit his grandmother on a quest to scatter the ashes of his mother on his father’s grave. It is a storyline inspired by Idris’s original concept and Kwame Kwei-Armah’s 2018 visit to Bloemfontein.

Any similarities between the 2019 production of Tree, and Tori and Sarah’s 2016 workshopped script can be attributed to the fact that both were based upon the same original concept created by Idris Elba.


A statement on behalf of Green Door Pictures, Manchester International Festival (MIF) and the Young Vic

Issued on behalf of Green Door Pictures, Manchester International Festival (MIF) and the Young Vic:

We are deeply saddened to read Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley’s article published today online. Tree is a new work, based on a concept by Idris Elba with an original script by Kwame Kwei-Armah. 

It is a fact that Green Door Pictures, MIF and the Young Vic are passionate about supporting and nurturing emerging talent within the creative industry from the widest variety of backgrounds and we are committed to ensuring fair representation on stage and behind the scenes. Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley acknowledge in their article that it is common practice to workshop theatrical projects during their development, as with this project. Whilst we appreciate that they were involved in exploring ideas for a project based on Idris’ original concept, the truth of the matter is that MIF and Green Door did not feel their proposed direction was artistically viable. It was decided by these producers that the show needed to go in a very different direction with a new writer attached, using Idris Elba’s original concept as the starting point. Several offers were made to Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley to discuss the future of the show, and how the producers could continue working with them, which they declined. 

John McGrath, Artistic Director and CEO of MIF said: “Kwame came on board as director and writer of Tree at the invitation of Idris and MIF. His involvement has been characterised by the integrity and creativity for which he is widely known. His script for Tree is entirely his creation and is, in my opinion, a resonant and exciting response to the themes of Idris’s Mi Mandela album.”

Idris Elba created Green Door to champion diversity of thought and offer opportunities to gifted filmmakers from across all genres, race and gender. His two TV projects boast a 50-75% split in the writers’ room in favour of female writers, as well as an extremely diverse group ranging from British Ghanaian to West Indian and Asian. Kwame Kwei-Armah’s career in theatre, up to and including the season he has just announced for 2020 at the YV is testament to his passion and drive to support and nurture a diverse range of talent: the Young Vic Director’s Program is dedicated to nurturing and supporting emerging talent – every day a different artist from the program joined the Tree rehearsal room. His upcoming programmed work at the Young Vic champions some excellent female writers and directors. 

It is not accepted that, by moving the project in a different direction and commissioning Kwame Kwei-Armah to write a brand new script based on Idris Elba’s original concept, there has been a breach of any legal obligations owed to Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley’s original workshop contract. Despite attempts by the producers to resolve the issue with them, they decided to instruct solicitors. Efforts then continued through the parties’ lawyers to reach a compromise, which included the offer of a credit and an additional payment to acknowledge their initial involvement in the project. These proposals were made in spite of that fact that the claims by Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley have no legal basis, and were made only in the spirit of reaching a compromise. It is simply not the case that the attempts to resolve the concerns which Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley have raised were an attempt to ‘buy them off’ and it is therefore disappointing that they have characterised the position in this way.

As stated in the foreword of the Tree programme, the producers are grateful to Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley for the work they did on the initial workshops for the show, alongside all the other actors, creatives and producers who have contributed to the show along its journey. 

Tree | In the rehearsal room

Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah’s electrifying new blend of drama, music and dance follows one man’s journey into the heart and soul of contemporary South Africa – with the audience at the centre of the action.

Take a look inside the rehearsal room with these photos by Marc Brenner.

Tree premieres at Manchester International Festival later this month before coming to the Young Vic from 29 July 2019. Find out more and book now.

Cast includes Christian Bradley, Lucy Briggs-Owen, Sinéad Cusack, Kurt Egyiawan, Alfred Enoch, Anna-Kay Alicia Gayle, Joan Iyiola, Anthony Matsena, Daniella May, Patrice Naiambana, Mbulelo Ndabeni, Stefan Sinclair and Andile Sotiya.

Sinéad Cusack and Alfred Enoch
Director Kwame Kwei-Armah and Choreographer Gregory Maqoma
Mbulelo Ndabeni and Anthony Matsena
Kurt Egyiawan and Lucy Briggs-Owen
Daniella May and Sinéad Cusack
Patrice Naiambana
Christian Bradley and choreographer Gregory Maqoma
Alfred Enoch
Anthony Matsena, Anna-Kay Alicia Gayle and Christian Bradley
Joan Iyiola

Tree premieres at Manchester International Festival later this month before coming to the Young Vic from 29 July 2019. Find out more and book now.

Photos by Marc Brenner.

Bronx Gothic | Production Photos

Part theatre, part dance and part visual art installation, Okwui Okpokwasili’s Bronx Gothic delves into her memories of growing up in the Bronx, before emerging into a breathtaking exploration of girlhood. Directed by Peter Born.

This UK premiere is now running at the Young Vic until 29 June.
Book tickets now from just £10.

Photography credit and copyright: Helen Murray

Bronx Gothic is now running at the Young Vic until 29 June. Book tickets from £10.

Death of a Salesman | Rehearsal Photos

Take a look inside the rehearsal room for our highly anticipated production of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman directed by Marianne Elliott and Miranda Cromwell which opens for previews this week.

Wendell Pierce (The Wire, Suits, Selma) makes his UK stage debut as Willy Loman, with Olivier Award-winning Sharon D. Clarke as Linda Loman and Arinzé Kene (Misty, Been So Long) as Biff Loman and Martins Imhangbe as Happy Loman.

Cast includes Ian Bonar, Sharon D. Clarke, Trevor Cooper, Martins Imhangbe, Arinzé Kene, Joseph Mydell, Nenda Neurer, Wendell Pierce, Jennifer Saayeng, Matthew Seadon-Young, Maggie Service and Femi Temowo.

Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

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Death of a Salesman runs at the Young Vic from 1 May 2019.

Director Marianne Elliott and Miranda
Designer Anna Fleischle
Lighting Designer Aideen Malone
Sound Designer Carolyn Downing
Casting Director Charlotte Sutton CDG
Voice and Dialect Coach Hazel Holder
Fight Director Yarit Dor

With Ian Bonar, Sharon D. Clarke, Trevor Cooper, Martins Imhangbe, Arinzé Kene, Joseph Mydell, Nenda Neurer, Wendell Pierce, Jennifer Saayeng, Matthew Seadon-Young, Maggie Service and Femi Temowo.

Photos by Brinkhoff/Mögenburg

Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train | Creating Costume

Kinnetia Isidore is the costume designer behind our production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train directed by Kate Hewitt. We asked her to give us an insight into the creative design process from script to stage.

Mood Boards

My costume design journey always begins with mood boards. Once I have read the script I like to begin by responding visually, this helps to spark ideas and begins to inform my design choices. Costume design, for me, is really about the psychology of the characters in a play, I really like to get into their heads and interrogate the choices they make in their clothing. I spend a lot of time looking at the setting of the play and trying to imagine what the characters would see on a daily basis. There is a very strong colour theme that came through in all of my mood boards for Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train. I took this from aerial shots of Rikers Island, in New York. This is the main setting of the play and all of our characters experience the brutality and starkness of the prison island.

The Inmates

Jesus Hopped The A Train at the Young Vic

In a way, the costume design for this show was very limited due to 4/5 of the cast members wearing uniforms. We have a lawyer, two inmates and two correctional officers. As the set design was very minimalist Kate Hewitt and I felt that the costumes should be hyper-real. This meant sourcing genuine US prisoner uniforms to help bring our UK audience into the world of a New York prison. My costume supervisor, Rosey Morling, did an amazing job of managing to get hold of several sets of inmate and correctional officer uniforms, even sourcing genuine tool belts and accessories for the officers.

To achieve the filmic detail in the costumes I spent a lot of time researching how inmate uniforms are cared for and laundered. I discovered it is the inmates who are able to gain the ‘privilege’ of doing laundry duty. You do not get the same uniform back when it goes into the wash and are penalised for any attempt to mark or label the garments. Items are built to last but washed at soaring temperatures, giving them their saggy, worn out look. Our fabulous breakdown artist, Anna Smith, carried out the painstaking task of very gently wearing all of the uniforms down to look aged.

Reference Image

Reference image for Rikers inmates.

‘Jonathan holding pruning shears, GreenHouse Program’. All photographs made at the Rikers Island jail complex, New York, 2014. Copyright the artist and courtesy Fredericks & Freiser Gallery, New York. Lucas Foglia, Rikers Garden. Prison Nation, Aperture 230, Aperture Spring 2018, Publication No.: 0003-6420.

Angel Cruz, played by Ukweli Roach

Jesus Hopped The A Train at the Young Vic

Angel Cruz is our 30 year old bike messenger who has been incarcerated for shooting a cult leader reverend in the ass, on a mission to save his friend from a cult. Angel begins his journey in Manhattan Correctional Center, ‘The Tombs’ in New York. We meet him on his first night of incarceration, when he is feeling vulnerable, as a new inmate.

My reference images for his costume came from a leaked Instagram video, recorded in 2016 by some inmates incarcerated in ‘The Tombs’. Rather than the classic orange jumpsuits that we are so used to seeing, inmates there wear a variety of beige two pieces with the option of a t-shirt and a raglan sleeve jumper. Sadly the inmates often wear jumpers for protection from attacks while they sleep, rather than for warmth. Angel starts off in a jumper and removes it later on when he meets Mary Jane for the second time and is feeling more relaxed. He also starts wearing his trousers a little lower and begins to roll up the hems, taking on a bit of influence from prison style.

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Halfway through Act I Angel is moved to the notorious Rikers Island prison complex in New York. He exits the stage and does a quick change into his new orange inmate uniform. The orange uniforms have far more notoriety than any other colour and Kate and I had long discussions about the subconscious affect this would have on a UK audience. We are continually bombarded with US prison documentaries and TV shows, such as Orange is the New Black and we wanted to make sure we were making the right decision for the play. In the end, we decided on orange because we felt that Angel re-appearing in orange held such power over the emotion of the audience in that moment.

Angel goes on a slow journey of subconscious costuming as he gains confidence in Rikers and begins speaking back to the dominating serial killer, Lucius Jenkins. When he first enters Rikers it is after he has been beaten and raped in ‘The Tombs’, Valdez, the correctional officer, refers to him as ‘droopy dog’. He wears his trousers high on his waist and abandons the rolled up trouser cuffs he adopted in ‘The Tombs’. As we move through Act II we see him experimenting with rolling up his sleeves to show more muscle, wearing his trousers lower and tucking them into his socks (a style worn by adolescents in Rikers).

Reference image for Angel Cruz trouser styling

As an inmate you have a huge amount of your identity taken away from you when you are confined to wearing a uniform. Many inmates find ways to find identity in their clothing by adopting accessories. Angel wears a small diamond in his ear and sports Mary of Guadalupe tattoo on his left arm that we imagine he got for ‘protection’. His St. Anthony chain is revealed in the final moments of the play during Angel’s speech, “Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, please come around, somethin’ is lost…”. This is a small detail that ties him to his public defender, Mary Jane, as she wears a small St. Christopher chain around her neck.

Reference image for Angel Cruz

To achieve the right look for Angel’s hair and facial hair I looked at a collection of works by Bruce Davidson. Davidson is a photographer who captured communities in East Harlem, inhabited by a large community of Puerto Ricans. Melissa Van Tongeran carefully followed a selection of reference images to create the final looks for Angel, Valdez, D’Amico and Lucius. Reference image for Angel Cruz’s hair


Bruce Davidson, East Harlem Revisited – Jefferson Pool, East Harlem, New York, 1998

Lucius Jenkins played by Oberon K. A. Adjepong

Jesus Hopped The A Train at the Young Vic
Lucius Jenkins is the charismatic born again serial killer who charms us through the play and shocks us with his attitude towards the brutality of his crimes. Lucius is an old hand in the prison game and has been incarcerated for a long time. He bends the rules a bit and manages to charm Officer D’Amico into sneaking him in all sorts of contraband.

Lucius wears an orange jumpsuit throughout the play. In the documentaries I watched, to research Rikers Island, it was noted that the older inmates tended to choose to wear jumpsuits and the younger inmates tended to choose two piece uniforms. New inmates feel safer in the two piece uniforms and find dressing and undressing an easier task, hence why our new inmate, Angel, wears a two piece. Lucius bends the rules a little by wearing a vest instead of the standard issue prison t-shirt. When we first meet him he is wearing a flashy pair of trainers which he loses when the strict rule-abiding Valdez takes over from the softer D’Amico. He wears his jumpsuit around his waist in his first few scenes and proudly sports not one, but two rosaries around his neck. Later on in the play, when he begins to get worn down in the run up to his execution, Lucius begins wearing his jumpsuit fully closed, as if he is shrinking away and losing his power.

The Correctional Officers

In Rikers Island, neither correctional officer uniforms nor inmate uniforms have changed much since the 1980s. Much of my research came from the writing and photographs of Lorenzo Steele Jr. and Jamel Shabazz, both correctional officers who worked in Rikers from the 1980s – 1990s. I found it fascinating to compare these photographs to the live imagery I found watching documentaries about Rikers, noting just how similar and static the uniforms were over such a long period of time.

My supervisor and I managed to source the genuine standard issue officers shirts and trousers for Valdez and D’Amico. Buying genuine officer badges was not an option so we had to be clever and re-create them. We had the arm patches embroidered using a graphic image of the ‘Correction Department City of New York’ logo. To create the unit ID on the collars and the officer ID badges Tony A Wood managed to mock up a shape for them, using templates, 3D printed them and applied a finish using silver leaf to make them look like real metal. The collar unit ID badges read ‘GRVC’ which stands for the ‘George R. Vierno Center’. This centre on Rikers Island is notorious for violent crime and hosts a 23 hour lockdown unit.

To find out which accessories an officer carried, I watched a lot of footage of officers in action, particularly a clip from ABC News, ‘Correctional Officer, A Day in the Life’, which follows Officer Graham going about his daily routine in a solitary confinement unit on Rikers Island. Most shockingly correctional officers do not carry weapons. We managed to source the genuine holders for handcuffs, torches, inspection gloves and keys.

Valdez played by Joplin Sibtain

Jesus Hopped The A Train at the Young Vic
Valdez is a rule following, law abiding citizen who believes criminals should be punished harshly and held responsible for his crimes. Throughout the play he taunts the prisoners and frequently refers to them as various animals. Although every character in the play is complex, no body holding a morality that is completely black and white, Valdez is often depicted as the ‘bad cop’ officer. To play on this idea, Valdez’s uniform is fully black. His shoes are heavy, suggesting power and dominance, the inmates can hear him coming before he enters. He has the larger of the accessory belts and wears it slung low, almost like a cowboy holster. His officer number, 2215, is taken from a bible verse, which I felt related to his character and some of the text he uses in the play. I felt it also played on the theme of religion in the play. It is a subtle detail that the audience won’t pick up on, but it was something for myself and the actors to think about when creating their characters.

Revelations 22:15, The Holy Bible

“Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”

Charlie D’Amico played by Matthew Douglas

D’Amico is a husband and a father, a friendly character who almost marvels at Lucius’ notoriety and celebrity. He sneaks in contraband and enlists his wife to help. D’Amico is often depicted as the ‘good cop’, even though his actions in the play are rather dubious. To play on this idea D’Amico wears a pale blue short sleeved shirt. Blue is said to have a calming effect on the mind and is most often used for nursing uniforms and scrubs in hospitals. Correctional officers face having dreadful things thrown at them on a daily basis: food, urine, faeces…the list is horrifying. D’Amico seems to have managed to charm one of the most dangerous criminals in the 23hour lock-down unit, so I imagine he wouldn’t be worried about covering up his arms for fear of things being hurled at him while on duty. His officer number, 1618, is also taken from a bible verse which I felt related to his character and some of the text he uses in the play.

Romans 16:18, The Holy Bible

“For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people.”

Reference image for Charlie D’Amico

Mary Jane Hanrahan played by Dervla Kirwan

Mary Jane Hanrahan is a hard working public defender who earns a small salary but has clawed her way through a male dominated industry to win several cases. She is practical but spunky and I wanted to show this in her costume. Although Mary Jane isn’t confined to wearing a uniform, the restrictions on visitors to prison complexes make her clothing take on a uniform like quality. She and Charlie D’Amico are the only two characters who give us a sense of the period the play is set in, through their costumes. It was important to me that they felt timeless, this story is one that has rung true in the real world for many years and I didn’t want to limit its possibilities with a very modern or a very period costume.

During my research for Mary Jane, I realised that a female public defender would not only be restricted by the visitation regulations on clothing that prisons impose, they often face jibes from male prisoners just because of their gender. In my original design I put her in a boxy, practical two piece suit with a practical pair of loafers. It is neither revealing nor does it draw too much attention to her. While sourcing the costumes my supervisor and I stumbled across the perfect suit for Mary Jane, and it was green! It felt perfect as a subconscious herald to her Irish heritage, which she mentions several times in the play. She wears simple, plain accessories and a St. Christopher chain around her neck. This is to subconsciously draw a connection between her and Angel, as he wears a St. Anthony medallion around his neck.

Visitor information from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.



Reference image for Mary Jane: Public Defender Colleen Polak rides an elevator to meet with a client in detention at the St. Louis County Jail in St. Louis, Mo. on Thursday, January 23, 2014. Public defenders take a substantial pay cut in comparison with lawyers who work for private firms. Luke Sharrett, photojournalist for The New York Times.

Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train by Stephen Adly Guirgis runs at the Young Vic until 6 April.

Director Kate Hewitt
Set Designer Magda Willi
Costume Designer Kinnetia Isidore
Lighting Designer Guy Hoare
Sound Designer Peter Rice
Movement Director Imogen Knight
UK Casting Director Julia Horan CDG
US Casting Director Jim Carnahan CSA

With Oberon K. A. Adjepong, Matthew Douglas, Dervla Kirwan, Ukweli Roach and Joplin Sibtain

11 Olivier Award Nominations for the Young Vic

We’re thrilled to be celebrating a massive 11 nominations for Young Vic productions in the 2019 Olivier Awards 🎉

Congratulations to all of the nominees – and a huge shout out to everyone involved in bringing all of our productions to the Young Vic stages. You’re all winners to us!

The Inheritance
8 Olivier Award Nominations

Best New Play
Matthew Lopez

Best Director
Stephen Daldry

Best Actor
Kyle Soller

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Vanessa Redgrave

Best Set Design
Bob Crowley

Best Sound Design
Paul Arditti & Christopher Reid

Best Lighting Design
Jon Clark

Outstanding Achievement in Music
Composer: Paul Englishby

Fun Home
3 Olivier Award Nominations

Best New Musical

Best Actor in a Musical – Zubin Varla

Outstanding Achievement in Music
Composer: Jeanine Tesori
Lyricist/Bookwriter: Lisa Kron

The Olivier Award winners are announced Sunday 7 April at the Royal Albert Hall, hosted by Jason Manford.