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.

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