A Season in the Congo On-Stage Workshop

The set for A Season in the Congo is quite incredible. It wraps itself around the Young Vic’s main house, transporting audiences to late 1950s Congo, complete with abandoned swimming pool, faded concrete balconies and a working bar, while vultures peer ominously overhead. It was clear from the off that this would be the perfect space and setting for one of our Two Boroughs on-stage workshops.

Last week we invited members of our Two Boroughs project to join the production’s technical team, stage management and Assistant Director Elayce Ismail to recreate two scenes on-stage, complete with full lighting and sound. We worked together on scenes 12 and 13; with the American and Soviet Ambassadors at loggerheads over the future direction of a free Congo, and Prime Minister Lumumba and President Kasavubu on a plane in high winds temporarily unable to land.

Both scenes incorporate a wide variety of dramatic and technical elements, including puppetry and mime. The scenes were played twice, with participants employing both backstage and onstage roles. Both performances were different, but one thing was strikingly clear: the level of concentration and sheer pleasure had by all, as they learnt on the job, visibly growing in confidence and skill, all under the guidance of the professional team.

Seeing the production courtesy of the Two Boroughs ticket scheme is one thing. But it is through exploring the space, understanding the level of work that goes into making Young Vic productions so special, that allowed those involved to develop a deeper understanding into what makes the Young Vic tick. It was great to share this experience with them. For some it was simply an opportunity to have fun and meet new people. For younger participants it was an opportunity to perhaps discover a future career in theatre. And that’s very exciting indeed.

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