Refugee week – Little Pigs have Big Ears – Kitchen Conversations

Neighbourhood Theatre started in June 2016. Eighty neighbours officially became members of the new Young Vic company of local people. This company is at the heart of our work. They are ambassadors, creators, friends and supporters. Jennifer from our Neighbourhood Theatre company has written a guest-blog for Refugee Week about the Kitchen Conversations project she’s taken part in…

Golda Rosheuvel in Now We Are Here at the Young Vic. Photo by HelenMurray (2)..jpg

Golda Rosheuvel in Now We Are Here at the Young Vic. Photo by Helen Murray.

Kitchen Conversations is a remarkable experience. Simple and human.

“What is said in the kitchen stays in the kitchen”

On Sunday 9th October 2016, I walked into the inaugural Kitchen Conversations with one expectation: meet, greet and EAT.  Kitchen Conversations is a much needed initiative run by The Young Vic Theatre, that aim to bridge the cultural and generational gap between the local community and refugees who are new to the U.K

To get things started, we got interactive with a name game where we created an inner and outer circle in the space, and rotated in a clockwise and/or anti-clockwise fashion (depending on your position).  We introduced ourselves and revealed one thing about ourselves for one minute, move onto the next person, repeat the sequence and so on.

The ice broke as the room filled  with the musical tonality of human voices, and within that sound were a tiny group of people, basking in the welcome, who crisscrossed continents to seek refuge in the U.K, after fleeing some very grim and gloomy realities.

I had a brief chat with a person who found themselves in some serious dire straits, when they went without food and board, and subsequently found some type of relief by sleeping on public transport, while they waited for their application for asylum to be processed but, they still managed to do that human thing.  Smile.

Then there were other people that I spoke with that were just happy to be somewhere where they felt safe to be themselves, without judgement.

I think that we can all relate to that.

Like Water for Chocolate anyone?

The scene and stage set.  Candles lit. The space that was stark and bare when I first arrived,  began to morph into the warmth of burning embers.  The atmosphere created was friendly and inviting, and could rival a scene from the sub-header between Pedro and Tita sans the laid tables and the food.

Food.  It seemed that everywhere I looked there was food.  A smorgasbord of food for all palettes and preferences, most prepared and cooked by the members of the Neighbourhood Theatre Company and Two Boroughs Project.  There were flavoursome stews originating from West Africa, Mediterranean inspired salads, and Italian frittatas made by moi.

We were all encouraged to sit and talk and enjoy a meal and a drink,  with somebody who we have never met before.

Art is Cathartic

Oh yes it is, because I know.  Art soothes the mind, for like the wind, we can’t see it but most of the time it’s there, and so from time to time needs to be soothed.

A few of the refugees are trailblazers in their own right, and have participated in Taking Part Productions at The Young Vic such as, “Now We Are Here” which gave the refugees the fortuitous opportunity to garner the courage to share their stories, but at the same time alter a few perceptions, thereby illuminating the way for others to follow.

Jonathan Livingstone in Now We Are Here at the Young Vic. Photo by HelenMurray (2)..jpg

Jonathan Livingstone in Now We Are Here at the Young Vic. Photo by Helen Murray.

What do you mean we’ve run out of juice?

Kitchen Conversations is a remarkable experience.  Simple  and human.

In May 2017, I arrived to once again, to meet, greet and EAT.  We formed one large circle and whizzed around the room introducing our names, while ‘The Flight of The Bumblebee” played in the background as a musical accompaniment.  Well, we WERE at The Young Vic at the time, in a theatre space where imagination is freed, and so it sounded like…

Human pop-up library

‘Hi’ and ‘How are you doing?’ were said and merged cellular histories, and the ‘living manuscripts’ continue to thrive despite past circumstances, and the gap that threatens to divide us is closing, slowly.

The multiple universes masking as ideas inside each individual who were present, are gestating and hidden within their own genetic archive, and curated by the laughter and curiosity of children, ‘The little pigs with big ears’.

Refugee Week runs 19 – 25 June 2017. Find out more about the events going on in your neighbourhood. #OurSharedFuture 

Life of Galileo: Touch Tour

On Wednesday afternoon, a small group of us gathered in the Young Vic foyer to embark on a touch tour of Life of Galileo, ahead of the audio described matinee. Anticipation was high – this was my first time; for some of my visually impaired fellow visitors, expectations were abound. It was led by Eleanor Margolis and Miranda Yates who facilitate all our audio described performances here at the Young Vic.

Simply, the idea of a touch tour – and indeed an Audio Described performance – is to give people who are blind or partially sighted the chance to enjoy the show in a way that is as close as possible to the full theatrical experience. The touch tour is facilitated by an Audio Describer, along with members of the FOH and technical teams, and usually takes place just before the show. It allows participants a tactile exploration of the theatrical space, getting up-close with the textures and shapes used in the costumes and props, to help provide a more rounded experience of the performance itself.

An audience member listens to the Life of Galileo stage manager describe a heliocentric model of the solar system prop from the show. The audience member and stage manager are in the background of the image with the focus on the heliocentric model of the solar system in the foreground with the stage manager’s hand placed on the sun.
Photography by Leon Puplett


The Space

We started the tour with an impressively detailed description of the auditorium, starting from the structure of the space right down to the materials that make up the set.

“A broad set of steps made out of scaffolding and untreated wood about four meters wide sits in a dock in the back wall about 8 meters deeps and 10 meters tall” – this level of detail felt really quite remarkable, and continued throughout the tour.

As we started to move further into the space, onto the centre of the stage where a lucky few ‘floor seat’ audience members recline each night, some of the visitors noticed a reverb that isn’t obvious until you begin speaking yourself. It felt pretty unnerving, and people wondered aloud “how do the actors manage this every night?!” Apparently this strange echo disperses once the auditorium is filled with an audience.

Props & Costume

Once we’d established the intricacies of the space, we moved on to explore through touch a wide range of different props and costumes used in Life of Galileo (let’s be honest, it’s what we were all most excited about anyway):

 

 

Above: visitors exploring props and costumes including a model of a planetarium; a pair of shoes worn by one of the Dancing Girls; a Cardinal’s costume; and part of an amazing dress worn by actor Bettrys Jones in the Ballad, when she represents the Earth as the centre of the universe, complete with lights and tiny model animals.
Photography by Leon Puplett.


The Cast

Many of the actors were on hand to tell us about the props and costume, so Eleanor stopped us for a moment so that the cast could introduce themselves. We heard first what they sounded like in reality, followed by their voices as each of their characters. This gave us the opportunity to differentiate between the multiple characters each of the actors play in Life of Galileo (40+!). Ayesha Antoine, for example, plays an old northern man at one point, and she was able to demonstrate the contrast between this character’s voice and her other younger female ones.

An actor from Life of Galileo is talking to an audience member, who listens with a look of rapt attention, his hand up to his mouth, his mouth open. The two men have their backs to us but their heads are turned inwards, towards each other, so that we can see their expressions. A stage light shines brightly in the background, out of focus.
Photography by Leon Puplett

Music & Sound

The music used in Life Of Galileo by the Chemical Brothers’ Tom Rowlands is a significant and, at times, very loud part of the performance. Yamina, the Sound Operator, was on hand to demonstrate the 7K sound system and we were advised that this could actually make our bodies vibrate due to the bass. Playing sections of this music in advance meant participants felt comfortable knowing what was to come when entering the matinee.

Yamina also demonstrated the important ‘snap’ sound effect which signifies each scene and lighting change. We all agreed that hearing this in advance was helpful in getting an understanding of the way whole show was structured.

If you want to find out more about the Young Vic’s touch tours, audio described performances or any other accessible performances we have on offer, just visit our Access for All page, give us a call on 020 7922 2922 (Textphone 18001 020 7922 2922) or ask one of our Welcome Team members next time you’re here. We’d also recommend checking out VocalEyes for listings of the latest audio-described events (including Touch Tours) around the UK. 

A Statement from London’s Southbank and Bankside Cultural Organisations

We have all been shocked and saddened by the terrible events at London Bridge and Borough Market on Saturday night.

Our hearts go out to the families, friends and loved ones of the victims, and to all of those affected by this terrible attack.

As representatives of the cultural venues in the area, we are working together to ensure that our venues remain safe, open and welcoming to all. We will continue with our programmes as planned and demonstrate the cultural sector’s spirit, strength and ability to unite people of all backgrounds.

London is a city defined by its culture. We all intend to play our part in continuing to build and share this culture, and to welcome visitors from the city and the world to our creative events and spaces.

Hayward Gallery
National Theatre
Menier Chocolate Factory
Rambert
Shakespeare’s Globe
Siobhan Davies Dance
Southbank Centre
Southwark Playhouse
Tate Modern
The Bunker
The Old Vic
Young Vic

20th Anniversary JMK Young Director Awards

Josh Roche at the 2017 JMK Awards. Photo by Dan Usztan.

Josh Roche wins the 20th anniversary James Menzies-Kitchin Young Director Award with My Name is Rachel Corrie.

Josh beat a record-breaking number of applicants to win the £25,000 award in the now-legendary JMK selection process which has been described as being almost like a training scheme in itself. He will be directing My Name is Rachel Corrie, the celebrated piece of verbatim theatre created from the writings of Corrie herself and jointly edited by the late, great Alan Rickman and journalist Katherine Viner, who is now editor-in-chief of The Guardian.

The runner up this year was Nathan Crossan-Smith with a proposal for a production of debbie tucker-green’s random and will receive a £2,000 award.

My Name is Rachel Corrie was first staged to equal acclaim and controversy in 2005 at the Royal Court, directed by Alan Rickman. It is based on the vivid diaries and emails of American peace campaigner Rachel Corrie who was killed by an Israeli tank while protecting Palestinian homes from demolition at the age of 23. It went on to gather awards and further controversy, particularly in the US, where the premiere was withdrawn after objections were raised about its portrayal of the Israel-Palestinian conflict. It is a testament to the quality of Rachel Corrie’s skill as a writer and passionate commitment to her cause that this monologue drama has stood the test of time with numerous revivals worldwide since its premiere.

The production will be staged at the Young Vic later this year; production dates to be announced soon.

On winning the award, Josh said: “I’m stunned and delighted to win the JMK award. It’s hard to express quite what it means to me. The chance to direct at the Young Vic is extraordinary in any context, but to be working on this play makes the opportunity even more remarkable.

“Rachel Corrie and I were born only ten years apart. Her legacy is our inheritance. I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to tell her story on the Young Vic stage, and hugely indebted to the JMK Trust”.

Josh Roche

Josh Roche. Photo by Rob Logan.

27-year-old Josh Roche has worked as a reader and literary associate of theatres including Shakespeare’s Globe, Soho Theatre and for Sonia Friedman Productions and is founder of Fat Git Productions, discovering new approaches to new writing for the theatre through the commissioning and editing processes. He was resident assistant director at Soho Theatre, assisting Joe Murphy and Steve Marmion, and also assisted Joe Murphy at Shakespeare’ Globe (The Taming of the Shrew). He has assisted John Dove (Eternal Love for ETT and Dr Scroggy’s War at Shakespeare’s Globe, and – more recently – Farinelli and The King at the Duke of York’s). In 2015-16 Josh was assistant director at the RSC for Gregory Doran on Death of a Salesman and Shakespeare Live!; Polly Findlay on The Alchemist and Maria Aberg on Dr Faustus, as well as several one-off projects. Among the productions Josh has directed for his own Fat Git Productions are i feel fine, A Third and Magnificence at venues in London and at the Edinburgh Fringe.

The JMK Trust was founded in the memory of James Menzies-Kitchin, a young director of great promise, who died suddenly and unexpectedly at the age of 28, to give opportunities to theatre directors of similar ability and vision. Each year it gives one prestigious award to enable an outstanding applicant aged 30 or under to create their own production of their choice of classic text, currently at the Young Vic. Find out more here

 

Creative Green Awards 2017 – Best Performing Arts Venue

By Daniel de la Motte-Harrison

The other week, Julie’s Bicycle hosted their inaugural Creative Green Awards, held in the splendor Of Somerset House, and presented by Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP for Brighton Pavilion. These awards are in recognition of environmental, sustainable and ethical commitment, understanding and improvement within arts and cultural venues, galleries and festivals.

creative green awards 2017.jpg

The Creative Green Award-winners with Caroline Lucas. Photo by Alick Cotterill.

The Young Vic was delighted to be nominated for three awards; Outstanding Achievement, Best Commitment; and Best Performing Arts Venue. We were even more delighted to win the last award. In recent years, the Young Vic has become a 4* accredited Industry Green venue and has undertaken small-scale and larger initiatives to green the theatre, its ethos, staff and productions further.

Recent changes at the Young Vic have included:

  • Becoming a zero-waste-to-landfill theatre
  • Securing our energy from green sources
  • Installing LED lighting in our corridors and public toilets
  • Putting on two ‘Classics for a New Climate’ productions, most recently La Musica, which had almost half the energy emissions of a similar scale production[1]
  • Dealing with the waste we create through productions as sustainably as possible. Two tonnes of peat from A Midsummer Night’s Dream went to a local community garden, and the sand used in Ah, Wilderness! was donated to a local nursery.

We are also proud of the ethical and sustainable commitments of The Cut Bar, widely regarded as one of the best theatre bars and restaurants in London. There are several vegetarian and vegan options available, and produce comes from local, ethical or organic suppliers. The beer on tap come from Bermondsey, just 0.4 miles down the road, and the wine comes from a biodynamic vineyard in Tuscany.

Janie Dee and members of the company in Ah, Wilderness! at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson (2).jpg

Janie Dee in Ah, Wilderness! Photo by Johan Persson. The sand used in this production was donated to a local nursery.

The Young Vic will always continue to work closely with our friends and colleagues at Julie’s Bicycle and the London Theatre Consortium to collectively attempt to reduce our emissions and impact further, making work of the highest artistic quality which doesn’t cost the earth.

For more information on the Young Vic’s sustainability policies and practices, or with any ideas on how we can improve further, please get in touch with Daniel at danielharrison@youngvic.org.

[1] 5.38 tonnes of CO2 created through energy use, compared to 9.88 tonnes created through energy use during The Changeling in the same space.

11 Questions with the cast of Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere – Lara Sawalha

Paul Mason and Lara Sawalha in Why It's Kicking Off Everywhere at the Young Vic. Photo by David Sandison..jpg

Paul Mason and Lara Sawalha in Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere at the Young Vic. Photo by David Sandison.

What’s your favourite play you’ve ever seen, been in or read?

There are too many to pick from because each play I’ve seen has left a mark and impacted me in different ways. One that comes to mind is a play I read called The Heresy of Love – a must read.

What can the audience expect from this production that’s different to anything else they are likely to have seen before?

To feel completely immersed in what’s happening around them, like they’re leading the revolution.

What protest or activism have you most recently taken part in or supported?

Protesting against apartheid in Palestine.

Describe in one word what you hope the audience will take away from this show?

Awareness.

What is your favourite midnight snack?

Humous and pitta bread.

What is the funniest protest sign you’ve ever seen?

“I can’t believe we still have to protest this shit”.

Where is your favourite place in the world?

Once I get those wings and fly I’ll let you know (refer to supernatural question). My favourite place constantly changes, so I always have many!

Who is your ultimate hero, and what would you say to them if you ever met them?

I have many but one of them is Maya Angelou and I would take her dancing.

Which historic revolution or protest do you wish you could have been a part of?

Walking across the bridge with Martin Luther King Jr.

If you could have any one supernatural power which would you choose and why?

To fly so everyday I could experience a different part of the world.

What role do you think the arts plays in activism?

It’s another platform to speak and be heard to express and change the world.

If you could swap lives with anybody for one day, who would it be and why?

Donald Trump so that I can actually understand how his brain works, because it really doesn’t make sense.

What’s one thing about the future that makes you feel positive?

Seeing people around me working hard to improve the world of today for the generations of tomorrow.

Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere will be broadcast on BBC Two this year as part of Performance Live, a two-year strand of programmes developed between Arts Council England and Battersea Arts Centre.

Read what audiences have been saying about #KickingOffLive so far.

Holly Williams in discussion with David Lan

Young Vic production ofA Midsummer Night's Dream Directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins

It starts with a play – and a passion. The Young Vic may have developed a reputation as the home of so-called ‘director’s theatre’, offering radical takes on classic plays directed by the likes of Joe Hill-Gibbins, Ivo van Hove, Benedict Andrews, Carrie Cracknell and Simon Stone, but for artistic director David Lan, the really crucial component is still the play. The right director is the person who mounts a convincing case for urgently staging it right here, right now.

“What I start from is the premise that there’s no point doing the play unless we’re excited by what’s in the play,” he explains. “You’ve got to love it. With A Midsummer Night’s Dream, we’re doing it because Joe said, ‘I really really want to do it’.” It’s this compulsion to revisit a classic, looking anew at “how is this relevant now?” that often leads to the “most surprising and deep response.”

A surprising response to a well-loved play – including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with its magic, fairies and romance – can raise hackles, even if it does spring from a director’s own love affair with the material.

Lan recognises that unusual stagings of classic plays make some audiences anxious.

“Part of my job is to find a way to say ‘it’s fine: it may not be exactly what you think it’s going to be, but it’s good! It’s real.  You’re not being cheated out of anything.’” Indeed, the hope is that by shaking off the shackles of over-familiarity, the play comes into a sharp new focus – as was the case with van Hove’s A View from the Bridge, Cracknell’s A Doll’s House or Stone’s Yerma.

“People say, don’t you sometimes want to get out of the way and just ‘do’ the play? But you can’t just ‘do’ the play,” Lan suggests. To him, any production is a series of choices, from what the actors bring to their parts to the visual world a designer creates. Any performance that has a director is, in a sense, director’s theatre because they guide these choices. “With any production, you’re always going to see the particular director’s take on the play; it just might not be a very interesting director!”

The notion, especially when it comes to Shakespeare, that actors should simply speak the text or trust the language is also naive. “A robot could just ‘say the words’, but an actor can’t, because they’re a human being and what they’re responding to is the meaning those words have in the situation they’re in.”

And this response can be – should be – complicated and multifaceted. If there’s one thing Lan really wants a Young Vic production to do, it’s to explore the contradictions inherent in being human, contradictions which the best dramatists reveal. They’re certainly there in Shakespeare.

Young Vic production ofA Midsummer Night's Dream Directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins

“We’re trying to say, all human life is here. And audiences feel that, they’re not patronised, the characters in this play are as complicated and complex as they are. Everybody’s life is a complete mess, everybody is going ‘god I don’t know what to do’ – and that’s in the plays. Don’t try to resolve it. Stage the contradiction.”

That means allowing the play to be complex: A Midsummer Night’s Dream might turn out to be stranger than we expect. The material shouldn’t be treated with stuffy reverence but as an obligatory dose of cultural medicine.

“It’s not to do with simplifying, or saying ‘oh this is a bit like a druggy rave so let’s get a lot of polythene…’ No bullshit, [but also] no worthiness, no saying it’s good for us.” Just the question: is there actually something there for us, today, in a certain play?

In attempting to answer this question, the Young Vic has become known for its distinctive takes on familiar works (not that, as Lan points out, the theatre would be considered radical compared to most European theatres) but while he’s “delighted that people think that if you go to the Young Vic you will get something special, or unexpected, or surprising”, he also hopes that people think of the Young Vic as a place where you still “really get the play.” That’s where it starts – and that’s where it ends, too.

By Holly Williams

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is running at the Young Vic until 1 April. Find our more about the show and book tickets here.