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.


Quite a few people have asked us why we’re making the staffing changes we’re making, so we’d like to explain:

The most important moment in this theatre is the moment when the shows we have made meet the audiences we have encouraged to see them. Our relationships with our audience, our creative teams and all the people who work here, at every level, are the most important and powerful resource we have.

We are keen to improve the way we bring our audience and our shows together. For some years we have offered mainly casual work to our FOH teams – box office, duty managers and ushers. Now we have created four new full time, permanent positions which combine box office and duty management. We are also creating a core team of ushers to work alongside the casual staff.

As we move forward and develop these new teams, they will have a strong understanding of what we as producers are trying to achieve – and we’ll understand better how we can support them. This should create the best experience for everyone.

We’re in the process of trying to achieve these changes and are working closely with each person affected. If anyone has concerns we are, as we always have been, extremely keen to talk to them.

David Lan and Lucy Woollatt

We have been working with BECTU to change our Front of House operation from a system based almost entirely on casual work to one based on a mixture of permanent and seasonal contracts supported by some casual work. This change has created four new full time roles at the theatre.

Whilst this is undoubtedly good news for stability, guarantee of earnings and job security, it does have implications for some of the current staff.  Their concerns are being addressed and we have agreed a proposal for affected staff with BECTU.

As regards activities on social media, we cannot comment on grievances posted online by anonymous individuals. However, now as at any other time, if anyone has a complaint they wish us to address, we would like to hear from them.

David Lan and Lucy Woollatt

11 Questions with the cast of A Doll’s House: Susannah Wise

Susannah Wise plays Kristine Linde in A Doll’s House. 

Tell us about your character
Kristine’s a dude. She’s a great knitter, practical advice giver and she likes the odd whiskey when nobody’s looking

Favourite word?

Proudest moment?
Having my son (or winning the school obstacle race, aged 6; it’s a tough call).

If you could be in a room full of any one thing, what would it be?
Great views of the countryside.

If days were 28 hours long, what would you do with the 4 extra hours?
Sleep more (I have a toddler) or write that play that’s been in my head for years.

Favourite holiday?
New York, New York in 2008.

Weirdest quirk?
Biting my thumb nails.

Favourite play?
August Osage County (Steppenwolf Company at the National in 2008).

If you could have one supernatural power, which would you choose and why?
Being able to breathe under water.

Do you have any regrets?

Favourite midnight snack?
Super noodles (classy!).

5 stars and an extension week for A Doll’s House


UPDATED with our Sunday reviews!

Hurrah! Due to popular demand, A Doll’s House has been extended until 4 August. And we’ve had some cracking reviews in so far – here is a quick selection.

“If you ever see a production of the play, see this one… Hattie Morahan’s Nora is a once-in-a-lifetime performance.’’
The Sunday Telegraph

“An intense emotional thriller…Ian MacNeil’s set is like a spinning doll’s house come to life…Hattie Morahan’s Nora offers a piercing study in desperation.”
Sunday Express

“Ferociously raw and palpably radical…Hattie Morahan is instantly enthralling.”
Independent on Sunday

“A sexy, passionate interpretation of Ibsen, potent and emotionally truthful.”
Evening Standard – full review here

“Hattie Morahan gives an award-winning performance [in] Carrie Cracknell’s impressive revival…Simon Stephens’s new version feels fresh with welcome flashes of humour”
Mail on Sunday

Daily Mail

“A riveting production of Ibsen’s classic led by a vivid, moving performance from Hattie Morahan.”
Financial Times – full review here

“There is so much to admire in this marvellous production…terrific.”
The Times

“Hattie Morahan is wonderfully luminous…Ian McNeil’s set is exquisite…warmly recommended.” Daily Telegraph – full review here

“Morahan is exquisitely urgent, simultaneously maddening and beguiling”
The Arts Desk – read full review here

Three Sisters casting is announced!

Big news everyone! We’ve announced the casting for Three Sisters and they’re a pretty exciting bunch!

Vanessa Kirby takes on the role of Masha. Vanessa was in the The Hour (BBC) and she recently played Estella in Great Expectations (BBC), starring Ray Winstone and Douglas Booth. Vanessa has just completed filming the lead role  in Ridley Scott’s forthcoming series of the novel Labyrinth by Kate Mosse.

Mariah Gale returns to the Young Vic to play Olga, following her previous role in Vernon God Little. She has starred in many RSC productions including Ophelia in Hamlet alongside David Tennant, Juliet in Rupert Goold’s Romeo and Juliet, and lead roles in The Tempest, As You Like It, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra. Past TV work includes The Diary of Anne Frank (BBC), Oliver Twist and E4’s hit series Skins.

Gala Gordon joins the cast as Irina for her professional debut, having graduated from Guildhall in 2012.

Read Baz Bamigboye’s announcement of the three sisters in the Daily Mail here.

–        Emily Barclay will play Natalya. Emily has appeared in the films Weekender, Love Birds and in the animation Legend of the Guardians.

–        Harry Dickman plays Ferapont. His credits include Any Human Heart (Channel 4), Fiddler on the Roof (UK tour) and Steptoe & Son (West End).

–        Gruffudd Glyn joins the cast as Fedotik. He was part of the RSC Ensemble from 2009-11 and was in Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar and The Winter’s Tale.

–        Danny Kirrane will play Andrey. Danny was in the original Jerusalem (Royal Court, West End). He also played Kevin in television series Skins, Timms in The History Boys (National, tour, West End) and was recently in Boys (Soho/High Tide).

–        Richard Pryal will play Rode. His previous theatre work includes Translations (Leicester Curve), Farm Boy (59e59, New York), The Merchant of Venice (The Changeling).

–        Ann Queensberry will play Anfisa. Her previous work includes Zeffirelli’s Jane Eyre and La Fausse Suivante (Bouffes du Nord).

–        Paul Rattray plays Solyony. He was in the cast of Black Watch (NTS, world tour) and was previously at the Young Vic in 2005 with In Blue.

 –        Adrian Schiller will play Kulygin. He recently appeared in The Veil (National) and will appear in the BBC adaptation of Richard II.

–        Sam Troughton joins the cast as Tuzenbach. Sam’s played ‘Much’ in the popular television series Robin Hood. He was a part of the RSC Ensemble from 2009-11 and his work for the RSC includes playing Romeo in Romeo & Juliet alongside Mariah Gale’s Juliet!

Three Sisters, in a new version by visionary director Benedict Andrews, opening 8 September and playing through 28 July. Tickets are on sale from £10, book now to avoid disappointment.

New artwork on the front of our building

If you’ve visited the Young Vic, you will probably have seen the Clem Crosby’s artwork on the front of the building called 180 Monochrome Paintings (affectionately known by cabbies as ‘The Cheese Grater’).

Here it is at night time lit up!

Well, seven of the panels from the front of the Young Vic have been shipped to Venice! They are on loan for a Haworth Tompkins / Young Vic installation for the Venice Biennale.

The exhibition in Venice focuses on The Cut and is a large installation containing the Young Vic facade panels, lightbox images, talking heads interviews in a soundscape – to create a fragment of life on The Cut.

In the mean time, however we’ve got a lovely temporary artwork to replace them by the visual artist Jake Tilson, which is a photograph of a wall of ‘The Corderie’ in Venice, where the artworks will be on display with a slogan saying ‘ON LOAN TO THE VENICE BIENNALE’.