A once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget

Members of the community chorus

I first heard about Wild Swans back in December, reading the call for chorus auditions through the Young Vic e-newsletter. Despite some initial reservations about time commmitment required and nervousness regarding my own notable lack of performance skills, I thought ‘Why not!?’ It sounded like a really unique opportunity, especially as they were calling for two large choruses to support the cast. I am also a fan of Young Vic already and knowing their reputation for new writing and creative productions, I was curious about how they would adapt Jung Chang’s epic bestseller for the stage.

Now, with one week left to go before the show ends on 13 May, and my time on the stage finished as part of chorus A, I look back on my experience and feel truly happy and grateful that I have been part of something so incredible, that has brought so many people together and touched our lives in ways we couldn’t have expected back in January, when we first auditioned.

For instance, after telling them that I was part of the chorus, the Chinese Youth Club that made a huge difference in my life growing up – the Pagoda Arts Group from Liverpool – came to see a weekend matinee performance of Wild Swans, bringing fifteen young people down to London from Liverpool. I know seeing the production will have had a positive impact on their lives, as a still relatively marginalised community growing up in a still relatively poor part of the UK, with less opportunity to access the arts. The visit gave them a chance to see for the first time, a critically-acclaimed play at a major London theatre, featuring an all Asian cast, about a history that has probably affected their own families. Following the visit, the organisers fed back that there were tears, and that the young people were blown away by the production.

It makes me hugely proud to have been involved in Wild Swans with the chorus, wonderful cast, talented writing and creative team and hardworking backstage crew. Not only has the production received deserved praise across the board from critics and the public alike (it sold out quickly and really has been the hot ticket for London theatre this month!), it has also made a difference to the Chinese community here in the UK. Furthermore, the production has made me delve into my own heritage and discover some of the consequences that the Mao era had on my own family.

Now that the Wild Swans journey is ending, I will take away with me memories of backstage banter, market scene hilarity, endless practice of songs and placard-waving, and a fabulous karaoke night finale. I’ve met some incredibly talented people and most importantly made some great friends. Wild Swans has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I will never forget. Thank you Young Vic!

Sharon Chou, member of the community chorus of Wild Swans

To Win or Not To Win FREE Hamlet Tickets?

Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Hamlet or another? I ask the average non- or semi-Shakespeare fan what their favourite story from arguably our most influential author is, and it usually has some correlation with what they studied back in the classroom.

If that is the case then I guess mine should be Macbeth, following my captivating performance as Macduff in Drama Studies (Year 9). My teacher (a harsh critic) called me “brittle”, whilst of course my mother found my display worthy of an Oscar (and ice-cream on the way home).

Nevertheless, I seem to lean towards Hamlet for some reason. I never studied it, or acted in it (‘brittle boy’ never made it past Year 9 Drama) and when I mention it to my inner circle (which consists of some very borderline Shakespeare fans), I get that timeless query: “Is that the one with ‘To be or not to be…’” Despite that lack of inspiration, a combination of internet exploring, coupled with DVDs watching many from Sir Lawrence Olivier to Kenneth Branagh take on the role of the Prince of Denmark drowning in a sea of treachery, revenge, incest, moral corruption, madness and revenge means this classic, powerful tragic tale still gets my vote every time.

That’s explains my personal excitement, and why I can rest assured a mouth-watering on stage adaptation with Michael Sheen (Underworld, Twilight, Frost/Nixon, Kingdom of Heaven) in lead role, awaits those lining up to watch Hamlet at the Young Vic Theatre this winter.

And for any teenagers around the UK (some of which may be shifting through Shakespeare for their new year exams), the Young Vic + Penguin’s Spinebreakers Hamlet Script Writing Competition is your time to showcase your own play-writing skills for a chance to experience Hamlet full on. This is not only a fun opportunity, but a chance to step into Shakespeare’s shoes and inspire David Lan (Young Vic’s Artistic Director) with your own storytelling on the themes of ‘madness and revenge’. 2 winners in return will receive a FREE pair of tickets to watch Hamlet at the Young Vic as well as autographed posters and programmes, with 13 runners-up getting a Spinebreakers special edition of the book.

The Hamlet Script-Writing Competition runs until 9 January 2012. Enter here.

From Dwain Lucktung, editor of Penguin’s Spinebreakers.co.uk


Who’s your favourite mum?

#TantalisingTuesdays time! Tell us who your favourite mum is (and why) for your chance to win a pair of tickets to our 5-star show The Beauty Queen of Leenane. If you’ve already seen the show – we’ll send you a programme. If you have a programme already, we’ll send you something else really good.

Either leave a comment here, email feedback@youngvic.org or post on our Facebook wall.

The Beauty Queen of Leenane, now playing, is all about a very complicated mother-daughter relationship. Mag, who is played by Rosaleen Linehan, has been described as a ‘monster of passive-aggressive manipulation’ (The Stage), a ‘cantankerous hypochondriac’  (Independent) and a ‘house-ridden, tyrannical mother’ (New York Times) — altogether an absolutely unforgettable character. This has got us thinking about other memorable mothers, and we’ve asked some of our staffers who their favourite famous mums are! Here they are:

Chris, our Box Office & Sales Manager’s favourite mum is Norman’s mother in the movie Psycho. She’s a pretty scary figure, but Chris says, ‘It’s not like my mother is a maniac or a raving thing. She just goes a little mad sometimes. We all go a little mad sometimes. Haven’t you?’

Vicki, our Development Officer loves Edina from Absolutely Fabulous, whose children set a good example for her rather than the other way around. Vickie says, ‘Eddie is hilarious — she’s everything a mother shouldn’t be.’

Anca, one of our Marketing Managers, says that her favourite mums(!) are more figurative: Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn, the women who developed teaching sign language to non-signing families to communicate with their hearing infants/toddlers. ‘It’s amazing being able to sign with my nephew… from about 11 months, he would sign ‘please’, pass me a book and then climb into my lap so that I would read a book to him,’ Anca says.

Liza, PA to our Artistic Director David Lan, says her favourite famous mum is Diana Rigg, the gorgeous star of The Avengers. Why? ‘My mum was the spitting image of her — she used to get stopped in the street!’

Alan, our Director of Marketing, Press & Sales says that his favourite mother is his own!

Some other mothers we talked about are Medea, Mrs. Bennet , Princess Diana, Molly Weasley, and the ‘Tiger Mother’ — who’s your favourite unforgettable mum?

Benny’s Pom-pom Antennae

Read Stage 1 of Benny the Beeboy’s life >>
Read Stage 2 of Benny the Beeboy’s life >>

We have been busy making our oversized bee antennae for Benny the Beeboy (fellow competitor of the Great Human Bird Competition from My Dad’s a Birdman).

The designer wanted the antennae to look like wool pom-poms. We cut out our doughnut shaped cardboard pieces and sandwiched them together. We then made a small ball of wool and tying it securely through the hole, then began to wind the wool around the doughnut ring.

Step 1: Cardboard doughnuts

Step 2: Sandwiched together

Step 3: Wrap wool around cardboard

Step 4: All finished

Once we had enough wool wound around we then very carefully cut through the outer edge of the ring. Before removing the cardboard we tied a piece of wool through the middle of the two cardboard rings. When this was secure, we removed the cardboard and fluffed out the pom-pom.

Step 5: Cut around the outside edge

Step 6: Remove cardboard and fluff out

We attached the pom-pom to some garden wire and then secured it to an alice band.

Step 7: Attach to the alice band

Our pom-poms are intentionally very large, if you were to make them you might want to make them smaller as although they are made of wool they are very heavy. We are going to secure them to the person wearing them’s head in a special way which you can see during the show.

- Catherine, Head of Costume