David Lan’s Olivier Award Speech

Image uploaded from iOS (2)Former Artistic Director of the Young Vic, director and playwright David Lan was presented with the Special Award at the Olivier Awards 2018 ceremony on Sunday evening at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

His speech discussed the local, national and international reach of Young Vic and his aims during his tenure here as Artistic Director.

You can read the full, unedited speech below:

First, thank you to the Society for this award.

It’s a big one and I’m pleased, to put it mildly, and surprised, to put it even more mildly.  Whoever made the decision – I’m grateful to you.

It’s just me standing up here…

… but many had to do much on the journey to this big stage on this big evening.

Patrick McKenna – chair of my board for most of my 18 years

Kevin Fitzmaurice – my first executive director

Lucy Woollatt – my second executive director

Sue Emmas – my long-time associate

Steve Tompkins – architect of our fabulous building

My team, my many teams

And then –

The Arts Council, especially Alan Davey

The Jerwood Foundation, especially the profoundly missed Roanne Dodds

The Genesis Foundation, especially John Studzinsky

… all of whom got in behind our big idea even as we were working out what that big idea might be

… and many, many joined along the way.

Amongst those, especially, I thank the hundreds of great actors, writers, directors, designers, technicians, stage managers… without whom … without whom.

Another without whom – my boyfriend Nick Wright, sitting there in the front row, with whom I’ve been talking about theatre and much else for more than 40 years …

And my long term friend and inspiration Stephen Daldry, also without whom…

When Frank Dunlop started the Young Vic in London SE1 in the late 1960s it was imagined as a place where people could make theatre in the way they wanted their society to be: open, democratic, equal.

I believe we stayed true to those values.

Producers, crew, our whole team thought of our theatre as a welcoming environment in which great artists meet great audiences.

All that mattered to us was what happened when, night after night, those memorable meetings took place.

And alongside many great and will-be-great artists from this country, we welcomed others from Iceland, France, Germany, Brazil, South Africa, the US, Palestine, Congo, Poland, Syria, from all over the planet.

And we welcomed thousands of non-professionals from our neighbourhoods, young as well as old, especially – though not only – the vulnerable in whatever way.

To the shows we made with them we gave the same high status we gave any artist.

Over recent years, we’ve engaged with the world in a special way by inviting into our theatre refugees.

Their lives, their stories, themselves as performers.

I hope you’ll forgive me if I contrast the Young Vic’s welcoming environment with the hostile environment – to give it its official name – which the Home Office creates in relation to refugees.

In particular, the decision to close the door on hundreds of young refugees now scattered across Northern France, many with the legal right to live in this country, abandoned to hunger, to cold, to people traffickers within clear sight of us on a sunny day.

And what of those with no legal right?

My grandparents fled Lithuania as teenagers in the 1920s – escaping poverty and anti-Semitism.

Were they economic migrants?  Well, they were certainly after a better life.

Fifteen years later when the Nazis marched in, their parents were killed in the streets.  So, in retrospect, were Mottel and Golda Lan really political refugees?

Their modern-day equivalents are – now as I speak – locked in squalor in Yarls Wood and other detention centres. Hundreds are deported or turned away.

In The Jungle by Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson which we and the National and Good Chance Theatre produced last year, a volunteer at the camp in Calais says of the refugees making their way across Europe:

‘It’s only a crisis because we’re calling it that. A half a million refugees – the population of Europe is 700 million, that’s who knows how tiny a percent. Go to Jordan, a quarter of the people are refugees. Lebanon, it’s a third. Crisis?  European Governments need to stop breaking their own laws.’

In Matthew Lopez’s The Inheritance, now playing at the Young Vic, a character describes the house which symbolises their sufferings and dreams as:

‘A shelter, a refuge, a place of healing; a reminder of the pain, the fragility and the promise of life’.

That’s what I hoped my theatre would be.

We wanted to change the world. Perhaps all we changed was a few streets of London SE1. But that we did.

In that spirit and on behalf of the hundreds, the thousands of citizens of south London and the world who changed it with me –

– thank you for this.

The Olivier Awards 2018 presented by Catherine Tate are now available to watch on the ITV player.

Fun Home Casting Announced!

We’re thrilled to be able to announce casting for Fun Home, the five-time award winning musical based on a graphic novel by Alison Bechdel with music by Jeanine Tesori, book and lyrics by Lisa Kron and direction by Sam Gold:

Alison: Kaisa Hammarlund
Medium Alison: Eleanor Kane
Helen: Jenna Russell
Roy/Mark/Jeremy: Ashley Samuels
Joan: Cherrelle Skeete
Bruce, Alison’s father: Zubin Varla

More information about the company is below. Casting for Small Alison, John and Christian will be confirmed soon.

Kaisa_blogKaisa Hammarlund | Alison
Theatre includes: Cockpit (Lyceum Edinburgh); Sweet Charity (Royal Exchange Theatre  Manchester, Theatre Awards & UK Theatre Awards nomination for Best Actress); Bakkhai (Almeida); As You Like It (Southwark Playhouse); Sleeping Beauty (Park Theatre); The Captain of Kopeknick (National Theatre); The Tempest (Theatre Royal Bath); Can I Be Straight With You / Courting Drama (Bush Theatre); The Boys from Syracuse (Union Theatre); The Three Musketeers (Rose Theatre Kingston); A Day Before Spring (Sadler’s Wells); Cabaret (Lyric Theatre); Sunday in the Park with George, They’re Playing Our Song, A Little Night Music, Take Flight (Menier Chocolate Factory); Mamma Mia (Prince of Wales theatre and touring); Legally Blonde (Nöjesteatern, Malmö Sweden).
Television includes:  Lewis, Doctors, The Sandhamn Murders, Holby City.
Film includes: K, Coup de Grace.

 

Eleanor Headshot_blog.jpgEleanor Kane | Medium Alison
Theatre includes: Assassins, Wondertown,  Barefoot Gen, The Merchant of Venice, Three Days in the Country, Rhinoceros, Three Sisters (Rose Bruford); Threeway (Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh Fringe Festival); Werther (Scottish Opera); Now’s the Hour (Scottish Youth Theatre); Joan and Jim R&D (Told By An Idiot).

 

 

 

Jenna Russell_blogJenna Russell | Helen
Theatre includes: Di and Viv and Rose (Vaudeville theatre); Urinetown (Apollo and St James Theatre); Mr Burns (Almeida); Merrily We Roll Along (Menier Chocolate Factory / Pinter Theatre); That Day We Sang (Opera House, Manchester); Seasons Greetings (National Theatre); Into The Woods (Regents Park); Sunday in the Park With George (Wyndhams / Studio 54 Broadway); Amy’s View (Garrick Theatre); Guys and Dolls (Picadilly Theatre); Into the Woods (Donmar Warehouse); Three Sisters (Royal Court).
Television includes: Call the Midwife, The Paradise, Minder, Dr Who, Born and Bred, Picking Up the Pieces.
Film includes: Mortdecai.
Awards include:  Nominee for 2008 Tony Award, Drama Desk Award, Theatre World Award and Drama League for Leading Actress in a Musical for Sunday In The Park with George. Olivier Award Winner for Best Actress in a Musical for Sunday In The Park with George 2007. Nominee for 2006 Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical for Guys and Dolls.

 

Ashely Samuels bw.jpgAshley Samuels | Roy/Mark/Jeremy
Theatre includes: Motown the Musical (Shaftsbury Theatre); The Book of Mormon (Prince of Wales Theatre); The Toxic Avenger (Southwark Playhouse); The World Goes Round (Stephen Joseph Theatre); Olivier Awards 2014 (Royal Opera House).
Television includes: This Morning (ITV); Sing it Kitty (commercial).
Other work includes: Concert soloist (The Other Palace & Electric Theatre).

 

 

Cherrelle Headshot_blogCherrelle Skeete | Joan
Theatre includes: The Seagull, Jack and Beanstalk (Lyric Hammersmith); Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Palace Theatre); Three Days in the Country, The Amen Corner (National Theatre); Wind in the Willows (Royal & Derngate); And I and Silence (Finborough Theatre); The Lion King (Lyceum Theatre) The Edge, Sold, King Lear, Love’s Last Shift, There’s No Place Like Home, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Three Sisters (Central School of Speech and Drama); Joey Boy (The MAC).
Television includes: Silent Witness, Doctors, Danny and the Human Zoo, The Five, Ordinary Lies, Call the Midwife.

 

Zubin_blogZubin Varla | Bruce
Young Vic includes: Measure for Measure, The Changeling.
Theatre includes: Poison (Orange Tree Theatre); The Unknown Island (Gate Theatre); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare’s Globe); Dara, War Horse, Attempts on Her Life, The Enchantment, The Life of Galileo and Cyrano de Bergerac(National Theatre); The El Train (Hoxton Hall): Don Juan Comes Back from the War (Finborough); Troilus and Cressida (RSC/Wooster Group); Chess (UK tour); Into Thy Hands(Jericho House); Amadeus (City of London Sinfonia/Barbican); In the Soliyude of Cottonfields (ATC) Hello and Goodbye (Treatment Theatre Company); Julius Caesar (RSC/Lyric Hammersmith); Faust (RSC); The Painter of Dishonour (RSC); Midnight’s Children, Roberto Zucco, Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest (RSC); Jesus Christ Superstar (Lyceum); Paradise Regained (Royal Court); Teeth n Smiles (Sheffield Crucible); and Twelfth Night (Donmar West End), Antigone (Old Vic/Donmar); Beautiful Thing (Duke of York’s); In the Heart of America (Bush Theatre); Romeo and Juliet (Regent’s Park).
Television includes: Deep State, Will, Our Girl, Strike Back, Holby City, Garrow’s Law, Crocodile Shoes, Hustle, Little Dorrit, Saddam’s Tribe, Silent Witness and Spooks.
Film includes: Mad, Sad and Bad, Twelfth Night.

 

Fun Home runs from 18 June – 1 September 2018 in the Young Vic’s Main House. Book your tickets here

 

 

Celebrating David Lan | Artistic Director 2000 – 2018

After 18 years, today is David Lan’s final day as Artistic Director at the Young Vic. We couldn’t let him “slip away” (as he would have it), so we checked in with a few notable alumni to share with us just how much of an impact he has had on them and the industry during his tenure…

(Thanks to Noma Dumezweni, Sinead Matthews, Nathaniel Martello-White, Jude Law, Natalie Abrahami, Natalie Dormer, Hugh Skinner, Sir Ian McKellen, Rory Kinnear, Kobna Holdbrook-Smith and Marcello Magni.)

Over the 18 years of his artistic leadership, the Young Vic’s ambitious and adventurous work has reached millions of people on The Cut and around the world.

David spearheaded the 2006 redevelopment of the building you know today featuring our three spaces, the Main House, the Maria and the Clare. Designed by architects Haworth Tompkins, we were named RIBA London Building of the Year, were shortlisted for the Sterling Prize and won many design and industry awards.

The last decade has been the most successful in our company’s history.  David has consistently produced pioneering shows, nurtured the careers of younger theatremakers and won acclaim from critics and audiences across the globe. Through David’s vision the scope of Young Vic productions has widened to include opera, music theatre, dance and short films.

Here, in a 2009 interview about Young Vic collaborations with the English National Opera, David touches on his passion for welcoming in and working with the local community and the reflection of this in his artistic work through to the design of the Young Vic building itself:

(Credit: ENO)

Many Young Vic productions have gone on to great success in the West End, on Broadway and in other theatres round the world. Since winning an Olivier Award for the entire 2003 season, the Young Vic has won every major London and New York theatre award, several many times over.

The importance David places on the audience experience has always been evident,  “Everything we do is about the moment at which you bring the show and the audience together and that’s the only thing that matters” he says in this interview at the Young Vic in 2001:

(Credit: Victoria and Albert Museum)

Tweets and tributes have been flooding in since David announced his stepping down in 2017. A few below, and many more here.

And finally, we love this 2016 inspirational interview with David on the subject of creativity – “A human being is a whole, and if one part of them is stimulated, encouraged, then the whole person is allowed to grow and develop and achieve its potential.”

(Credit: TellyJuice) 

David Lan wins Special Award at 2018 Critics’ Circle Awards

We are thrilled that our Artistic Director David Lan has been awarded a Special Award for Services to Theatre at today’s annual Critics’ Circle Awards held at the Prince of Wales Theatre. The award is in recognition of David’s significant impact and legacy on the theatre industry, and comes, significantly, in his final week as Artistic Director of the Young Vic.

David Lan January 2018 Credit Johan Persson.jpg

David Lan, 2018. Photo by Johan Persson. 

David was appointed AD of the YV in 2000 where he established the Genesis Directors Project, the Jerwood Directors Award and the Young Vic Award.

He won an Olivier Award for the 2004 YV season. Other awards include the John Whiting award, The George Orwell award and the Zurich International Television Prize. He led the £12.5 million rebuild of the Young Vic theatre and the two year Walkabout season while the theatre was closed.

His productions at the Young Vic include Julius Caesar (2000), A Raisin in the Sun (2001, revival and tour 2005), Doctor Faustus (2002), The Daughter-in-Law (2002), The Skin of Our Teeth (2004) and As You Like It at Wyndhams (2005) as part of Walkabout. In 2010, he directed August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.

In his last week at the helm here at the YV, this Critics Circle Special Award forms just part of our farewell salute to David.

Find out more about the 2018 Critics’ Circle Awards and the full list of winners here.

An evening with Peter Brook at the Young Vic

The legendary Peter Brook, ‘our greatest living theatre director’ (The Independent), will join the Young Vic’s Artistic Director David Lan to discuss his new book Tip of the Tongue: Reflections on Language and Meaning and his remarkable career on Wednesday 13 September.

Peter Brook 1.jpg

Peter Brook by Régis d’Audeville.

In Tip of the Tongue, Peter Brook takes a charming, playful and wise look at topics such as the subtle, telling differences between French and English and the many levels on which we can appreciate the works of Shakespeare. Brook also revisits his seminal concept of the ’empty space’, considering how theatre – and the world – have changed over the course of his life.

After the talk and audience Q&A session, Peter will sign copies of his new book.

Following the book signing, there will be a special screening of The Tightrope (2012). In this revealing behind-the-scenes documentary, director Simon Brook – Peter’s son – takes us into the rehearsal room to witness Brook’s inspiring, powerful and intimate rehearsal process.

peter brook tightrope 4.gif

An evening with Peter Brook will take place at 6pm in the Maria studio at the Young Vic Theatre on Wednesday 13 September. Tickets are available to book here. Tip of the Tongue: Reflections on Language and Meaning by Peter Brook is available to buy from nickhernbooks.co.uk

David Lan to step down after leading the YV for 17 years

Today we announce that our artistic director David Lan will step down after leading the company for almost two decades.

David Lan stands arm crossed, face deep in concentration in rehearsals for Why It's All Kicking Off

David Lan in rehearsals for Why It’s All Kicking Off. Photo by Leon Puplett.

David was appointed in 2000.  Over the 17 years of his tenure, the Young Vic’s ambitious and adventurous work has reached millions of people on The Cut and around the world.

David spearheaded the 2006 redevelopment of the building you know today featuring our three spaces, the Main House, the Maria and the Clare. Designed by architects Haworth Tompkins, we were named RIBA London Building of the Year, were short-listed for the Sterling Prize and won many design and industry awards.

The last decade has been the most successful in our company’s history.  David has consistently produced pioneering shows, nurtured the careers of younger theatremakers and won acclaim from critics and audiences across the globe. Through David’s vision the scope of Young Vic productions has widened to include opera, music theatre, dance and short films.

Many Young Vic productions have gone on to great success in the West End, on Broadway and in other theatres round the world. Since winning an Olivier Award for the entire 2003 season, the Young Vic has won every major London and New York theatre award, several many times over.

David will continue as artistic director and CEO until a new artistic director is appointed towards the end of this year and will continue to take responsibility for the 2017/18 season, his last at the Young Vic, which will be announced next month.

Lucy Woollatt will continue to lead the company as executive director as she has done for the last 7 years.

David Lan said: “There is never an easy time to slip away but I wanted to leave at a time of our greatest strength and success. The Young Vic is now admired and emulated internationally as well as loved by our audience in our local communities of Lambeth and Southwark, in London and across the UK.  It’s the right moment for it to set off on a new journey and a new adventure.”

Lucy Woollatt said: “We will greatly miss David’s passion, vision and leadership. He has transformed this company into a world-class destination for artists and audiences from around the world. His tireless dedication has set us up for success in the coming years, and we look forward to the next exciting chapter of the Young Vic’s story.”

Chair of the YV Board, Patrick McKenna, said:

“David has made such a big contribution to the Young Vic success story that it’s hard to do justice to his transformative leadership.  The fact that the Young Vic is currently one of the most successful independent producing theatres in the world is significantly down to David’s ability to attract the very best talent in world theatre to work here.”

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.