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.


A statement on behalf of Green Door Pictures, Manchester International Festival (MIF) and the Young Vic

Issued on behalf of Green Door Pictures, Manchester International Festival (MIF) and the Young Vic:

We are deeply saddened to read Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley’s article published today online. Tree is a new work, based on a concept by Idris Elba with an original script by Kwame Kwei-Armah. 

It is a fact that Green Door Pictures, MIF and the Young Vic are passionate about supporting and nurturing emerging talent within the creative industry from the widest variety of backgrounds and we are committed to ensuring fair representation on stage and behind the scenes. Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley acknowledge in their article that it is common practice to workshop theatrical projects during their development, as with this project. Whilst we appreciate that they were involved in exploring ideas for a project based on Idris’ original concept, the truth of the matter is that MIF and Green Door did not feel their proposed direction was artistically viable. It was decided by these producers that the show needed to go in a very different direction with a new writer attached, using Idris Elba’s original concept as the starting point. Several offers were made to Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley to discuss the future of the show, and how the producers could continue working with them, which they declined. 

John McGrath, Artistic Director and CEO of MIF said: “Kwame came on board as director and writer of Tree at the invitation of Idris and MIF. His involvement has been characterised by the integrity and creativity for which he is widely known. His script for Tree is entirely his creation and is, in my opinion, a resonant and exciting response to the themes of Idris’s Mi Mandela album.”

Idris Elba created Green Door to champion diversity of thought and offer opportunities to gifted filmmakers from across all genres, race and gender. His two TV projects boast a 50-75% split in the writers’ room in favour of female writers, as well as an extremely diverse group ranging from British Ghanaian to West Indian and Asian. Kwame Kwei-Armah’s career in theatre, up to and including the season he has just announced for 2020 at the YV is testament to his passion and drive to support and nurture a diverse range of talent: the Young Vic Director’s Program is dedicated to nurturing and supporting emerging talent – every day a different artist from the program joined the Tree rehearsal room. His upcoming programmed work at the Young Vic champions some excellent female writers and directors. 

It is not accepted that, by moving the project in a different direction and commissioning Kwame Kwei-Armah to write a brand new script based on Idris Elba’s original concept, there has been a breach of any legal obligations owed to Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley’s original workshop contract. Despite attempts by the producers to resolve the issue with them, they decided to instruct solicitors. Efforts then continued through the parties’ lawyers to reach a compromise, which included the offer of a credit and an additional payment to acknowledge their initial involvement in the project. These proposals were made in spite of that fact that the claims by Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley have no legal basis, and were made only in the spirit of reaching a compromise. It is simply not the case that the attempts to resolve the concerns which Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley have raised were an attempt to ‘buy them off’ and it is therefore disappointing that they have characterised the position in this way.

As stated in the foreword of the Tree programme, the producers are grateful to Tori Allen-Martin and Sarah Henley for the work they did on the initial workshops for the show, alongside all the other actors, creatives and producers who have contributed to the show along its journey. 

Tree | In the rehearsal room

Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah’s electrifying new blend of drama, music and dance follows one man’s journey into the heart and soul of contemporary South Africa – with the audience at the centre of the action.

Take a look inside the rehearsal room with these photos by Marc Brenner.

Tree premieres at Manchester International Festival later this month before coming to the Young Vic from 29 July 2019. Find out more and book now.

Cast includes Christian Bradley, Lucy Briggs-Owen, Sinéad Cusack, Kurt Egyiawan, Alfred Enoch, Anna-Kay Alicia Gayle, Joan Iyiola, Anthony Matsena, Daniella May, Patrice Naiambana, Mbulelo Ndabeni, Stefan Sinclair and Andile Sotiya.

Sinéad Cusack and Alfred Enoch
Director Kwame Kwei-Armah and Choreographer Gregory Maqoma
Mbulelo Ndabeni and Anthony Matsena
Kurt Egyiawan and Lucy Briggs-Owen
Daniella May and Sinéad Cusack
Patrice Naiambana
Christian Bradley and choreographer Gregory Maqoma
Alfred Enoch
Anthony Matsena, Anna-Kay Alicia Gayle and Christian Bradley
Joan Iyiola

Tree premieres at Manchester International Festival later this month before coming to the Young Vic from 29 July 2019. Find out more and book now.

Photos by Marc Brenner.

Bronx Gothic | Production Photos

Part theatre, part dance and part visual art installation, Okwui Okpokwasili’s Bronx Gothic delves into her memories of growing up in the Bronx, before emerging into a breathtaking exploration of girlhood. Directed by Peter Born.

This UK premiere is now running at the Young Vic until 29 June.
Book tickets now from just £10.

Photography credit and copyright: Helen Murray

Bronx Gothic is now running at the Young Vic until 29 June. Book tickets from £10.

Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train | Creating Costume

Kinnetia Isidore is the costume designer behind our production of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train directed by Kate Hewitt. We asked her to give us an insight into the creative design process from script to stage.

Mood Boards

My costume design journey always begins with mood boards. Once I have read the script I like to begin by responding visually, this helps to spark ideas and begins to inform my design choices. Costume design, for me, is really about the psychology of the characters in a play, I really like to get into their heads and interrogate the choices they make in their clothing. I spend a lot of time looking at the setting of the play and trying to imagine what the characters would see on a daily basis. There is a very strong colour theme that came through in all of my mood boards for Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train. I took this from aerial shots of Rikers Island, in New York. This is the main setting of the play and all of our characters experience the brutality and starkness of the prison island.

The Inmates

Jesus Hopped The A Train at the Young Vic

In a way, the costume design for this show was very limited due to 4/5 of the cast members wearing uniforms. We have a lawyer, two inmates and two correctional officers. As the set design was very minimalist Kate Hewitt and I felt that the costumes should be hyper-real. This meant sourcing genuine US prisoner uniforms to help bring our UK audience into the world of a New York prison. My costume supervisor, Rosey Morling, did an amazing job of managing to get hold of several sets of inmate and correctional officer uniforms, even sourcing genuine tool belts and accessories for the officers.

To achieve the filmic detail in the costumes I spent a lot of time researching how inmate uniforms are cared for and laundered. I discovered it is the inmates who are able to gain the ‘privilege’ of doing laundry duty. You do not get the same uniform back when it goes into the wash and are penalised for any attempt to mark or label the garments. Items are built to last but washed at soaring temperatures, giving them their saggy, worn out look. Our fabulous breakdown artist, Anna Smith, carried out the painstaking task of very gently wearing all of the uniforms down to look aged.

Reference Image

Reference image for Rikers inmates.

‘Jonathan holding pruning shears, GreenHouse Program’. All photographs made at the Rikers Island jail complex, New York, 2014. Copyright the artist and courtesy Fredericks & Freiser Gallery, New York. Lucas Foglia, Rikers Garden. Prison Nation, Aperture 230, Aperture Spring 2018, Publication No.: 0003-6420.

Angel Cruz, played by Ukweli Roach

Jesus Hopped The A Train at the Young Vic

Angel Cruz is our 30 year old bike messenger who has been incarcerated for shooting a cult leader reverend in the ass, on a mission to save his friend from a cult. Angel begins his journey in Manhattan Correctional Center, ‘The Tombs’ in New York. We meet him on his first night of incarceration, when he is feeling vulnerable, as a new inmate.

My reference images for his costume came from a leaked Instagram video, recorded in 2016 by some inmates incarcerated in ‘The Tombs’. Rather than the classic orange jumpsuits that we are so used to seeing, inmates there wear a variety of beige two pieces with the option of a t-shirt and a raglan sleeve jumper. Sadly the inmates often wear jumpers for protection from attacks while they sleep, rather than for warmth. Angel starts off in a jumper and removes it later on when he meets Mary Jane for the second time and is feeling more relaxed. He also starts wearing his trousers a little lower and begins to roll up the hems, taking on a bit of influence from prison style.

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Halfway through Act I Angel is moved to the notorious Rikers Island prison complex in New York. He exits the stage and does a quick change into his new orange inmate uniform. The orange uniforms have far more notoriety than any other colour and Kate and I had long discussions about the subconscious affect this would have on a UK audience. We are continually bombarded with US prison documentaries and TV shows, such as Orange is the New Black and we wanted to make sure we were making the right decision for the play. In the end, we decided on orange because we felt that Angel re-appearing in orange held such power over the emotion of the audience in that moment.

Angel goes on a slow journey of subconscious costuming as he gains confidence in Rikers and begins speaking back to the dominating serial killer, Lucius Jenkins. When he first enters Rikers it is after he has been beaten and raped in ‘The Tombs’, Valdez, the correctional officer, refers to him as ‘droopy dog’. He wears his trousers high on his waist and abandons the rolled up trouser cuffs he adopted in ‘The Tombs’. As we move through Act II we see him experimenting with rolling up his sleeves to show more muscle, wearing his trousers lower and tucking them into his socks (a style worn by adolescents in Rikers).

Reference image for Angel Cruz trouser styling

As an inmate you have a huge amount of your identity taken away from you when you are confined to wearing a uniform. Many inmates find ways to find identity in their clothing by adopting accessories. Angel wears a small diamond in his ear and sports Mary of Guadalupe tattoo on his left arm that we imagine he got for ‘protection’. His St. Anthony chain is revealed in the final moments of the play during Angel’s speech, “Saint Anthony, Saint Anthony, please come around, somethin’ is lost…”. This is a small detail that ties him to his public defender, Mary Jane, as she wears a small St. Christopher chain around her neck.

Reference image for Angel Cruz

To achieve the right look for Angel’s hair and facial hair I looked at a collection of works by Bruce Davidson. Davidson is a photographer who captured communities in East Harlem, inhabited by a large community of Puerto Ricans. Melissa Van Tongeran carefully followed a selection of reference images to create the final looks for Angel, Valdez, D’Amico and Lucius. Reference image for Angel Cruz’s hair


Bruce Davidson, East Harlem Revisited – Jefferson Pool, East Harlem, New York, 1998

Lucius Jenkins played by Oberon K. A. Adjepong

Jesus Hopped The A Train at the Young Vic
Lucius Jenkins is the charismatic born again serial killer who charms us through the play and shocks us with his attitude towards the brutality of his crimes. Lucius is an old hand in the prison game and has been incarcerated for a long time. He bends the rules a bit and manages to charm Officer D’Amico into sneaking him in all sorts of contraband.

Lucius wears an orange jumpsuit throughout the play. In the documentaries I watched, to research Rikers Island, it was noted that the older inmates tended to choose to wear jumpsuits and the younger inmates tended to choose two piece uniforms. New inmates feel safer in the two piece uniforms and find dressing and undressing an easier task, hence why our new inmate, Angel, wears a two piece. Lucius bends the rules a little by wearing a vest instead of the standard issue prison t-shirt. When we first meet him he is wearing a flashy pair of trainers which he loses when the strict rule-abiding Valdez takes over from the softer D’Amico. He wears his jumpsuit around his waist in his first few scenes and proudly sports not one, but two rosaries around his neck. Later on in the play, when he begins to get worn down in the run up to his execution, Lucius begins wearing his jumpsuit fully closed, as if he is shrinking away and losing his power.

The Correctional Officers

In Rikers Island, neither correctional officer uniforms nor inmate uniforms have changed much since the 1980s. Much of my research came from the writing and photographs of Lorenzo Steele Jr. and Jamel Shabazz, both correctional officers who worked in Rikers from the 1980s – 1990s. I found it fascinating to compare these photographs to the live imagery I found watching documentaries about Rikers, noting just how similar and static the uniforms were over such a long period of time.

My supervisor and I managed to source the genuine standard issue officers shirts and trousers for Valdez and D’Amico. Buying genuine officer badges was not an option so we had to be clever and re-create them. We had the arm patches embroidered using a graphic image of the ‘Correction Department City of New York’ logo. To create the unit ID on the collars and the officer ID badges Tony A Wood managed to mock up a shape for them, using templates, 3D printed them and applied a finish using silver leaf to make them look like real metal. The collar unit ID badges read ‘GRVC’ which stands for the ‘George R. Vierno Center’. This centre on Rikers Island is notorious for violent crime and hosts a 23 hour lockdown unit.

To find out which accessories an officer carried, I watched a lot of footage of officers in action, particularly a clip from ABC News, ‘Correctional Officer, A Day in the Life’, which follows Officer Graham going about his daily routine in a solitary confinement unit on Rikers Island. Most shockingly correctional officers do not carry weapons. We managed to source the genuine holders for handcuffs, torches, inspection gloves and keys.

Valdez played by Joplin Sibtain

Jesus Hopped The A Train at the Young Vic
Valdez is a rule following, law abiding citizen who believes criminals should be punished harshly and held responsible for his crimes. Throughout the play he taunts the prisoners and frequently refers to them as various animals. Although every character in the play is complex, no body holding a morality that is completely black and white, Valdez is often depicted as the ‘bad cop’ officer. To play on this idea, Valdez’s uniform is fully black. His shoes are heavy, suggesting power and dominance, the inmates can hear him coming before he enters. He has the larger of the accessory belts and wears it slung low, almost like a cowboy holster. His officer number, 2215, is taken from a bible verse, which I felt related to his character and some of the text he uses in the play. I felt it also played on the theme of religion in the play. It is a subtle detail that the audience won’t pick up on, but it was something for myself and the actors to think about when creating their characters.

Revelations 22:15, The Holy Bible

“Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.”

Charlie D’Amico played by Matthew Douglas

D’Amico is a husband and a father, a friendly character who almost marvels at Lucius’ notoriety and celebrity. He sneaks in contraband and enlists his wife to help. D’Amico is often depicted as the ‘good cop’, even though his actions in the play are rather dubious. To play on this idea D’Amico wears a pale blue short sleeved shirt. Blue is said to have a calming effect on the mind and is most often used for nursing uniforms and scrubs in hospitals. Correctional officers face having dreadful things thrown at them on a daily basis: food, urine, faeces…the list is horrifying. D’Amico seems to have managed to charm one of the most dangerous criminals in the 23hour lock-down unit, so I imagine he wouldn’t be worried about covering up his arms for fear of things being hurled at him while on duty. His officer number, 1618, is also taken from a bible verse which I felt related to his character and some of the text he uses in the play.

Romans 16:18, The Holy Bible

“For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naïve people.”

Reference image for Charlie D’Amico

Mary Jane Hanrahan played by Dervla Kirwan

Mary Jane Hanrahan is a hard working public defender who earns a small salary but has clawed her way through a male dominated industry to win several cases. She is practical but spunky and I wanted to show this in her costume. Although Mary Jane isn’t confined to wearing a uniform, the restrictions on visitors to prison complexes make her clothing take on a uniform like quality. She and Charlie D’Amico are the only two characters who give us a sense of the period the play is set in, through their costumes. It was important to me that they felt timeless, this story is one that has rung true in the real world for many years and I didn’t want to limit its possibilities with a very modern or a very period costume.

During my research for Mary Jane, I realised that a female public defender would not only be restricted by the visitation regulations on clothing that prisons impose, they often face jibes from male prisoners just because of their gender. In my original design I put her in a boxy, practical two piece suit with a practical pair of loafers. It is neither revealing nor does it draw too much attention to her. While sourcing the costumes my supervisor and I stumbled across the perfect suit for Mary Jane, and it was green! It felt perfect as a subconscious herald to her Irish heritage, which she mentions several times in the play. She wears simple, plain accessories and a St. Christopher chain around her neck. This is to subconsciously draw a connection between her and Angel, as he wears a St. Anthony medallion around his neck.

Visitor information from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.



Reference image for Mary Jane: Public Defender Colleen Polak rides an elevator to meet with a client in detention at the St. Louis County Jail in St. Louis, Mo. on Thursday, January 23, 2014. Public defenders take a substantial pay cut in comparison with lawyers who work for private firms. Luke Sharrett, photojournalist for The New York Times.

Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train by Stephen Adly Guirgis runs at the Young Vic until 6 April.

Director Kate Hewitt
Set Designer Magda Willi
Costume Designer Kinnetia Isidore
Lighting Designer Guy Hoare
Sound Designer Peter Rice
Movement Director Imogen Knight
UK Casting Director Julia Horan CDG
US Casting Director Jim Carnahan CSA

With Oberon K. A. Adjepong, Matthew Douglas, Dervla Kirwan, Ukweli Roach and Joplin Sibtain

11 Olivier Award Nominations for the Young Vic

We’re thrilled to be celebrating a massive 11 nominations for Young Vic productions in the 2019 Olivier Awards 🎉

Congratulations to all of the nominees – and a huge shout out to everyone involved in bringing all of our productions to the Young Vic stages. You’re all winners to us!

The Inheritance
8 Olivier Award Nominations

Best New Play
Matthew Lopez

Best Director
Stephen Daldry

Best Actor
Kyle Soller

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Vanessa Redgrave

Best Set Design
Bob Crowley

Best Sound Design
Paul Arditti & Christopher Reid

Best Lighting Design
Jon Clark

Outstanding Achievement in Music
Composer: Paul Englishby

Fun Home
3 Olivier Award Nominations

Best New Musical

Best Actor in a Musical – Zubin Varla

Outstanding Achievement in Music
Composer: Jeanine Tesori
Lyricist/Bookwriter: Lisa Kron

The Olivier Award winners are announced Sunday 7 April at the Royal Albert Hall, hosted by Jason Manford.

11 Questions with The Convert’s Jude Akuwudike

Jude Akuwudike in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Jude Akuwudike in The Convert. Photo by Marc Brenner.

Jude Akuwudike plays Uncle in The Convert which is currently running at the Young Vic until 26 Jan. We’ve posed him 11 Questions to find out more about him and his character:

1. What are you usually doing 10 minutes before the show begins?  

I am usually playing music and going over some of my Shona.

2. What was it that first got you interested in theatre?

I first got interested in theatre by watching it.

3. Can you describe your character in The Convert in three words?

He feels disinherited.

4. What can the audience expect from this production that’s different to anything they may have seen before?

They should come in with open hearts, minds and spirits.

5. What language do you wish could speak? Or Do you speak any languages?

I would like to learn to speak many languages from my home country Nigeria. I would also like to speak at least three languages from North, East and Southern Africa.

6. What’s your favourite midnight snack?

I rarely eat late but I love avocado.

7. Who do you think must see this show before it ends its run?

Everyone should see it.

8. What play or film have you seen recently that has had a lasting emotional effect on you and why?

I saw Translations at the National Theatre. 

9. What’s the most memorable moment from working at the Young Vic?

The most memorable moment was realising my Shona was actually okay.

10. Which country would you like to visit and why?

I would like to visit China or India because I think both are great civilizations. 

11. If you could be an animal for one day, which animal would you be?

I would be a fish to experience the world from underwater.

The Convert is now playing at the Young Vic until January 26. Tickets are now sold out but returns may be available on the day of each performance. Speak to our Box Office for more information on 020 7922 2922.

First Look: The Convert Production Photos

Take a look at the production photos for Danai Gurira’s The Convert, directed by Ola Ince. Now running at the Young Vic until 26 January 2019. 

It’s 1896 in what is modern day Zimbabwe and Jekesai, a young woman fleeing forced marriage, finds herself working for devout Catholic priest, Chilford. Chilford relishes the opportunity to mould his new convert, but Jekesai’s salvation has a price.

Cast includes Jude Akuwudike, Paapa Essiedu, Ivanno Jeremiah, Luyanda Unati Lewis-Nyawo, Rudolphe Mdlongwa, Pamela Nomvete and Letitia Wright.

Set and Costume Designer Naomi Dawson and Lighting Designer Bruno Poet.

Book tickets from £10 :

Rudolphe Mdlongwa and Pamela Nomvete in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Ivanno Jeremiah in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Ivanno Jeremiah in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Letitia Wright in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Letitia Wright in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Luyanda Unati Lewis-Nyawo in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Luyanda Unati Lewis-Nyawo and Letitia Wright in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Paapa Essiedu and Letitia Wright in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Full Company in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Ivanno Jeremiah in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Jude Akuwudike in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Letitia Wright in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner
Paapa Essiedu and Letitia Wright in The Convert. Photography by Marc Brenner

The Convert runs at the Young Vic until 26 January. Limited tickets from £10. Find out more and book tickets now on our website.

Photography by Marc Brenner

Love Theatre Day 2018 | Costume Instagram Takeover

For #LoveTheatre Day we handed over the reigns of our Instagram account to our fabulous Costume department so that we could peek into their mad world of costume changes, wigs, mid-show fixes and other behind the scenes action on our production of Twelfth Night.

Check out some of their antics below –

Meet the Community Chorus | Twelfth Night

Community Chorus members dancing. Photography by Johan Persson

Our musical adaptation of Twelfth Night cast includes a 60-strong Community Chorus of  non-professional performers from across our local boroughs of Southwark and Lambeth.

Kaleya Baxe, who is currently on placement with our Taking Part team has been meeting with some of the Community Chorus in order to find out more about this fascinating, talented and diverse group of performers.

Our work with young people and our local communities is a major part of our artistic life. At a deep level, it complements and enhances each of the shows we produce.

Our Taking Part team engage with over 15,000 people a year. We offer young people and our neighbours free tickets to all our shows. We also run a wide range of projects, from skills based workshops to a chance to perform on one of our stages.

Take a look at our website to find out more about Taking Part and how you can get involved.

Catherine Coker


One day after I’d retired I was going round the back of the Young Vic and I saw all these children so I went and stood in the doorway to see what they were doing- I have an awfully curious mind unfortunately. Suddenly, a man came out and counted me in with them! So I followed them into a room with a piano and he asked us to sing but unfortunately I couldn’t remember all the words. So I thought, Ella Fitzgerald didn’t use words, here we go: da ba da dip da ba baa da ba! I went home laughing the whole way. Then the next morning they called and said, you’re going to join us, aren’t you? And I thought, what have I done?! But I found myself in a most beautiful production and have been in many ever since.

Vanessa Doidge


I got involved in the Young Vic originally through work ’cause I worked in drug, alcohol and mental health. I signed up through my work so that I could support clients to come and take part in workshops and watch some of the plays cause a lot of people had never been to the theatre before. It’s been a real confidence boost particularly this year where I lost quite a bit of confidence in my previous job so doing Twelfth Night has kind of boosted me up a little bit cause I felt like I couldn’t really do anything and I was a bit useless, I’m just gonna sit at home and cry.  But now I got involved with this and I thought actually, I’m not useless and I can do things and it’s just kind of pushed me forward. I also got a job interview and I got the job because I felt more confident so, yeah I think this experience at this time has been really good.

Sarah Trustman


I first got involved with the Young Vic when the Taking Part team did a performance with a Year 9 class in one of the spaces at the Young Vic performed with a proper set and costume and script writers. I thought it was an amazing thing for the students because there’s not much availability for young people to have access to theatre, and also a lot of them were black or from mixed ethnic backgrounds which they felt like at the time, this is 2012, wasn’t as represented as it is now. Nowadays pretty much everything that my students see has been through the YV free ticket scheme which is so good because with a class of 20 when a West End ticket costs £45, it’s never gonna happen. And these students come from quite poor backgrounds, our free school meal percentage is something like 64%, it’s really high so it just means they have access to really high quality performance where they feel like they’re welcome and they’re represented.

Millie Lynch Bailey


This experience has been really different because I’ve done two other chorusey things and both of those were only young women, so it was me and other girls my age, whereas this is the first time it’s been a totally diverse chorus in every sense; in age, in gender, in race. There are people who are teachers and people who are students and people who work in offices- like there’s one girl studying law so it’s just a completely different bunch. In this I get to make friends with people who I almost certainly would not have met otherwise.

Neil Penlington


I danced with Matthew Bourne from 1995 to 2006, so the original cast Swan Lake and then every show in between, Cinderella, Carmen, Highland Fling, Spitfire to name a few. Having previously been in the theatre and then coming back in a very different guise, there’s kind of this secret shroud here the minute you walk in, you just feel protected. I think what the Young Vic does here, you never feel like you’re community chorus, you always feel equal from the beginning really. And the principle cast, they’re a phenomenal bunch of people and they just all make us feel as one. I think that comes across in the show. But yeah, there’s a real sense of community and that’s what the Young Vic’s all about really.

Eddy Queens

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How I got involved in the Young Vic was doing a show called See Me Now about prostitution and sex workers. Because I’m a recovering addict and I used to prostitute myself, my friend told me about the show so I got involved and got the part. But the thing was that during rehearsals, I don’t want to get emotional but I was actually informed that my mother had passed and the team were fantastic and really held me you know? Then we were in rehearsals when the show went to Edinburgh and I got the call saying my dad had passed and I just felt like, every time I was at the YV I got the news but I was so grateful because had I not been at the YV I don’t know what I would have done you know, I mean, I’ve been clean now 8 years but because I had a commitment to the Young Vic it really kept me going.

Chris McGoldrick

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I’m a musician originally from Glasgow but been in London for 35 years now. Working with the Young Vic, there isn’t a highlight- there’s lots of highlights. For me when I feel really good is doing a great show like this is good fun you know and you’re in a better mood when you leave the building than when you came in, so that’s good. But for me it’s just kinda a selfish thing and that’s to get a free education in theatre making.

Pixie Maddison

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I’ve always sort of drifted through life, my big joke was that my ambition was to have an ambition. I was homeless for a while and I’d just got myself sorted out and a friend of mine said, oh there’s a play about homelessness at the Young Vic do you wanna get involved? Yeah why not? So I came along and I ended up doing a bit where I told a story about when I was in care and I had 9 backing singers and I gradually climbed up this white sweeping staircase and sang ‘You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman’. And suddenly, I was one line ahead and I had the audience, I could make them cry, I could make them laugh, I just felt so empowered. And I thought, I’m gonna do this.

Twelfth Night runs at the Young Vic until 17 November. Tickets are now sold out but you can contact our Welcome Team on the day for returns and we operate a returns queue before each performance. Call our Welcome Team on 020 7922 2922.