Josette Bushell-Bingo in Nina at the Young Vic. Photo by Simon Annand.
1. What’s in a name? Nina Simone was born in 1933 as the slightly-less-catchy Eunice Waymon. She decided to change it after taking a job as a pianist at a bar in Atlantic City and being told she was going to have to sing too. Terrified her Methodist preacher mother would find out she was singing the “devil’s music”, she laid low under this new name which would soon become iconic. “Nina” was a term of endearment used by an ex-boyfriend whilst “Simone” came from the French actress Simone Signoret.
2. “This Bach, I liked him!” Young Nina began playing the piano as a 3 year old in church, crossing the railroad tracks to the white part of town to study classical piano for free lessons which she adored. Her aim was to be the first black classical pianist in America. It was on this journey that she encountered racism as a young girl, paving the way for her later career in activism: first when her parents were moved to the back of the church during her first piano recital to make way for a white family (Nina refused to play unless they were brought back to the front); then again when she was rejected from the Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music based on her race (she carried on trying, and did get into the Julliard School of Music).
3. Come and knock on my door… Malcolm X and Nina Simone lived next door to one another in Mount Vernon, New York during the late 1960s. The pair were united in their approach to the Civil Rights Movement, believing that a militant stance would be more effective at taking on the establishment than the peaceful protest offered up by Martin Luther King Jr. This was in great contrast to Nina’s early life where she had been taught that racism was the “great unspoken” in her childhood home.
4. “A love affair with fire” – Lisa Simone on her mother. Nina’s second husband Andrew Stroud gave up his day job to become her manager and producer full-time not long after they met and fell in love. They were introduced in March 1961 while she was playing at a midtown supper club and he was a formidable New York City police officer. Their marriage turned tempestuous, with Stroud becoming abusive before she eventually left him.
5. The messages in Nina’s songs are as relevant today as ever. Nina’s passionate, revolutionary protest anthems such as Mississippi Goddam – a direct response to the murder of Medgar Evers and the Alabama church bombings which killed four children in 1963 – were a call to action and a truly inspiring point of change in the black power movement. In recent years, in the US, the UK and the world over, there have been political stirrings reminiscent of those seen in the 60s and 70s. Nina and her songs are perhaps even more necessary now than ever before.
Nina: A Story about me and Nina Simone runs until 29 July in the Maria studio at the Young Vic. Tickets are sold out but we’ll be operating a returns queue at the box office in advance of each performance.
🎧🎶Listen to our Nina Simone playlist on Spotify to get you in the mood… 🎧🎶
On Wednesday we announced that The Chemical Brothers’ Tom Rowlands will be making his theatre debut at the Young Vic to compose original music for Life of Galileo.
We’ve heard some sneak peeks of the music and you’re in for a serious treat with this one.
We wanted to celebrate this announcement by sharing our all-time favourite music from The Chemical Brothers. Now crank up the volume and we’ll see you at the Young Vic from 6 May! 👌
2. Hey Boy Hey Girl
3. Block Rockin’ Beats
4. Wide Open ft Beck
6. Salmon Dance
Life of Galileo runs 6 May – 1 July at the Young Vic directed by BAFTA Award-winning director Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice). Brendan Cowell plays Galileo following his acclaimed performance in Yerma.
The reviews are coming in thick and fast for Mark Lockyer’s gripping true story of an actor living life on the edge, from his on-stage meltdown as Mercutio at the RSC to his fiery relationships and ultimate recovery.
Check out the reviews below and read what our audiences have been saying so far on Storify.
Mark Lockyer in Living With the Lights On. Photography by Simon Annand.
“Brutally funny account of living with mental illness”
The Guardian | Read the full review
“Lockyer has one hell of a story, and he tells it rivetingly well”
The Times | Read the full review
“A vivid account of an almighty unravelling”
Evening Standard | Read the full review
“Darkly comic solo show…riveting”
Time Out | Read the full review
“Lockyer is an engaging and energetic raconteur”
Whatsonstage | Read the full review
“See a great classical actor spill his guts out about life off stage”
The Upcoming | Read the full review
Living With the Lights On is at the Young Vic for a strictly limited run until 23 Dec, so snap up your tickets now.
The Living With the Lights On Safe Space performance, designed especially for people with experience of mental health problems, takes place on 17 Dec at 2.45pm. Find out more about it and book here.
Catch a glimpse of Mark busking on The Cut outside the theatre in our brand new trailer:
Matthew Xia’s revival of Joe Penhall’s “timeless” production of Blue/Orange has been critically acclaimed and received brilliantly by audiences. We spoke to Matthew and Joe about the production and the script to get an insight into how they both approached the text, the themes it explores and what set the tone of Blue/Orange, including some iconic 90s tracks that fill the Young Vic every night.
In our podcast, Off Book, we went in depth with Matthew Xia on his approach to reviving Blue/Orange and talked about his upbringing in London, background as a DJ as well as the biggest influences on his artistic career.
Blue/Orange features some iconic 90s tracks featuring Oasis, Blur, Destiny’s Child and many more. Enjoy some of the songs that set the scene with our Blue/Orange playlist.
Blue/Orange writer Joe Penhall discusses how he came to write his Olivier-award winning, ‘state of the nation’ classic and looks back on 90s Britain, when the script was written.
Blue/Orange runs at the Young Vic until 2 Jul. Book your tickets online.
Each year Young Vic Taking Part produces a schools production in response to a theme or topic taken from a show. This May saw Stay Another Song take place in the Maria theatre with director, Elayce Ismail guiding teenagers from St Martin-in-the-Fields High School for Girls and the London Nautical School in a production inspired by If You Kiss Me Kiss Me.
The cast of Stay Another Song. Photo by Helen Murray.
The cast of 31 used both music and dance to tell stories which came from both the cast and their parents’ answers to the question, ‘What does music mean to you?’.
The cast developed material for the show over four months, exploring their favourite musical memories; how music is a soundtrack to their daily lives; ways in which music informs their identities; and how they relate to their parents through music.
Photos by Helen Murray
Playing with text, song and dance, the cast created the production through a series of improvisations and devising exercises. The wide variety of songs featured in Stay Another Song reflects the range of their musical tastes and experiences.
Find out more about Taking Part’s work with schools and colleges or follow them on Twitter to keep up with all their latest projects and productions.
With Jane Horrocks on stage on our main house singing her own gritty and soulful versions of the new wave music she grew up with, we’re throwing it back with these blast from the past snaps of our If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me cast and creative team from way back when.
But can you tell your Rat Scabies from your Kipper? Answers are at the bottom of this post!
From top, left to right: Bunny Christie, Daniel Hay Gordon, Rat Scabies (Photo by Gavin Watson), Michael Walters, Jane Horrocks, Kipper, Fabienne Debarre, Joe Hancock, Conor Doyle, Aletta Collins, Lorena Randi and Andreas Fuchs.
If You Kiss Me, Kiss Me plays at the Young Vic until 16 April. To book or find out more, click here.
We’re releasing a new song each week leading up to the UK premiere of hit Broadway musical The Scottsboro Boys, coming to the Young Vic from 18 October. Listen to ‘Hey, Hey, Hey!’ now and get your tickets to this remarkable show at youngvic.org. Check back next week for a new song!
Are you going to The Scottsboro Boys? Tell your friends on Facebook.