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.

YV Blind Date – Alice & Max 💕 – “Very good date night play”

Blind date

Alice on Max:

What were you hoping for?

An evening of good company, and a way of meeting someone new outside my normal social circle that enjoys the theatre and the arts.

First impressions?

Max was approachable, friendly and made me feel at ease.

What did you drink in The Cut Bar and was it a good place for pre-theatre mingling?

A G & T to calm my blind date nerves. The bar had a nice buzz about it and a relaxed atmosphere for a date.

What did you talk about before the show?

His job, which is fascinating, where we grew up and that someone he went to LAMDA with was in the play (a small world).
My job, and how I (try to) balance my social life and theatre/gig going schedule.
Pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zones.

Any awkward moments?

I was 5 minutes late due to a Citymapper fail (map reading is not my strong point). Sorry!
Oh and we almost forgot to take the selfie.

Describe him in 3 words.

Intriguing, smiley, a gentleman.

What did you think of #YVDream and was it a good date night play?

I’d thoroughly recommend it as a date night play, the humour and muddy mayhem worked well.

Rate the date using as many emojis as you like.

🎭😂👍🏻📷

Would you meet again? (Romantically/as friends/as theatre companions)

As theatre companions, we had lots to talk about and he’d been to some interesting productions I haven’t seen yet.

Max on Alice:

What were you hoping for?

Love! Crazy love!

First impressions?

Very good.

What did you drink in The Cut Bar and was it a good place for pre-theatre mingling?

Tonic water, great place to meet- atmosphere, music, lively people, good vibe.

What did you talk about before the show?

Our interests/work and theatre/shows we’d seen before.

Any awkward moments?

I don’t feel awkwardness on dates, it’s a waste of time.

Describe her in 3 words.

Articulate, pretty, chilled.

What did you think of #YVDream and was it a good date night play?

Very good date night play- for Shakespeare fans, which we were.

Rate the date using as many emojis as you like. 

👁📸🎉🌘🍈🍸🎼🎭

Would you meet again? (Romantically/as friends/as theatre companions)

No.

Max and Alice met at The Cut Bar & Restaurant before watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream, running at the Young Vic until 1 April. Find our more about the show here, or let us know if you want us to carry on with #YVBlindDate and would apply yourself: marketing@youngvic.org.

YV Blind Date – Zoe & Dan 💘 – “Catching sight of my terrible red wine lips in the mirror!”

Zoe and Dan

Zoe on Dan:

What were you hoping for?

An interesting person, a good laugh, and some good theatre.

First impressions?

Positive, felt quite at ease. Neither of us ran away, so that was good.

What did you drink in The Cut Bar and was it a good place for pre-theatre mingling?

We both went for wine, white for me. The Cut is great pre-show – lively, buzzing atmosphere.

What did you talk about before the show?

Mainly acting – we’re both actors, figures!

Any awkward moments?

Selfie-taking was a bit of an ordeal, not big on selfies in any context. Also, probably finding out he has my ex on Snapchat…

Describe him/her in 3 words.

Genuinely nice guy.

What did you think of #YVDream and was it a good date night play?

Definitely the darkest, dirtiest Dream I’ve seen. Good for discussion, probably not for romance.

Did you stay on after the show to discuss?

We did indeed, over a Midsummer-themed cocktail. Got a bit distracted by Ben Whishaw at the bar at one point.

If you could change one thing about the date, what would it be?

Nothing really, had a great time overall.

Rate the date using as many emojis as you like.

🍷+🎭+🍸+📸=👌

Would you meet again? (Romantically/as friends/as theatre companions)

Sure, he made a great theatre buddy.

 

Dan on Zoe:

What were you hoping for?

Spellbinding theatre and perhaps spellbinding company

First impressions?

She seemed pretty chilled at meeting a random stranger! Also lovely eyes.

What did you drink in The Cut Bar and was it a good place for pre-theatre mingling?

I had a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon and she had a glass of white. There’s a great atmosphere to the place whilst also feeling cozy and intimate, kudos to whoever designed the warm low lighting.

What did you talk about before the show?

As we’re both actors conversation inevitably circled towards that. The difficulties of the Edinburgh fringe. Post- drama school life.

Any awkward moments?

Conversation flowed pretty easy but I did feel embarrassed after catching sight of my terrible red wine lips in the bathroom mirror.

Describe her in 3 words.

Witty, intelligent, composed.

What did you think of #YVDream and was it a good date night play?

I enjoyed the bold choices that were made but it  is a very dark version of the play that doesn’t leave you optimistic about love and romance so maybe not! On the other hand all the mud on stage leaves you feeling a bit dirty so there is that….

Did you stay on after the show to discuss?

Yes, we grabbed a couple of cocktails in the bar upstairs. I’d recommend the Peckham Pelican.

If you could change one thing about the date, what would it be?

Would have chosen white instead of red wine.

Rate the date using as many emojis as you like. 

  🍷🍹🎟🦆🐜🐙🌷

Would you meet again? (Romantically/as friends/as theatre companions)

She’s the first person I’ve met whose even a more avid theatre goer than me. Would definitely meet again for theatre trips and speculating on how much washing the stage manager has to do.

Zoe and Dan met at The Cut Bar & Restaurant before watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream, running at the Young Vic until 1 April. Find our more about the show here, or let us know if you want us to carry on with #YVBlindDate and would apply yourself: marketing@youngvic.org.

11 Questions with the cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Michael Gould

You may remember Michael Gould from our recent smash-hit “superbly acted” 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟(Metro) A View from the Bridge. Now he’s back playing Theseus/Oberon in Joe Hill Gibbins’ dark and nightmarish take on Shakespeare’s tale of betrayal and desire, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

A View from the Bridge at the Young Vic.. Photo by Jan Versweyveld..jpg

Michael Gould with Mark Strong and the rest of the A View from the Bridge company at the YV in 2014

Describe your character in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in three emojis?

🗣 ⚡️ 💩

What’s it been like working with Joe Hill-Gibbins?

Fascinating and terrifying!

Which Dream character would you pick as your Valentine ❤ and why? 

I would pick Cupid, just to get his take on the whole Valentine thing, I know it is a busy day for him but it would be great to chat.

What was it that first got you interested in the theatre?

Believe it or not, a Young Vic production of Troilus and Cressida in 1975 (or so). I didn’t understand everything but the staging and the words were thrilling!

What is your favourite play (seen, read or worked on)?

A View From the Bridge at The Young Vic.

You’re hosting a dinner party. Who are your 3 dream guests? 

I would like to invite three characters I have played and find out how the show was for them, did we miss anything, did they feel represented properly etc, did they have any opinions about our interpretation, questions they wanted to ask, did other actors get closer to their truth… – so Alfieri, Iago and, why not, Theseus/Oberon (I know that is four really or is it…?)

There’s a common conception that hearing about other people’s dreams are boring. Tell us about your least-boring dream. 😴 zzzz

Don’t be sad, it is a long time ago but my Dad died on Christmas day. That night I dreamt he hitched a ride in Santa’s sleigh, asking to be dropped off at a resting place in the sky!

If you hadn’t become an actor, what job would you be doing now?

Teaching has always appealed. I have done a bit and I always enjoy it.

Who is your ultimate hero and why?

I am not really a hero kind of person. I think we are a little bit too obsessed by individual glory. I admire great teams, so the 2016 Hockey team I would say are my heroes (currently) and, of course, the glorious ensemble company that is the A Midsummer Night’s Dream Team.

If you could have any one supernatural power which would you choose and why?

Very happy to be able to inhabit Oberon’s Invisibility at the moment, I hear some great gossip and I can influence events in a truly intriguing way.

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

On this show probably having a wee as we are going to be on stage throughout. I did the same on A View From The Bridge and I should probably list “bladder control” as a special skill on my CV.

‘Shakespeare is a bit of a stirrer’ | Parallel Macbeth cast talk Shakespeare

MACBETH-PIECE

Our cast of young people from across London enjoy starting afternoon rehearsals with an impromptu rap.

Our cast of young people currently devising a response to our main house show of Macbeth spent some time talking about their experience devising with director Caroline Byrne and how incorporating choreography is changing their perspective on Shakespeare and theatre.

What are you getting out of rehearsals and the project in general?

Calum: I have been exposed to physical theatre for the first time and how you can paint a story using your body instead of using words. This is something I haven’t had experience in before and it has really opened my eyes about how you can show something without even saying anything.

Ali: This project is actually helping me work a lot easier with other people and to work within a group of completely different ages… It doesn’t matter about age or where you come from, it’s just about what you can bring to the table.

Joshua: I have been able to use my imagination to form movement and also use movement to express myself and bring my imagination to life.

What do you think about Macbeth?

Jordi: I have done Macbeth about four or five times before and what I have done is mainly scripted performance. Now that we are doing a movement piece it’s not all about learning lines, it’s using movement to create the whole performance.

Have you experienced Shakespeare before and if so, in what way/ what do you think of him?

Django: What I think is interesting is that we are creating a movement piece based on a Shakespeare play, as Shakespeare is normally based on text and is very wordy. It’s interesting because most of the movement is based on violence, death and blood but we are creating a movement piece based on the things in between; sanity and the relationships between different people.

Kieran: I think William Shakespeare is a bit of a stirrer. He makes plays to comment on what’s going on in England at the time he does that really well and he does it in an admirable way.

Jordi: William Shakespeare is a cool dude.

What are you looking forward to the most in your show?

Neuza: I am looking forward to how we have interpreted it and how we can break the Shakespeare stereotype by using movement and bring new life to Macbeth.

Leticia: I am looking forward to the performance because we see how many people think Shakespeare is boring because of the text.

What do you think of the Young Vic?

Ali: I think they are really enthusiastic about young people and try to get fresh new ideas. It’s a really good and comfortable place to be in. Every time I come here I am really welcomed and people are really nice to me. It’s a really lovely place.

Kieran: Very nice place, five out of five stars

Our Parallel Macbeth will be shared with an invited audience in January 2015. To find out more about our Parallel Macbeth production and the young people involved take a look at our blog post.

11 Questions with the cast of Measure for Measure – Hammed Animashaun

Young Vic production of MEASURE FOR MEASURE by William Shakespeare directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins

Hammed Animashaun (left) in Measure for Measure at the Young Vic. Photo by Keith Pattison.

Hammed Animashaun is currently playing Provost in Measure for Measure at the Young Vic. Here are his answers to our 11 Questions…

Can you describe your character in Measure for Measure in three words?
Tries his best.

What are you usually doing 10 minutes before the show begins?
Dancing! Or playing games on my phone.

What is your favourite play (seen, read or worked on)?
One Man, Two Guvnors starring Tom Edden who is in the show. HA!

What is your favourite word?
Shambles!

What are you most passionate about?
Power Rangers.

If you could be in a room full of any one thing, what would it be?
Power Ranger memorabilia!

Favourite holiday you’ve ever been on?
Berlin!

Favourite city and why?
Chicago because it feels like home.

What is your favourite song?
Sir Duke by Stevie Wonder

If you could have been born in any era, which would it be and why?
1920s New York because of the fashion.

If you could have any one supernatural power which would you choose and why?
Teleportation. I’d never have to pay for a plane ticket or train tickets or bus pass ever again!

Measure for Measure runs at the YV until 14 Nov. Book tickets and find out more on our website.

Two Boroughs Shakespeare workshop

TP m4m workshop

This week Two Boroughs participants have been given the chance to explore different approaches to putting on Shakespeare, from text to clown to design. The workshops have been led by five different practitioners including Jerwood Assistant Director, Jasmine Woodcock-Stewart (Assistant Director for our current main house show, Measure for Measure) and our associate director and Genesis Fellow, Gbolahan Obisesan.

Our participants had the chance to rehearse the opening scene from our Measure for Measure production on the stage, as well as get to grips with the stage management, sound, lighting and video elements to the show.

Participants have been drawn from across our members and include people who have been in past community shows including Flashes, The Events, The Trial, Turning a Little Further and The Brolly Project, as well as people who have never taken part in a workshops at the Young Vic before.

Find out more about Taking Part and follow @YVTakingPart for all the latest Schools, Young People and Two Boroughs activities, including our Cut Cart story collecting day.