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.”

RESPONSE:

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.”

RESPONSE:

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”

RESPONSE:

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.”

RESPONSE:

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.”

RESPONSE:

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.”

RESPONSE:

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.”

RESPONSE:

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”

RESPONSE:

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”

RESPONSE:

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.

-ENDS-

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.

Call Out For Artists | Forest: A response to Tree created by Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah

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Young Vic Taking Part are creating FOREST, a new show inspired by Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah’s Tree and we’re looking for people from Lambeth and Southwark to be part of it.

This is the first time we have joined together our three strands of work; Learning, Participation and Neighbourhood Theatre, to create a theatre experience which feels like it is for everyone, using live music and other media to tell stories from the people in our neighbourhood.

Project dates:

Rehearsals:  Occasional rehearsals in June/ July (Exact dates TBC). Then, 29 July –  17 August 2019.

Tech and shows: 19 – 24 August 2019

About Tree:

Tree takes you on a thrilling journey in search of the soul and spirit of contemporary South Africa.  Created by Idris Elba, whose album Mi Mandela provides the inspiration for the soundtrack, and Kwame Kwei-Armah, this major world-premiere production performed in the round, is also directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah.

Music, dance and film combine with an exciting cast to explore the past, present and future of this country at a crossroads – all through the eyes of one young man on a journey of healing. 

We would like to invite artists and companies to submit expressions of interest and a short description of how you think the community of Lambeth and Southwark can respond to Tree. We are looking to form a team of artists from multiple disciplines, so we would like to hear from collectives, companies, film makers, musicians, directors, writers, and designers.

Please tell us what you’d like to do in any of the following ways:

    • A letter (either on paper or emailed)
    • A video (no longer than 5 minutes) .mov or .mp4 good for us
    • A voice recording (no longer than 5 minutes) .wav or .mp3 good for us
    • A PowerPoint presentation (of no more than 10 slides)

Please email imogenbrodie@youngvic.org with your expression of interest by Friday 23 November at 1pm.  We will be meeting people to discuss ideas on 4 and 5 December.

Young Vic 2019 Season Announcement

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We’re thrilled to announce a second season of shows from our artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah. From exciting world premieres to gripping adaptations of classics we have got it all coming up in 2019.

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Death of A Salesman 

By Arthur Miller | Directed by Marianne Elliott

Main House | 1 May – 29 June 

“I don’t say he’s a great man…but he’s a human being, and a terrible thing is happening to him. So attention must be paid. He’s not to be allowed to fall in his grave like an old dog. Attention, attention must finally be paid to such a person.”

Award-winning director Marianne Elliott brings her unique vision to one of the greatest plays of the twentieth century, seen through the eyes of an African American family.

Wendell Pierce (The Wire, Suits, Selma) makes his UK stage debut as Willy Loman, with Olivier Award-winning Sharon D. Clarke as Linda Loman and Arinzé Kene (Misty, Been So Long) as Biff Loman.

BOOK-NOW

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Tree 

Created by Idris Elba & Kwame Kwei-Armah | Directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah

A Young Vic, Manchester International Festival and Green Door Pictures co-production     

Young Vic | 29 July – 24 Aug 2019
Manchester International Festival | 29 June – 10 July 2019

Tree takes you on a thrilling journey in search of the soul and spirit of contemporary South Africa.  Created by Idris Elba, whose album Mi Mandela provides the soundtrack, and Kwame Kwei-Armah, this major world-premiere production, performed in the round. 

Music, dance and film combine with an exciting cast to explore the past, present and future of this country at a crossroads – all through the eyes of one young man on a journey of healing.

BOOK-NOW

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Blood Wedding

By Federíco Garcia Lorca, in a new version by Marina Carr | Directed by Yaël Farber

Main House | 19 Sept – 2 Nov 2019

We’re all curious about what might hurt us…

What do you do when the day that’s supposed to be the happiest of your life becomes a living nightmare?

A repressed, passionate love affair rears its head on the day two young people tie the knot. What is done cannot be undone.

Multiple award-winning director Yaël Farber (Les Blancs, Mies Julie, The Crucible), brings Federíco Garcia Lorca’s most famous tragedy Blood Wedding to the Young Vic in a new version by Marina Carr

BOOK-NOW

Fairview

Fairview

By Jackie Sibblies Drury | Directed by Nadia Latif

Main House | 28 Nov 2019 – 18 Jan 2020

“Dazzling and ruthless…a glorious, scary reminder of the unmatched power of live theatre to rattle, roil and shake us wide awake.”
The New York Times (Critic’s Pick)

Following a ground-breaking, sell-out run in New York, Jackie Sibblies Drury’s Fairview is an interrogation of our subtly destructive preconceptions. This radical examination of power is directed by Young Vic’s Genesis Fellow / Associate Director, Nadia Latif.

It’s Grandma’s birthday and the Frasier family have gathered to celebrate. Beverly just wants everything to run smoothly, but Tyrone has missed his flight, Keisha is freaking out about college and Grandma has locked herself in the bathroom.

BOOK-NOW


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Bronx Gothic

A Young Vic and Los Angeles Performance Practice co-production

Writer, Performer and Sound Designer Okwui Okpokwasili | Director, Visual and Sound Designer Peter Born

Maria Studio | 1 – 29 June

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.

Created in collaboration with Peter Born, in this UK premiere, Bronx Gothic draws on inspiration from West African griot storytelling and the epistolary style of the Victorian novel to ask what it means to be brown in a world that values whiteness.

Okwui Okpokwasili is a 2018 MacArthur ‘Genius Award’ recipient.

BOOK-NOW


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Wild East

By April De Angelis | Directed by Lekan Lawal

Clare Studio |  6 – 16 February

This is some Interview.

Frank is nervous, his interview with Dr Jacqueline Pitt and Dr Marcia Gray is about to begin. If he can do this, it’s his ticket back to Russia.

But secret motivations reveal themselves as the three get caught in each-others’ crossfire during the course of questioning – and all under the ever-present eye of the higher-ups.

Outlandish and surreal, April De Angelis’ Wild East artfully turns the most sterile of settings, a corporate job interview, into a sharp comedy about the permeation of human chaos.

Directed by Genesis Award winner Lekan Lawal.

“Wild East is possibly best described as the funniest play Ionesco never wrote, but even that doesn’t do justice to the job interview gone eccentrically, even apocalyptically haywire.” Variety

BOOK-NOW

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Ivan & The Dogs 

By Hatti Naylor | Directed by Caitriona Shoobridge

Clare Studio | 10 – 20 July

All the money went and there was nothing to buy food with…So mothers and fathers tried to find things they could get rid of, things that ate, things that drank, or things that needed to be kept warm

…The dogs went first.

Four-year-old Ivan would rather face living on the streets of Moscow than stay home. Now, to survive he faces new challenges; from young gangs of boys to the police, and his own hunger.

But all is not lost as Ivan finds family amongst the other outcasts around him – the dogs.

Genesis Award winner Caitriona Shoobridge directs this one-person play exploring the need for kindness and trust, when despite being betrayed by the people around you, family can still be forged in the face of adversity.

“Hattie Naylor’s writing beautifully conveys the incredible way the boy and dogs connected to each other, and one leaves the theatre feeling disgust for those on two legs, but admiration for those on four.” The Telegraph

BOOK-NOW

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YV Unpacked: Spring Awakening

By Franz Wedekind |Adapted from the 1891 text by Caroline Byrne
| Directed by Caroline Byrne

The Clare |  – 

He said roses in the flowerbeds have such meagre
blooms every summer because they are over-protected
and over pruned.

He said he was a weed.

Am I then the rose?

Moritz has been having dreams about legs in blue stockings again. Wendla wants to feel something, anything. Meanwhile, Melchior’s basically got it all figured out…

A vital, timeless tale exploring the consequences of a society which struggles to be open about sex and sexuality.

Featuring a cast including actor-musicians, Caroline Byrne’s timely adaptation is stripped bare by raw percussive energy composed by Tasha Taylor Johnson and Line Bech’s striking costume designs.

BOOK-NOW

 

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The Jumper Factory

Conceived by Young Vic Taking Part & Justin Audibert |By Luke Barnes |Directed by Josh Parr

Maria Studio | 27 February – 9 March

Created in collaboration with inmates at HMP Wandsworth and written by Luke Barnes, this intimate and powerful new piece explores the stories of people behind bars and the resilience they need to face a world that moves without them.

Tickets on sale soon


Draw Me Close

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A preview of the National Theatre and National Film Board of Canada production, presented by the Young Vic. 

Maria Studio | 21 January – 2 February

Draw Me Close blurs the worlds of live performance, virtual reality and animation to create a vivid memoir about the relationship between a mother and her son in the wake of her terminal-cancer diagnosis.

The experience is by award-winning playwright and filmmaker Jordan Tannahill, in a co-production between the National Theatre’s Immersive Storytelling  Studio and National Film Board of Canada, in collaboration with All Seeing Eye, with illustrations by Teva Harrison.

Tickets will be on sale in early 2019.

The 8 Club

A Young Vic and David Weale-Cochrane and Kwame Kwei-Armah Jr co-production

The 8 Club is a pioneering, free to access, video series investigating the subjects that really matter to young men. Provocative and often unspoken topics for men, such as mental health, ‘toxic masculinity’ and personal relationships are faced head-on.

Release dates to be announced soon.

Taking Part in 2019

Our work with young people and our local communities is a major part of our artistic life, offering free tickets, workshops, projects and the chance to make and perform in shows. Exciting things coming up in 2019 include…

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YV Unpacked is a new strand of work, taking the highest quality theatre to people who don’t normally think that theatre is for them. We will be taking shows to refugee centres, prisons, community hubs and homeless shelters as part of this work. Our 2019 Unpacked, following Spring Awakening which will be taken out to the community is She Ventures, and He Wins, by Ariadne.

The Wonderful Way to Marbleous Town returns in 2019 after a successful run for schools last summer. Directed by Natasha Nixon and designed by Kirsty Harris, this playful non-verbal performance welcomes you into a magical world, where we can discover our true selves. This is part of our work for children and young people who prefer an open and relaxed performance environment. Tickets will be available to SEND schools.

The Freedom Project: Working collaboratively as the UK’s first two Theatres of Sanctuary, The Young Vic and Leeds Playhouse will co-commission a new play exploring the idea of social freedoms.

Written in response to the words and stories of refugees and asylum seekers in London and Leeds, the project will begin at The Young Vic during Refugee Week 2019 and will culminate the following year with a co-production of a new play by Luke Barnes. The piece will be performed by local refugees and asylum seekers in both Leeds and London.

Forest will be our response to Idris Elba and Kwame Kwei-Armah’s production of Tree. For the first time, all three strands of Taking Part will come together to make a new show, including our neighbours and friends of all ages. There will be music, dancing, joy and a great story.

Priority booking now open for YV Friends
Public booking opens at 10am on Monday 5 November ⏰

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By becoming a Friend you’ll get advance access to this new season of work and you’ll be supporting the Directors Program, our unique training program for emerging directors, and Taking Part, our deep rooted education and engagement program in our local area.
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