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-

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.

★★★★ ‘This pumping, pounding, pulsing play blazes’ | Reviews Round-Up

Jesus Hopped The A Train

Ukweli Roach and Oberon K. A. Adjepong in Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson

Reviews for Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train are coming in! Critics are loving this darkly funny yet hard-hitting production by Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Adly Guirgis, directed by Kate Hewitt.

Don’t miss your chance to see this show. Book tickets now.

★★★★ ‘Defiantly spiritual, continually caustic.’ The Observer  | Read the full review

★★★★ This pumping, pounding, pulsing play blazes. Evening Standard  | Read the full review

★★★★ ‘Blistering. A physical punch of a play.The Telegraph

★★★★ Bitingly, blackly funny, and with deathlessly sharp dialogue. Time Out Read the full review

★★★★ Slick and scorching. A powerful piece of work.’ The Stage | Read the full review

★★★★ Fast, furious and brutal prison drama.’ MetroRead the full review

Jesus Hopped The A Train

Matthew Douglas and Oberon K. A. Adjepong in Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train at the Young Vic. Photo by Johan Persson

★★★★ ‘Engrossing and constantly rivetingWhatsOnStage | Read the full review

Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train runs at the Young Vic until 30 March. Find out more and book now.

Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train | Production Photos

Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train by Stephen Adly Guirgis is now running at the Young Vic until 30 March directed by Kate Hewitt. Book tickets from £10.

With Oberon K. A. AdjepongMatthew DouglasDervla KirwanUkweli Roach and Joplin Sibtain

Set Designer Magda Willi
Costume Designer Kinnetia Isidore
Lighting Designer Guy Hoare
Photographer Johan Persson

Ukweli Roach as Angel Cruz and Dervla Kirwan as Mary Jane Hanrahan
Oberon K. A. Adjepong as Lucius Jenkins and Joplin Sibtain as Valdez
Ukweli Roach as Angel Cruz
Dervla Kirwan as Mary Jane Hanrahan
Oberon K. A. Adjepong as Lucius Jenkins and Joplin Sibtain as Valdez
Matthew Douglas as Charlie D’Amico and Oberon K. A. Adjepong as Lucius Jenkins
Ukweli Roach as Angel Cruz and Dervla Kirwan as Mary Jane Hanrahan
Joplin Sibtain as Valdez
Dervla Kirwan as Mary Jane Hanrahan
Oberon K. A. Adjepong as Lucius Jenkins and Joplin Sibtain as Valdez
Matthew Douglas as Charlie D’Amico

Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train by Stephen Adly Guirgis is now running at the Young Vic until 30 March directed by Kate Hewitt. Book tickets from £10.

Set Designer Magda Willi
Costume Designer Kinnetia Isidore
Lighting Designer Guy Hoare

Wild East | Production Photos 📸

Take your first look at April De Angelis’ outlandish and surreal Wild East which is currently running in The Clare studio directed by Genesis Foundation Award Winner Lekan Lawal.

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.

Wild East is now running until 16 Feb. Tickets are sold out but any returns will be released online. We are operating a returns queue from 1 hour before each performance. Find out more.

Director Lekan Lewal
Designer Sarah Beaton
Lighting Designer Amy Mae
Photography Gabriel Mokake

With Lucy Briers, Kemi-Bo Jacobs and Zach Wyatt

Lucy Briers, Zach Wyatt & Kemi-Bo Jacobs in Wild East at the Young Vic. Photo by Gabriel Mokake.
Kemi-Bo Jacobs & Lucy Briers in Wild East at the Young Vic. Photo by Gabriel Mokake.
Zach Wyatt in Wild East at the Young Vic. Photo by Gabriel Mokake.
Zach Wyatt, Lucy Briers & Kemi-Bo Jacobs in Wild East at the Young Vic. Photo by Gabriel Mokake.
Kemi-Bo Jacobs & Zach Wyatt in Wild East at the Young Vic. Photo by Gabriel Mokake.
Kemi-Bo Jacobs & Lucy Briers in Wild East at the Young Vic. Photo by Gabriel Mokake.
(l to r) Zach Wyatt, Lucy Briers & Kemi-Bo Jacobs in Wild East at the Young Vic. Photo by Gabriel Mokake.
Lucy Briers in Wild East at the Young Vic. Photo by Gabriel Mokake.
Kemi-Bo Jacobs in Wild East at the Young Vic. Photo by Gabriel Mokake.

Wild East is running at the Young Vic until 16 Feb directed by Genesis Foundation Award Winner Lekan Lawal.

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.

Danai Gurira & Kwame Kwei-Armah In Conversation | The Convert

danai and kawme (2)

Kwame Kwei-Armah and Danai Gurira at The Convert Opening Night. Photo by Dan Wooller

During rehearsals, Young Vic Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah, and The Convert writer, Danai Gurira, took a moment to discuss the play’s inception in Danai’s Zimbabwean roots, her writing process, and why courage is fundamental to her art.

 

K: I want to express how joyous it is to have The Convert within my first season! Talk to me about the idea and process behind the play.

 

D: It was a culmination of so many things growing up. I was born in the US but raised in Zimbabwe from the age of five until shortly after the end of high school. I was there shortly after the country gained independence, and was raised around so many things; a country grappling with the idea of independence, which was in many ways one the most prosperous of the African nations. I was in a schooling system that was very much modelled after the way the country had been colonialised; this manifested in how we were educated, who we were educated by, the structures of the system, the ways of doing business, our social lives, the way we ate… tea breaks! I took a step back and started to ask myself who I was, because I have so many influences -what I aspire too, and how I excel – which are all defined by those who colonised us. These feelings culminated in me, and I found that I wanted to express them on stage.A lot of my training when I returned to the US exposed me to Shaw, Chekov and Ibsen – all the European greats. There was something about Shaw that was very gripping, and something about Pygmalion that correlated with Zimbabwe. Yes, there are a lot of troubles, but it still has the highest literacy rate on the continent, which I witnessed as both my parents are educators. I grew up watching these children coming from mission schools in rural areas to the city who were mad-smart. They were so smart. Yet they’d be awe of seeing the city, whilst also being the most educated people in the room. It was an interesting juxtaposition for me and I was thinking about how you try and bring your people forward through more access, more success. The thinking was that you expose people to Western culture and Western education. I found a parallel with this and Pygmalion; ironing out the crude pieces of this young lady, which is kind of what we do with our own families and people.  I started to explore this this idea in 2009 and 2010. It was an interesting exercise for me as I was delving into the history of my own people and who I could have been if I had been born 120 years ago.  

 

Full Company in The Convert. Photography by Marc BrennerK: What I am interested in knowing about is your transition, how the running of the two trains of acting and writing came about?

D: There is something about trying to distinguish acting and writing that, I think, can be a very Western concept.  When I was being trained, and when I first started to connect with the arts, I was in Zimbabwe, aged between 12 and 13. We were taught the ethics of theatre, of coming into a space, and treating it with great respect. We would create work and then perform. The way I first came to the arts, it was a path to story-telling.

 

K: Hearing you talk now, you can understand that your writing comes from a place that is not just cerebral, but is also connected to the soul and the spirit. With this connection to the writing, what is it that you look for and what wisdom do you impart for the director and the wider team?

 

D: When I first spoke to Ola we talked about the immersion of history and culture. I studied history A-level and did not come across the story of my own nation. I knew all about Napoleon and World War One, as I should, but I didn’t know anything about my own nation. To an extent that feels like it’s by design. People can be disempowered if they are not taught about themselves and not encouraged to gain any understanding of their own roots. This play was designed to go to the heart of this. If you immerse yourself into a world that is foreign for you, you’ve got to let it inform you, overwhelm you, to take over your thoughts. You need to see it through the lens of those colonised within the 1890’s; it is a mayhem of a moment at this time in Africa. There has to be such a visceral understanding of that world, in terms of Shona culture, Shona people, and Shona history. I want people to walk in and feel like they are in a sacred space, a world they have never known before it. I got swept away writing it. When I found the end of the play, I found myself just being a vessel, because I couldn’t argue with that ending.

 

K: When some talk about the play, colonisation comes up a lot. But my access point for it is the spirituality. What swept me away was your ability to speak to the spirit, to faith and your ability to use that as a vehicle of both oppression, of actualisation, and of fulfilling your spiritual potential.

The-Convert-PROD-561-1

 

D: Yes, that’s a part of it. At times we can be super simplistic in the way we talk about faith and Christianity and it’s not simple! For example, my mother’s mother was a very powerful woman, the daughter of a powerful chief.  She made a decision to go and learn with Methodist missionaries. She met her husband, my grandfather, a Methodist pastor and she stepped away from one way of life to go into something more Westernised. She still gave speeches in deeply nuanced Shona, she sang her Methodist hymns in Shona and read her bible in Shona. In a sense she garnered an independence from her choice to learn about a Christian God. It’s a very complicated relationship that occurs between Africans and Christianity that can be, and is often, oversimplified.

 

K: What do you ask of this play in that regard?

 

D: I believe there can be a distinction for those who practise the Christian faith but are very much an Africanist at the same time, a distinction between the imposition of colonisation and the true essence of Christianity. That is Jekesai’s actualisation: how does an African connect with this faith while also seeing the hypocrisy in how it was used.

 

K: Now that you are in the public eye, can you be as brave to write something and not care of what others think of it, like you did when you wrote The Convert?

 

D: The day I can’t be brave is the day I am not an artist anymore. That space must be protected. To me the denial of your true self is to actually try to curb the spirit coming through you. You are no longer a vessel for your spirit, and that would be a tragic thing for me!

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.