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Amazon grows at Young Vic

First Published 25 July 2008, Last Updated 28 July 2008

The Young Vic’s biggest international collaboration yet, Amazônia, was launched today at the Waterloo venue.

The launch actually comes six months into the project, but with the London-based festivities still to come. Amazônia has already featured a special Young Vic award at the Festa Junina Quadrilha dance competition in Brazil last month. The forthcoming British aspects include community project Festa! on 16 August and the Young Vic’s Christmas show, which shares the project’s name.

Paul Heritage, Artistic Director of People’s Palace Projects which is working with the Young Vic on Amazônia, explained at today’s press launch where the idea had originated: “We were looking to find a project that we could do together that would start to think about two major things; climate change, environmental responses and how artists respond to those challenges, and the second was perhaps to think about something we could do to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the death of Chico Mendes, the environmental campaigner who was killed in the fight to defend the rainforest.”

The result, which grew out of trips to Rio Branco in the Amazon area of Brazil, is a series of shows embracing the Quadrilha dance of the region, which takes the form of a short play sandwiched between two dances. Young Vic Associate Director Joe Hill-Gibbins said of the form: “The only thing I can liken it to in my experience is it’s a little bit like English country dancing at twice the speed and intensity. It’s a little bit like American barn dance or hoe down; there’s a lot of hat-tipping and skirt-swishing.”

The first phase of the project, which took place in Brazil, saw Quadrilha dancers of Rio Branco challenged to incorporate environmental themes into the work produced for the Festa Junina Quadrilha dance competition to compete for a Young Vic prize, the first time that the competition had ever been themed.

The high energy dance will be seen in Waterloo on 16 August, when it plays a key role in the Young Vic’s community project for 2008, Festa! A cast of 92 have been drawn from the local area, spanning a wide range of residents ranging from 14-81 years old. They will be joined by professional performers to create a Quadrilha that will start on The Cut, which will be closed off for the purposes of this performance, and take over the entirety of the Young Vic.

Some of Festa!’s community performers will return to the Young Vic as part of the cast of Christmas show Amazônia, which is written by top Brazilian comic performer and writer Pedro Cardoso. Cardoso is joined by a Brazilian cast including Wager Moura, soon to be seen in film Elite Squad, Lazaro Ramos, Renata Sorrah and a selection of as yet uncast English performers in the magical tale of an enchanted tree.

The piece also celebrates the work of rubber tapper and environmental activist Chico Mendes, as his ghost is one of the central characters in the performance.

Platform events, including a visit from Brazilian Minister of Culture and celebrated musician Gilberto Gil, are to be staged in January to complement the performance season.

The Amazônia season follows the success of last year’s collaboration with South African company Isango/Portobello, which brought productions of A Christmas Carol and The Magic Flute to the Young Vic last Christmas. The production of The Magic Flute was so successful that it transferred for a season at the Duke of York’s and won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival.



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