Artistic Director David Lan introduced the first production in the newly refurbished Young Vic last night. Tobias And The Angel, which was also the first show in the Young Vic’s two-year Walkabout – the period in which the homeless company used other venues to put on productions – is a feel-good community opera, and an appropriate choice to re-establish the Young Vic’s presence on The Cut. On launching the new building, which has opened on time and within its budget of £7 million, Lan said: “I am prouder of being a part of this project than anything else in my professional life.”
It was a celebratory and emotional evening at the Young Vic last night, and the community opera Tobias And The Angel was an apt production to capture the mood. Written by Lan and composer Jonathan Dove, it’s a gentle folk tale with a sprinkling of magic that is sad, comic and ultimately uplifting. It also provides the communities of Southwark and Lambeth the opportunity to join in the celebrations for the Young Vic’s homecoming – the extensive cast and choir are comprised of talented members of the local community.
Tobias (Darren Abrahams) is a young, carefree guy who enjoys dancing and messing around on his bike more than helping out his father, Tobit (Omar Ebrahim). After Tobit is struck blind by birds for defying the King and burying the body of a young Jewish boy killed on the King’s orders – in a dark and tragic beginning to the show – Tobias is forced to grow up. He is sent on a journey to reclaim owed money from his father’s cousin Raguel (Kevin West), and is accompanied by a scruffy-looking stranger (James Laing), who tells Tobias to really listen to the world. Meanwhile, Raguel’s daughter Sara (Karina Lucas) despairs over the death of her new husband, killed like the six before him by an evil spirit who is in love with her.
There follows a mythical plot which asks the audience to let themselves believe in fairy tale and use their imaginations. An episode involving a giant fish harks to the stories of native Americans; the dark edge is reminiscent of Hans Christian Andersen; but it’s predominantly a religious and moral tale which promotes the power of faith in others.
The enduring applause at the end of the performance was as much for the reopening of this impressive new Young Vic as it was for the show that set foot on its stage.
Tobias And The Angel runs until 21 October.