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Young Vic celebrates 40th with premieres and collaborations

First Published 8 July 2010, Last Updated 8 July 2010

London’s Young Vic has unveiled an eclectic season to celebrate its 40th anniversary. Opera, musical theatre, classic drama, a hit revival, European associates and productions for every age range feature in the birthday schedule.

In the main house, UK premieres of musical The Human Comedy, Icelandic company Vesturport’s production of Faust and Simon Stephens’s version of Jon Fosse’s I Am The Wind sit alongside a revival of hit adaptation Vernon God Little, a new production of Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie and English National Opera co-production The Return Of Ulysses.

In the Maria theatre, children’s theatre company Fevered Sleep presents two shows – On Ageing, which is performed by children but aimed at adults, and popular children’s show And The Rain Falls Down – while Christmas sees David Almond’s My Dad’s A Birdman brought to the stage for a family audience.

Speaking at today’s launch, Young Vic Artistic Director David Lan said: “From the very beginning 40 years ago, what the Young Vic was about was the big story, big ideas, big risks, big consequences, and we continue to tell the big story.”

The season’s opening production is definitely big, with a community cast of 100 coming together with theatrical professionals to perform The Human Comedy, a musical featuring a score by Galt MacDermot, who is best known for hippy musical Hair. The tale of heroism in a small town in southern California during World War II plays for seven performances only from 13 to 18 September and is a co-production with The Opera Group, which previously collaborated with the Young Vic on the community opera Tobias And The Angel, which opened the theatre’s refurbished Waterloo home.

The Human Comedy is followed by Faust (25 Sep to 30 Oct), directed by Gisli Orn Gardarsson, whose work, said Lan, “is brilliant, acrobatic, astonishing. He tends to take modern and great works of European literature to pieces and put them back together in a way which is beautiful and touching and remarkable.” This new version of the tale of a man who sells his soul to the devil features music by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Vesturport’s work has previously been seen in the UK in another Young Vic co-production, Romeo And Juliet, and Metamorphosis at the Lyric Hammersmith.

Unable to be at the press launch in person, Gardarsson sent a video message saying: “If there isn’t an eruption in Iceland, we will surely bring an eruption of a show to the Young Vic.”

Young Vic Deputy Artistic Director Joe Hill-Gibbins directs The Glass Menagerie (11 Nov to 1 Jan), which features a score by Dario Marianelli, who won an Oscar for the music in the film Atonement. Williams’s classic, written early in his career, is the story of a would-be poet struggling to support an overbearing mother and an obsessive sister.

Lan described the revival of Vernon God Little (27 Jan to 5 Mar) as “a very special present” for the theatre’s anniversary. The stage adaptation of the Booker Prize-winning novel was first staged in 2007 when Colin Morgan, now better known for his role as TV’s Merlin, took the title role. Lan could not confirm whether Morgan would return for this production, though original director Rufus Norris, who described the show as “the most brilliant, impossible piece”, does.

The collaboration between the Young Vic and ENO, which, said ENO Artistic Director John Berry, “gives both companies the possibilities to present work we really couldn’t do on our own”, continues with Monteverdi’s The Return Of Ulysses (24 Mar to 9 Apr). The opera, which is based on the final section of Homer’s Odyssey, will star Tom Randle and Pamela Helen Stephen.

The main house season closes with what Lan described as the highlight in a season of highlights, I Am The Wind (26 Apr to 21 May). The UK theatre debut of French director Patrice Chéreau, whose films include Le Reine Margot and Intimacy, I Am The Wind is written by Norwegian Jon Fosse in a new version by Simon Stephens, who described the piece as “a light, beautiful, poetic, ironic, charming, funny exploration of suicide by drowning”.

The Young Vic will also alter its seating ticketing policy during the 40th anniversary season. Following consultation with its audiences, the venue will sell reserved seats for the first time, offering a greater range of prices and a larger number of £10 tickets.

Lan concluded: “For us, the most important thing is that our audience is as wide, as deep, as complex as it possibly can be. By and large we have such an audience and we feel that we have to keep that audience whatever happens and whatever policies our new and energetic government happen to send our way.”



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