DEAR YOUNG VIC
A snapshot of a year
Dear Young Vic,
The following pages are our attempt to record the hardest year this theatre has
experienced in living memory. The human impulse to gather and share stories is
centuries in the making, and to be denied this joy is near impossible to describe.
But attempt to describe we must. We must because we hope a year like this never
happens again. We must in order to understand the complex effect this pandemic
has had on our sector. We must because capturing a human narrative of the year,
filled with personal reflections and reactions, might just help us to make sense of it
Looking back on the year is a strange experience. Despite being denied the thing the
Young Vic does – welcoming people into spaces to hear stories – it has been a year
filled with extraordinary moments. The YV spirit has remained vivid through the art
that has been created, whether that be on our screens or in our communities. The
theatre celebrated its milestone 50th birthday. The Directors Program helped
support a wealth of artists across this country. Taking Part connected in meaningful
ways with its networks. And departments across the organisation – Artistic, General
Management, Producing, IT, Administration, Development, Finance, Front of House,
Press, Marketing, Production and the Welcome Team – navigated an extraordinary,
difficult year and have kept our theatre going.
This summer saw a collective reflection for the theatre industry, motivated by the
rallying cry of Black Lives Matter and the activism of so many. As we look to the
future and the rebuilding of our sector, we will work towards an inclusive one,
hostile to racism.
We dedicate this document to our staff, collaborators, supporters, friends and
audiences. We look forward to the day we can gather in the walls of the building
once again, to feel the lights dim and the hushed silence fall in the space, in the
presence of art being made before our eyes.
Glenn Earle, Chair of the Young Vic Board
Photo (c) Philip Vile.
In March 2020, theatres across the UK closed their doors as a
result of the Coronavirus Pandemic. For the YV, this meant our
show Nora: A Doll's House never played its final few
performances in our Main House, and Orfeus stopped midrehearsals.
All other shows in our upcoming season were placed
on immediate hold, with no clarity as to when they could resume.
Similarly, our Associate Companies were both affected;
Conundrum, a show by Crying in the Wilderness, stopped midrehearsal,
and Belarus Free Theatre paused progress of their
upcoming show Dogs of Europe at the Barbican Centre.
ShezAr X Soul Sirens, who just nights before
had played their first gig in our Clare theatre
launching our new Music Nights series to
rapturous reception, were a heady high before
a year which was to be like no other.
Throughout this document, members
of our community have penned
letters to the YV, reflecting on
moments of hope and sadness,
invention and anticipation, to
help unpack and understand
this period in our history.
Dear Young Vic,
What a year it has been. Despite the challenges, which we are all
too familiar with, those dark periods have also been contrasted with
some tremendous examples of great foresight, courage, kindness
When our play, Conundrum, was postponed and the weeks began to
roll into months, invention became our new mantra. In isolation we
had to reconsider the value of both life and theatre, of how to reengage
with the magic of performance when the doors of the
Young Vic would finally be opened.
From the Young Vic’s leadership we observed, alighting from the
conversations about the economic sustainability of the industry, a
new constellation of ideas, practise and relationships that were
specifically aimed at reinvigorating our passion for invention and
service to both the art and especially to the wider public. Ultimately
the conscious combination of invention, service and economics is
what creates a platform on stage for shared experiences that are
enriching. This is where we believe that the Young Vic’s greatest
contribution to the revisioning of our industry, and the culture of this
city, will be most appreciated by its artists and its community in
decades to come. Thank you for your foresight.
Paul Anthony Morris, Artistic Director of Crying in the Wilderness
Anthony Ofoegbu in Conundrum.
Photo (c) Sarah Hickson
Dear Young Vic,
Nora was the first show I had ever performed under your roof and it
was an HONOUR.
And to work there under Black leadership was a comfort I have never
When we were suddenly stopped, I didn’t get to say goodbye to my
cast, as I was in isolation in a dressing room upstairs. I waited alone up
there, while my fellow cast got briefed in the auditorium, all the while
pinging me WhatsApps to keep me up to speed.
It was weird. I then had 5mins to dash to the dressing room, grab my
stuff and go home. To isolate. Goodbye Nora.
Then followed a year of disappearing into the countryside with my
daughter. We homeschooled, walked for miles everyday, ran, I sat up
till the early hours chatting with my dad. We healed neglected wounds. I
found meaning that wasn’t centered around work. Which I’m so glad I
was forced to do.
But Theatre is one of those valuable tools that must not be lost. Putting
its potential power into words reduces it. A play can change your mind
about a thing you thought you knew. And let’s face it, we need to keep
learning. We need to keep being forced to look at the world through
someone else’s eyes. Someone who is less able to speak, or who gets
I look forward to getting back to that.
Amaka Okafor, Cast of Nora: A Doll's House
Amaka Okafor in Nora: A Doll's House by Stef Smith,
with Design by Tom Piper. Photo (c) Marc Brenner
'WE MISS U'
As lockdown stretched into weeks, the conversation at the YV
quickly turned to how we might serve and survive.
The following pages spotlight some of the ways the YV
continued to be the theatre for our community, pivoting as we
went to be what artists, audiences and friends needed or were
With the YV company adapting to life working remotely,
George Mills and Rodger Cox became custodians of our
building. They walked the corridors and inhabited the spaces
which were normally so rich with voices and alive with art,
keeping our theatre safe until we could return.
Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah painted a banner with
the words 'We Miss U', hanging it on the front of the YV
building, an inspiring display of love to the people who were to
pass our theatre each day.
A number of photographers and designers found ways to
interact with our empty building. We were part of Helen
Murray's beautiful portfolio of images shot in 22 empty
theatres as a sobering reminder of how humans normally
populate the spaces. SCENE/CHANGE, a community of Set
and Costume Designers, lovingly wrapped theatre buildings
across the country in tape to bring attention to the specialist
craftspeople in our industry left without support.
Meanwhile, a small but exceptional Finance and HR team -
Rathi, Ivor, Sophie, Janine and Sarah. - spent months
grappling with Job Retention Schemes, ever-changing
Budgets, and planning on sand.
Above: 'We Miss U' Banner on the YV Building.
Below: The Young Vic Box Office, shot during the first lockdown. (c) Helen Murray / Our Empty Theatres
The Young Vic Main House, shot during the first lockdown. Remenants of the Set Design for
Nora: A Doll's House can be seen on the stage (c) Helen Murray / Our Empty Theatres
Our Directors Program serves a network of early-career directors,
designers, artists and producers. When lockdown began, we knew these
members still needed access to career development opportunities and
support. The Directors Program immediately moved the entire output online,
and over the last 12 months, the team:
E N G A G E D
H E L D
P A I D
FREELANCERS TO RUN WORKSHOPS
AND DISCUSSIONS ONLINE
An example weekly schedule for the Network
Thank you to the Genesis Foundation for their ongoing support of the Directors Program
Dear Young Vic,
When Covid hit we had to re-think. 95% of the Genesis Network are freelancers – all lost income, had
projects postponed or cancelled, had little certainty of when they would work again or how they
would financially or emotionally survive.
We thought about what our members of the Genesis Network needed. We couldn’t give them all
employment, but we could help give them connections to the industry and each other. Exercise their
creative muscles, build their skills. Create a sense of forward momentum.
We moved all our activity online. Early on, we quickly realised the most useful offer was a series of
wellbeing sessions, led by director and coach Rachel Bagshaw, that gave people a chance to focus on
self-care. Then as people’s ability to engage grew, we increased the skills-based sessions. We covered
working with writers, rehearsing online; discussions on resilience, artistic freedom. Members were still
part of an industry, even when it was on hold and its future was uncertain.
As lockdown persisted, we sensed more need for consistency and connection. We programmed a 12-
week series run by director Sacha Wares. Each week, 65 – 75 directors met with Sacha three times a
week to develop and deepen skills. Participating contributed to their wellbeing as humans and as
The pandemic has more adversely hit a number of specific communities. Artists from these
communities created safe spaces to talk about issues, challenges that faced them specifically. These
artist-led groups were established for, amongst others: Black theatre-makers, East Asian artists, and
working, benefit, criminal and underclass artists.
There have been few upsides to Covid, but I imagine this time will have a long-term impact on our
approach and programme. Online sessions aren’t for everyone, but they do create flexibility. Fully
participating with video on, listening in the background like it’s a podcast - some said it helped with
social anxiety as they could decide how they engaged with the sessions, others shielding could take
part. People could fit in around work – joining from restaurant stock cupboards, working on receptions,
in the canteen. We could record sessions for those who had to work.
The core of what we aimed to create was a community, connection and creativity. And feedback
suggests we achieved this; as some people said it was a life-line in very choppy waters.
Associate Artistic Director Young Vic, Artistic Director Regional Theatre Young Directors Scheme
A Directors Program Workshop taking place on Zoom
Dear Young Vic,
When we next walk through your doors we will enter a theatre that
has re-emerged triumphantly from its Covid chrysalis. While we’ve
missed the energy and spirit of human theatre at The Cut, we have
remained confident in your positivity, agility and resourcefulness.
Having risen creatively to every challenge, you will have grown in
strength and stature.
In 2021, the Genesis Foundation’s 20th anniversary year, you give us
good cause for celebration and optimism. 17 years ago we joined you
in inaugurating your Directors Program. Over our long association the
Genesis Network has partnered with you in nurturing thousands of
emerging theatre professionals and you have played a major role in
shaping the Foundation’s identity and mission.
The Genesis Network has developed as a living organism, not tied to
physical infrastructure. While the rest of the world took time to get
used to remote working, the Network just kept going from strength to
strength, growing in both reach and impact. You haven’t missed a
beat over the past, extraordinary year and you will continue to set
the pace as a role model for the future of theatre.
Keep up the momentum and the good work – we know you will.
John Studzinski CBE
Founder and Chairman, Genesis Foundation
Photo (c) Philip Vile.
IN THE WORDS OF OUR MEMBERS
Feedback from. our Genesis Network Members
following a variety of workshops and events...
"I so so appreciated that you made it happen despite not being able to be there
physically. I was feeling totally overwhelmed and drained before it...and I've felt
really inspired since."
"I have to say how much I appreciate everything that you guys are offering at
the moment, it's just amazing how much you have all put together in such a short
time under these ridiculous circumstances!"
"It's given me a brilliant structure to my week and something to work towards,
which wasn't there before. It's also helped me feel like a director again despite
Spotlight on Creative Headspace
We provided members of the Genesis
Network with £100, funding a session for
them to think about making theatre again.
Nearly 300 directors, designers and
producers signed up for this paid
opportunity to engage with their craft.
“First of all, thank you for this brilliant
idea! I think all of us need to be
motivated, when we still have hope.
- Genesis Network Member & recipient of
Creative Headspace fund
We thank the Genesis Foundation for their
support of Creative Headspace
Spotlight on: Five Plays
We brought together five directors, to
work with five writers, to make five
"It has been such a dream to work with
all of you on the whole process of Five
Plays, thank you for letting us try things
out & for making all our ideas possible.
And what a close experience we had to
live theatre last night!"
- Five Plays Director
We thank Jerwood Arts for their ongoing support
of Five Plays and our Assistant Directors
Photo (c) Helen Murray
50 YEARS YOUNG
In September 2020, we celebrated our 50th Birthday. Whilst not the
street party we had planned, marking this milestone in a safe way still
involved a herculean effort from all departments - from Producing
securing street permits, and Production pulling off extraordinary
installation feats in record time as well as remobilising the building to
ensure everyone was kept safe, to Marketing mining our archives so we
could relive fifty years of history.
A projection celebrating the past 50 years of the YV was unveiled.
Designed by Duncan McLean, the photographic display lit up our
building each evening for our birthday month, as a testament to all the
people who were part of half a century of YV history.
"One of London’s bravest and boldest theatres, the Young Vic
first opened in 1970 as a young people’s offshoot of the
National Theatre, and since 1974 it’s very much done its own
Apparently the original plan for the theatre’s fiftieth birthday
was a street party with 50 stages. This absolutely isn’t
happening, but there’s still very much a celebration of sorts. In
fact, several sorts of celebration....
...Okay, it’s not a 50-stage street party. But as celebrations go,
it seems eminently worthy of one of London’s – and the world’s
– most important theatres."
Time Out London, 11 September 2020
Kwame Kwei-Armah (far left) and Sue Emmas (centre), with former Young Vic Artistic Directors
(left to right) David Lan, Tim Supple and David Thacker. Photo (c) Aaron Imuere
"What a career the Young Vic has had. It warms my heart
to see that groundbreaking theatre space (kept intact with
the butchers' shop entry on rebuilding), being still the most
exciting and inspiring theatre in Britain. May it soon recover
from the lockdown, and continue its joyful and creative
work full of diversity and availability to both audience and
Frank Dunlop, Young Vic Founder
A CELEBRATION OF BLACK TRAILBLAZERS
As part of our 50th celebrations, we unveiled The Unforgotten. Created by Sadeysa
Greenaway-Bailey and Anna Fleischle, and inspired by the Black Lives Matter
movement, the piece interrogated who we celebrate and consider our heroes.
The Unforgotten designed by Sadeysa Greenaway-Bailey
and Anna Fleischle.
Photo (c) Aaron Imuere
The Young Vic community contributed to the installation by submitting their own
nominations in writing on the side of the building and online, in response to provocations
written by Jennifer Akre. Each month for an entire year, we asked our online
community to nominate heroes from different themes, from Frontline Health Care
Workers, to Academics, Artists, and War Heroes.
The Unforgotten was made possible thanks to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation & an anonymous donor
Dear Young Vic,
We created The Unforgotten in September of 2020, seeking to
unify two ideas. One had to do with the question ‘how can we
still keep engaged with our audience in times when theatres are
shut?’ As designers, we think about spaces and the effect the
visual and our environment has on us as humans. The YV has
always been a lively part of The Cut, and since the audience is
still passing by, it felt right to take that conversation to the
Secondly, as events unfolded after the murder of George Floyd,
the question arose of ‘how is history remembered and who in
turn does history immortalise?’ In examining these questions and
as the world demonstrated against the continued blinding
inequalities which still exist in our society today. We felt we
needed to visually address this and to add the momentum of a
necessary shift in focus.
The result was an intervention including a set of provocations
placed at the front of the building, which reached out to people
in the street and then online, engaging everyone in a shared
conversation. People often feel like their voice and their lived
experience does not matter. But people now more than ever
need to feel seen, need their thoughts considered, and their
experience respected. A lot of the responses from our audience
reflected this need to passionately communicate. Some of the
answers literally feel like explosions of expression.
We want to see this energy carried forward. As we look to the
future, we need to ensure voices are heard, we need to find
deeper and more nuanced ways to communicate. That is our
Sadeysa Greenaway-Bailey and Anna Fleischle
Co-Creators of The Unforgotten
Co-creators Anna Fleischle and Sadeysa Greenaway- Bailey in front ofThe
Unforgotten. Photo (c) Aaron Imuere
THINKING ABOUT THE NEW TOMORROW
The third element of our 50th Birthday celebrations, The New Tomorrow, was a weekend of scratch performances interrogating what the
next 50 years might hold for our theatre. Directed by Genesis Fellow and Associate Director Jennifer Tang, and with a socially-distanced
audience in attendance and thousands more joining via an online live-stream, the pieces tackled the most pressing themes of today.
Jade Anouka, Marina Carr, Jasmine Lee-Jones, Ruth Madeley, Amy Ng, Stef Smith, Jack Thorne, Isobel Waller-Bridge and Steve Waters
penned pieces performed by Ronkẹ Adékọluẹ́jọ́, Adjoa Andoh, Matthew Dunster, Paapa Essiedu, Martina Laird, Anoushka Lucas and Sophie
Stone, with speeches from Shahidha Bari and Tom Gill.
"A jagged, challenging, and vital birthday party...seizing the opportunity for growth and change"
The cast of The New Tomorrow. Photos (c) Marc Brenner
Dear Young Vic,
It feels like I’ve been waiting for you a long time. It’s been 10 years since we first met: me as a Taking
Part participant, green and keen and overwhelmed that you’d invited me in. And 10 years later here I
am as the Genesis Fellow & Associate Director, maybe a little less green but still keen and still
overwhelmed that you’ve invited me in.
It was a Monday morning in October last year. My phone was buzzing with 9 missed calls and 3
voicemails with you asking me to direct The New Tomorrow – the YV’s 50th Birthday performance.
Live. In the actual theatre. The Main House. Teching that Friday, performing that Saturday. Could I do
Stepping into the auditorium on that Friday – the first time I’d been in a theatre since March 16 – it was
a slightly surreal experience. Familiar and alien all at once. Theatre lights burning into the darkness
have such a special smell. It had been a wait of months; but also of years. I was a bit wobbly, a bit
emotional, I’m not ashamed to say.
Two days later and it was all over. But those two performances felt like an intense moment of artists
and audiences coming together to remind ourselves of the importance and unparalleled experience of
live theatre, but also of our shared love of you – the Young Vic.
I am incredibly lucky and privileged to have been able to direct that work written by brilliant writers,
performed by fantastic artists, in the middle of a pandemic. But I also count myself incredibly lucky to
have met some of the brilliant theatre-makers on the Young Vic Directors Program in the workshops
we have been running throughout this past year. I have been blown away by the kindness, resilience,
generosity and ingenuity of these artists: all committed to their craft; all committed to re-shaping our
industry into something bigger and better than before. And if I have one hope for the future, it is that
we take the learning and thinking and conversations from this past year and put it all into action. I hope
we’re not seduced by our eagerness to get back up and running, and in doing so, slip back into toxic
habits. I hope we can come together to refuse the old ways and build a better and stronger future.
Thanks Young Vic. I can’t wait to get into the building again – hopefully soon. And hopefully, this time,
for more than two days. Love, x
Jennifer Tang, Director of The New Tomorrow
YV Genesis Fellow & Associate Director
Photo (c) Philip Vile.
Dear Young Vic,
2020…though one big event overshadows all other memories, there are
lights to catch…
From the fear of quickly learning Covid compliancy in Costume for The New
Tomorrow and dressing more plates of food than people in TWENTY
TWENTY, to advising what to wear/not wear in Neighbourhood Voices and
giving lipstick tips in Five Plays, the core reason of community remains (even
if the platforms and lockdown rules all trip around you). I’ve learned that the
core lessons remain the same too –you’re not alone, always ask for help,
and sometimes it's good to switch on your camera.
The shared sound of laughter, live and unrestricted by yellow or mute boxes,
debriefing the day’s madness, flurry and last-minute dashes – classic theatre
traits. Sorting out sequins around the cutting table with the design team
whilst waiting for a sofa to be collected – never in any other workplace.
Applauding the cast and crew for a first pandemic show whilst head
counting and backing into the kitchen to keep a distance – that’s a team.
When you can go home and relay a different story every time you’re asked
‘how’s your day been?’ those moments are now, no matter how stressful at
the time, my moments of happiness.
I miss the in-person camaraderie; my quiet nature usually thrives in loud
surroundings. The mix of personalities that converge in the theatre world is
its unique feeder and the sociability that goes hand in hand with the work…
well, I certainly won’t take for granted the invite to after-work drinks
See you soon.
Sarah Hamza, Head of Costume
Photo (c) Anthony Lee
Dear Young Vic,
What a year it has been. When I left for my
holiday this time last year I never would have
thought that one week would turn into months,
before I would be back in the building.
Before this year we have always spoken about
live streaming and how to get our content out to a
wider audience, but little did I know the fast
learning curve I was about to go through. I learnt
a lot of new skills very quickly from how to live
stream to how to do a show on Zoom. Zoom! I
don’t think I had even heard of Zoom before
Throughout this year, from online shows to
supporting the IT requirements of the building, the
highlight for me will always be The New
Tomorrow. The feeling of doing a show again after
all that time off and adding the new element of
live streaming... it will not be matched. There is no
better feeling than the buzz of seeing something
live and knowing your work is helping others see it
too. Especially after a long break.
I have missed the production team and the
building and I cannot wait to be back.
Kyle MacPherson, Head of Sound
Above: Just some of the technical equipment needed to deliver the live-stream of the show.
Below: Sam from the lighting team makes final adjustments before the show
Photos (c) Jenny Grand
Technical Rehearsal for the New Tomorrow. Photo (c) Marc Brenner
URGENT CALLS FOR SECTOR SUPPORT
In September, Christiane Amanpour and
Kwame sat down in our theater’s empty
auditorium for an episode of CNN's
Amanpour & Co. They discussed the impact
of coronavirus, the vitality of the Black Lives
Matter movement, and the importance of reimagining
the future of theatre. The interview
between the award-winning journalist and
our Artistic Director aired across the USA
Throughout this last year, Kwame has given
interviews on news programmes as varied as
ITV News, Newsnight, LBC, BBC Radio 4
Today, Sky News and Channel 4,
highlighting the various urgent concerns of
the sector, including the need for better
freelance artist support, safeguarding the
future of a representative and inclusive
sector, and building new pathways for earlycareer
Kwame Kwei-Armah and Christiane Amanpour on the Main House stage..
Photo (c) John Torigoe for CNN
"I have to demand a new world view.
In every aspect of life, we need to make sure every
citizen has the ability to fulfill their potential."
- Kwame Kwei-Armah
A CASE FOR THE PEOPLE OF THE SOUTH BANK
"The South Bank area of my constituency not only contributes to our
culture's enormous identity, but generates so much income and
employment.... Alongside those big, hard-hitting cultural heritage sites, we
have smaller but no less important sites: live music venues and theatres,
such as the Young Vic theatre and the historic Royal Vauxhall Tavern.
Aside from their cultural importance, what makes them so special is that
they are embedded in the communities where they are located...
... They bring a cultural, economic and social enrichment to the lives of our
residents in the form of employment, and artistic and creative support
Last month, I had the honour of attending a socially distanced 50th
anniversary celebration for the Young Vic theatre. The Young Vic is an
incredible, innovative theatre that is embedded in schools and the
community. Under the leadership of the inspiring playwright and director
Kwame Kwei-Armah, it runs a year-round programme for residents,
championing diversity. For those people who are traditionally underrepresented
in arts and culture, that is so important.
These organisations, from the smaller theatres to the big ones, will
continue to suffer under the financial challenges of Covid. We have seen a
dramatic fall in audiences-and, in some cases, no audiences whatsoever.
Many of my constituents who work in the sector will not return to business
as usual, even as the lockdown eases.
They will continue to be hit hard."
Vauxhall MP Florence Eshalomi
Speaking to the House of Commons, 6 October 2020
Florence Eshalomi outside the Young Vic. Photo (c) Florence Eshalomi
Best Actress - Sharon D Clarke for Death of a Salesman
Sir Peter Hall Award for Best Director - Marianne Elliott
and Miranda Cromwell for Death of a Salesman
At the start of the pandemic, our
sector looked to find ways to
continue to bringing arts into homes.
Thanks to our friends at the National
Theatre, our production of A
Streetcar Named Desire was
broadcast into living rooms around
the world in May.
Over the course of one week, the
production was streamed over 1
million times worldwide, raising over
£60k in donations.
Our production of Yerma was made
available via National Theatre
Collection, a free resource for
schools across the UK.
Winner: Home Sweet Home - The Young Vic Theatre
Nominated: Short form programme - Soon Gone: A
Black British Theatre Awards
Winner: Best Director – Nadia
The Stage 100
Ensuring a Healthy Future for
Sue Emmas and
Our productions of Yerma and Cat
on a Hot Tin Roof were added to the
NT At Home subscription service.
Gillian Anderson in A Streetcar Named Desire, Designed by Magda Willi with
Costumes by Victoria Behr. Photo (c) Johan Persson
SHOWS TO YOUR SOFA
Sharon D Clarke in Death of a Salesman, Designed by Anna Fleischle.
Photo (c) Brinkhoff/Moegenburg
A YEAR OF TAKING PART
Each year, our Taking Part team delivers an ambitious
programme, engaging the UK’s leading theatre artists to
create work for and with our local community. Taking Part
produce work responsive to the people they work with,
helping our community to develop their creative skills, build
meaningful relationships, and ultimately tell compelling stories
about the world we live in.
Since the pandemic began, projects pivoted to taking place
online and in the digital world, with freelance creative teams
– from musicians and writers, to directors, sound designers,
and animators – working on each project with participants.
Projects were developed which could be shared via post for
those without access to technology. The team also helped our
community partner Blackfriars Settlement deliver weekly
meals to those shielding using the Young Vic van.
"Theatre has been such an archaic industry and
this has been a moment when we’ve had to
change the way we work, think differently and
incorporate new ways of working into our
practice. Many of these changes will be
permanent and we need to make sure they are,
because they extend theatre’s accessibility and
change our relationships for the better.”
Shereen Jasmin Phillips, Director of Taking Part
speaking to The Stage newspaper
Spotlight On: Write From Home
This programme gave participants an introduction to the
art of playwrighting, with packs posted or emailed out.
"I keep using the resource packs when I get stuck in a
writing rut. They've been so helpful at getting out of my
head and onto the page and having that confidence and
guidance as a writer in a time when everyone's motivation
is so clearly lacking has been amazing."
Write From Home Participant
Over the year, Taking Part's digital projects have been wide-ranging and
engaged people from all areas of our community. We've found ways to help our
networks stay creative, tackling subjects most prescient to the time.
We also diversified our activities and programmes, launching Young Mentors, a
reverse mentoring scheme for 18-25 year olds and Neighbourhood Acting an
intensive programme for aspiring actors in the local area. We've continued our
popular Neighbourhood Play and Neighbourhood Voices programmes remotely
Spotlight On: Under My Barbie Duvet
Originally written as a piece of live theatre with members of Brixton’s
Baytree Centre, a social inclusion charity for women and girls. The piece,
exploring female agency, was reimagined as a stop-motion animation and
"I've never laughed so much in my whole life!"
Under My Barbie Duvet Participant
With thanks to Audible and the John Thaw Foundation for their support of this project.
Spotlight On: Hear Us – A Digital Zine
Created by young people, with script weaved together from a series of
online workshops about important social and political events of 2020,
including the Black Lives Matter movement.
"For years I’ve never really found a group that are actually passionate
about making and presenting art, that enjoy the process and aren’t
afraid to be questioned or educated. It was new for me and something I
hope I can continue with."
Hear Us Participant
With thanks to Karl-Johan Persson, the H&M Foundation and The Austin and Hope
Pilkington Trust for their ongoing support of our Young Associates and Taking Part.
Spotlight on: TWENTY TWENTY
TWENTY TWENTY, was our year-long community project,
developed to form deep-rooted enrichment in our local area.
We worked with participants from three extraordinary
community venues; Thames Reach – committed to ending
street homelessness; Blackfriars Settlement – supporting
people over 60; and Certitude - supporting people with
TWENTY TWENTY began in November 2019 with weekly
workshops and theatre visits. When the UK went into
lockdown, the workshops moved online, with rehearsals
taking place via Zoom in kitchens and living rooms.
The project concluded in January 2021 with the premiere of
three short films, starring the participants and shot in
socially-distanced conditions, and created by an elevenperson
freelance creative team, a stage management crew
and a film production team, as well as teams from across the
Young Vic. Despite the challenges of this year, creative
enrichment was able to thrive.
“This project has brought so many benefits into my life. It has
allowed me to express my creativity and this makes me feel
happy. I get to work with wonderful creative people and get
to share my time with the participants. This especially during
this pandemic has been so helpful. Being able to connect
stops me from feeling isolated.”
TWENTY TWENTY Participant
With thanks to the Paul Hamlyn Foundation for their support of TWENTY TWENTY
and our Neighbourhood Theatre Programme
TWENTY TWENTY in rehearsal.
Photo (c) Anthony Lee
TWENTY TWENTY TESTIMONY
We continued our commitment to reducing the opaqueness
about the mechanisms at play in our sector.
"TWENTY TWENTY’s long-term focus on enhancing the
creativity of members of the community... is the kind of
project which offers an important version of the theatre
sector we could choose for our future, where we
collectively remove as many barriers as possible to who
creates and consumes art."
Author Bernardine Evaristo
"The TWENTY TWENTY Project has allowed me to
become more myself, because it allowed me to explore all
the ways I can express myself in drama, which then also
boosts my confidence to express myself in real life."
TWENTY TWENTY Participant
"The devastating impact of Covid-19 over the past year
has demonstrated the importance of art and culture as a
way of promoting wellbeing and keeping our community
united... the Young Vic’s TWENTY TWENTY project shows
the powerful role culture has in sustaining and enriching
our unique neighbourhood."
Cllr Sonia Winifred,
Lambeth’s Cabinet member for Equalities and Culture
To serve this aim, we launched a new series of YV:IDemysify
events, reconfigured to take place online. With themes ranging
from the future of theatre criticism and the systemic challenges
of recruitment, to exploring routes for mid-career theatre
makers, the events saw speakers coming together from a
variety of disciplines and backgrounds to cover topics resonant
to the makers of work for the stage.
We also published a report on learnings from the first series of
YV:IDemysify events, summarised by Creative Associate
Teunkie Van Der Sluijs. His reflection distilled down the
learnings and thought-provoking contributions from the panel
speakers and over 1,100 audience members across the 2019-
"Given the impact of this past year on the theatre industry
and the systemic obstacles it has made acutely visible, we
wanted to make sure the experiences, concerns and ideas
shared in the YV:IDemystify conversations can continue to
feed into our thinking about how to rebuild our sector more
fairly, transparently and resiliently."
Teunkie Van Der Sluijs, Creative Associate
Dear Young Vic...
I've been thinking a lot lately about what it is that I miss most about my job.
Is it the people I work with? That group of people who go above and beyond
to make incredible things happen? The people I used to see every day, used to
share laughs, ideas, lunch, music and art with.
Is it that moment before we open the house to that evening's audience? The
empty theatre expectant with the strangest calmest quiet that is difficult to
put into words? Or is it the moment that I give clearance to the stage
manager, and the show begins? A strange relief after 30 mins of herding
audience members into the theatre so we can start the show on time?
Perhaps it's the feeling before a press night, where the energy is so high, and
everyone has done everything possible to prepare, knowing fullwell a
curveball is almost certainly just around the corner? Maybe it's the office? Or
the duty office? Or the corridors? Or the very specific smell the building has?
Is it perhaps the pre-show energy in the bar? That very specific Young Vic
buzz, that only seems come into its full sparkle between 6pm and 7.30pm.
It could be that feeling of solving a very specific problem? The kind of problem
that means almost nothing to anyone outside the walls of the theatre, but
feels earth shattering in the moment.
But I think the most likely thing, the thing that comes to mind most often, is the
daily usher briefing by fire exit two. We all huddle before the show, talk
about what's happening that night, anyone exciting who is attending the
show... and a few who aren't as exciting...
We talk about our day, talk about our lives, talk about the show, talk about
the building, talk about upcoming shows, art that we've seen... I get a tiny
snapshot into 15 people's lives. I know many of their family's names, what they
are up to, how healthy or unhealthy they are, amongst other things, and its
taken all of this for me to realise how important that moment is, and how much
I miss it. That tiny gathering, sitting on the old carpet, checking floats,
checking stock and checking in with each other. It's human. Something we
don't have right now... but we will again.
So yeah. I miss my team: Aisha, Albert, Aly, Aran, Cass, Chris,
Daniel, Daniella, Debbie, Donal, Dynzell, Eboni, Edd, Eve,
Francesca, Glenn, Grace, Gracjana, Isaac, Jess, Joanna, Joe, Jon,
Julie, Kitti, Lethaniel, Liz, Luca, Lynn, Mark, Maryam, Maurice,
Melina, Oliver, Owen, Paula, Rosemarie, Shankho, Simone,
Sophie, Susan, Taz, Thea, Tobi.
Big love. x
Will Bowden, Front of House Manager
FRONT OF HOUSE
One of our ushers, Aisha, spoke to BBC News about working at the YV and missing
theatre. Whilst furloughed from the Young Vic, Aisha worked as a disability
campaigner. Her interview, organised in associate with Mencap, helped raise
awareness of what people with a learning disability can achieve in the world of work,
and how the pandemic has affected people.
LOOKING AHEAD TO REOPENING
"I am looking forward to being submerged into the live atmosphere
of that powerful energy exchange between performers and
audience. Being physically present in that specific moment of time is
an exquisite experience!"
Slav Kirichok, Security
"I am looking forward to enjoying a live shared experience, where
the energy of a room is something that can be felt in the moment
and carried through into conversation after that experience."
Rathi Kumar, Director of IT and Administration
"When theatres reopen, I am most looking forward to
experiencing the ripple: that sudden wave of shared
understanding or recognition that ripples through an audience
when their truths or experiences are directly spoken to - that
moment in a show when we all, suddenly, see, feel and
understand something about ourselves, and do so collectively."
Teunkie Van Der Sluijs, Creative Associate
"I can't wait to bring my new baby (in his Young Vic onesie)
to meet my beloved colleagues...
and then I'll sneak off to watch a matinee!!"
Holly Aston, Producer
"I’m looking forward to the dimmed lights, the sudden hush, the
collective sense of pure anticipation. I miss experiencing that
strange and significant intensification or suspension of reality. I
can’t wait to go on a personal journey alongside countless others.
To laugh and applaud with total strangers. To once again bear
witness to and be in dialogue with the extraordinary efforts of
numerous artistic, technical and administrative minds."
Olivia Nwabali, Executive Assistant to the Artistic Director
Spotlight On: Hamlet
Our highly anticipated
production of Hamlet,
starring Cush Jumbo and
directed by Greg Hersov,
was set for the summer of
2020. It's been on pause,
and we can't wait for
audiences to join us in 2021.
"I am not someone who
blanket believes that I
should just get to play
every man that’s ever
written because I want to,
but with Shakespeare, I
see no boundary at all. I
want to do Shakespeare
with the best possible
people – I want my mum to
understand it, and my 14-
year-old niece to
understand it, and a critic
to like it and it to entertain
everybody. I don’t really
care who’s in it.”
Cush Jumbo speaking to
Cush Jumbo as Hamlet. Photo by Dean Chalkley. Concept by Émilie Chen.
Dear Young Vic,
We’ve missed you for TWELVE months.
Naturally we want to create and serve delicious food
and drinks. During our closure we enjoyed moments of
reflection, developing, nurturing and of course lots of
baking! But nothing compares with the motivation of a
Our short re-openings in Autumn and December were
brilliant but short-lived teasers. Just as we got going -
we had to shut down. Twice.
Time passed and you’ve all missed what should have
been our building’s loudest applause ever. Young Vic’s
50th birthday party. Others missed their mum’s 75th
And that is why our return will be a celebration with
our most exciting menu ever. New outdoor seating and
improved event and restaurant spaces. Musical and DJ
nights making our building as vibrant as ever.
We can’t wait to see you.
Nicolai Outzen, Owner of The Cut Bar
Photo (c) Ellie Kurttz.
A GREENER FUTURE
This year, we've continued with our mission to become a more
environmentally responsible and sustainable theatre.
We are very proud to have been awarded 5*s from Julie's Bicycle for our
continued commitment to reducing our carbon footprint. Sustainability is a
core part of our business plan, and our improvements and changes are
evident from across our theatre; from using more ethical supplies and
reducing our waste through to conducting regular energy audits and
engaging staff in sustainable initiatives.
In December of 2020, London Mayor Sadiq Khan visited the YV as part of
his Street Space for London scheme. The road outside our theatre, The
Cut, is now a car-free zone, making it a safer place for pedestrians and
Our Directors Program continues to engage a network of artists in
conversations around sustainability, holding workshops and discussions
that explore how to make work that engages with the climate crisis – in
terms of its content, the way in which the work itself is made, and how it
can connect audiences to the wider dialogue. Sessions over the year
included workshops such as: ‘The Crisis on Stage: How do we engage with
the climate and ecological emergency in our work’; ‘Constant Growth:
Upscaling & Sustainability – is bigger always better?’ and an
Artist/Scientist speed networking event.
We take this opportunity to thank IHS Markit for investing in a more sustainable
future for our theatre.
Kwame Kwei-Armah and Major for London
Sadiq Khan outside the Young Vic
The Co-Chairs of our Development Board, Ebele Okobi and Rachel Conlan give
their impression of the philanthropic landscape after Covid, and what they're
looking forward to.
What is going to be the biggest challenge for philanthropy post-Covid?
EO: There are so many worthy causes, even more in the wreckage of
Covid, so donor fatigue will be a challenge. The economic forecast for
many is also worrying, so that may lead to people being much more
cautious about giving. That said, many people/companies are clearer
now than ever about the importance of mission/purpose/values, so there
is an opportunity for organizations to be even more clear about precisely
how what we do intersects with mission/purpose/values.
RC: The pandemic has shone an even brighter spotlight on the
importance of philanthropy in the arts.
I think we’ll see a big shift in donor giving, from both private or corporate
sources, that prioritizes purpose driven arts organizations that are not
only inclusive but provide platforms for thought provoking narratives.
The challenge for these Art organizations will be whether they can
capitalize on this opportunity in a smart and impactful way.
What are you most looking forward to about live theatre’s return?
What have you missed most?
EO: I have missed the kind of beautiful storytelling that allows me to get
completely lost, or which challenges the way I think. I so look forward to
the expectant hush right before the play begins, when all are rapt,
anticipating magic, and grateful to be in beloved community.
RC: Live theatre transports you to another world – it provides an
escapism, in a way that other storytelling medium such as Cinema and TV
cannot. When compelling stories are brought to life on stage by
performers, there is a special type of magic that is created in the
auditorium. I personally am counting down the days to those meaningful
moments of escape!
Photo (c) Philip Vile.
Dear Young Vic.
I’m writing this on my way home from actual in-person rehearsals. My first inperson
rehearsals in just over a year. That feels like a really important thing to
share right now, whilst as an industry we’re searching for sprouts of hope and
normality. But I’ve been reflecting on whether ‘normality’ is what we should be
During the pandemic I have been fortunate enough to have joined the board of
Young Vic and to have successfully launched Uproot Productions. Through these
roles, I’ve learned an invaluable amount about the theatre industry. I’m acutely
aware that both the Ambassador Trustee position and the existence of Uproot
came from a need to create new pathways and opportunities. And it’s got me
thinking about where many of us would be if these targeted pathways didn’t exist.
The other day a colleague and friend called me a leader and I rejected the title.
She challenged me and suggested that I, like many of us, perhaps have a skewed
and limited understanding of what leadership actually looks like. That really stuck
with me and led me to contemplate all the things that we’ve subconsciously
inherited as the norm. Many of us had accepted the structures of our society as
the default, yet in 2020 we saw them crumble in a way that we could never have
We’re all out here rushing to get back to normal, when actually, ‘normal’ was
pretty butterz if you ask me. And there is no better time to consciously reimagine
the world that we would like to rebuild. So as we approach the time when the
doors of theatres finally reopen, let’s all tek time and consider what we'd like to
see change. And to consider how we each can take responsibility to implement it. I
think that one way to do that, is to redefine leadership, redistribute power and
collectively lead with care.
Abigail Sewell, Theatre and Film Director, Co-Founder and Artistic Director of
Uproot Productions and Ambassador Trustee, Young Vic
Photo (c) Ellie Kurttz
Dear Young Vic,
For us at the Young Vic, acts of selflessness and kindness
have been a thread that has run through the course of this
pandemic year; they have been one of the things that
have been crucial not only in our practical survival, but in
our ability to intellectually and emotionally keep going.
From our wonderful staff team, to supporters to artists,
audiences and other stakeholders who were right
alongside us - this has been an encouragement and a
It’s been a brutal year, and our hearts go out to those
who’ve lost loved ones and been debilitated by the
pandemic. But as we reflect back in these pages we can
see the resilience of those with a common purpose. We
have much to be proud of.
We always say that theatre is a collaborative art form,
but over the last 12 months, it has never been more true. I
have endless gratitude to everyone who stepped
forwards in solidarity with us at times when they
themselves were personally or professionally impacted
and sometimes grieving. We are grateful to our whole
So, I want this as a moment on record to say...
Top: SCENE/CHANGE Set and Costume Designers outside the YV.
Middle: YV Staff helping the Blackfriars Settlement team to deliver food to those shielding using the YV van
Bottom: The Guardian Front Page announcing the YV's receipt of Cultural Recovery Fund support
THANK YOU TO...
The tailors who hosted projectors in their windows to celebrate our 50th Anniversary
The donors and members of the development board who made truly personal offers of support - contributing
proceeds from the sales of books, and of beautiful handmade dresses; to advancing money sooner rather
than later to help us out when we needed it most; to funding our charitable food delivery services &
Commercial investors who donated back the profit generated on our last West End transfer, and audience
members who donated back their tickets
Theatre photographers who captured the silence of our building, and donated back the proceeds of their
labour to a sector they love
The awesome artists who brought our exterior building alive when we needed to connect with the people
around us the most
Our Corporate Members and Partners who remained firmly by our side, and presented new opportunities to
work together and support our goals
The freelancers who have offered their ingenuity and creativity even whilst their livelihoods were
depleted, and our beautiful new collective of associate artists who offered their collaboration so generously
Professional services and other contractors who reduced their fees or provided pro bono support
Co-Producers who extended their hands to co-fund our weekend performances of The New Tomorrow in
October 2020 – so generously and collaboratively making work with us again
Trusts and Foundations who unrestricted funds, making it easy for us to pivot to digital and continue to
provide opportunities for our community. Thank you also to those Trusts and Foundations who are supporting
our efforts to reopen safely in 2021
The participants, the artists and the facilitators of all the work we have managed to produce this year…and
all those who created, managed and monitored the Covid regulations that made this possible
THANK YOU TO...
The individual supporter who shared his military experience with our leadership – to encourage and
reassure that these times too will pass and to keep the faith in one’s own instinct
Our remarkable consultants who have helped us begin our journey to becoming an anti-racist organisation
Those who spoke truth to power this year and took on their own emotional labour and tax to do so
Sector leadership that have collaborated and held us up, helping us advocate and lobby to Government
local and national – and the ministers, mayors, and councillors who heard us
The donors of a legacy gift remarkable in its timing
Anyone who helped leadership to lead during this time – the texts, the calls, the emails of support
Our statutory and arts sector funders who provided emergency funds to keep us standing
The amazing culture team at Lambeth (and the brilliant individual who helped us licence cherry pickers and
pavement closures at the last minute!)
Our incredible staff team who volunteered for other charities, mentored artists, home-schooled their
children, cared for elders, went on furlough to help the YV, covered roles not normally their own, lost loved
ones, suffered from ongoing structural inequality – and still stayed here with us
Everyone in our staff team who has been at the (very) sharp end of managing our finances; our people; our
theatre operations; our IT capacity; and our customer service during the time of Coronavirus
Our senior managers past and present who have supported the organisation and leadership endlessly and
Glenn, our Chair, and our Board of Trustees who have given so much of their time and energy during periods
that were as hard for them as they were for us
Despina Tsatsas, Executive Director
Dear Young Vic,
A year like no other. A refrain repeated across our industry, and across the UK,
and the world.
Trauma is perhaps best served at a distance. We cannot yet quantify the trauma
of the past year. The personal and collective losses which have been felt through
our country. The loss within our theatre community, including the freelancers who
have been left largely without support, some forced to leave our sector entirely.
How will that manifest in our art and in our practice?
The pages of this document are testament to the people who gather in the world
of art. From the actors and artists most visible, to all the people behind the
scenes who have kept the wheels turning and the environment for artmaking
thriving, and the generosity of those who support through financial means: I give
thanks. And in particular, I take this moment to acknowledge the support and
boundless energy of my friend and colleague Despina Tsatsas.
As an artist and an Artistic Director, I am always trying to see around corners.
As we look to reopening our doors, this endeavour to anticipate and to adapt
feels more important than ever. In approach, in form, in theme. We must reach
further and stretch our arms wider. We must return in new and innovative ways,
redefining liveness across physical and digital spaces. We will lean into new
collaborations, rebuilding a better sector. The summer of racial reckoning means
that returning as we were before simply cannot happen. And we are going to be
led by artists and creatives who, through experiencing what it felt like to not be
able to make art, will look at their craft in an entirely new way.
I hope to soon be inviting our community back into the YV, to collect once more
at the altar of live theatre. My wish is that our art will heal, doing justice to the
hurt, the trauma, and lessons of this last year.
Until then, I send strength and hope from the YV family to yours.
Photo (c) Ellie Kurttz
Kwame Kwei-Armah, Artistic Director
Document (c) Emma Hardy, 2021. Front and back cover images (c) Philip Vile
The Young Vic (registered charity
number 268876) receives public
subsidy from Arts Council England
and Lambeth & Southwark
Borough Councils. In 2020, the
Young Vic was a UK Government
Cultural Recovery Fund recipient.