Young Vic celebrates 50th birthday with new commissions

The Young Vic will celebrate its 50th birthday with a weekend festival of speeches and monologues asking what the next 50 years hold, its first piece of live theatre since it closed its doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

There will also be an interactive outdoor art installation called The Unforgotten, commemorating inspirational trailblazers including pioneering nurse and Crimean War heroine Mary Seacole, gay liberation activist Marsha P Johnson and Trinidadian war hero Ulric Cross.

The Young Vic community will be invited to contribute to the installation by submitting their own nominations in writing on the side of the building and online.

Meanwhile, the YV 50th Projection Project will celebrate the people and productions from across the five decades by illuminating the front of the Young Vic building each evening, with video design by Duncan McLean.

The new piece of theatre The New Tomorrow will see writers and artists Jade Anouka, Marina Carr, Jasmine Lee-Jones, Ruth Madeley, Amy Ng, Stef Smith, Jack Thorne, Isobel Waller-Bridge and Steve Waters explore the change that has come and is coming, with a cast to be announced.

The performance will be streamed via Facebook Live, with a limited number of in-person tickets also available through a lottery.

The 50th Projection Project and The Unforgotten will be unveiled on Friday evening, marking the beginning of We Are The New Tide – a year-long 50th birthday programme running until September 2021.

Kwame Kwei-Armah, artistic director of the Young Vic, said: “We had planned to hold a giant street party celebration to mark the beginning of our 50th birthday year. We had envisioned 50 individual stages in and around the YV featuring the people who make up its DNA – drama students and community members, actors, artists, creatives, technical crews – and we were going to invite hundreds of people to join us.

“This year has taken a very different turn, and it feels vital our revised birthday plans serve this urgent moment, on this precipice of monumental change.

“The YV’s extraordinary past will be rightly celebrated, but we cannot do this without acknowledging the seriousness of this present moment and also looking towards our future.

“Therefore, the beginning of our 50th birthday year sees three commissions: a projection project on the front of the building to celebrate the past people and productions who have contributed to this unique theatre over the last five decades; a commission called The Unforgotten which speaks entirely to the present moment and the urgent conversations which are taking place right now; and finally The New Tomorrow, a chance for brilliant writers and artists to take a look forward at what the next 50 years might hold for us.

“By channelling as much of this work into the digital sphere as possible, we continue our YV mission of being as accessible as possible.

“The beginning of our 50th year marks a moment of change for everyone, but it is a year I go into with absolute optimism, for We Are The New Tide.”

Glenn Earle, chair of the Young Vic board, said: “The Young Vic has been a theatrical powerhouse for five decades. A daring display of what theatre can be, the Young Vic is both deeply rooted in the local community and applauded internationally for artistic excellence.

“Our 50th birthday is a chance to celebrate the Young Vic’s ambition and brilliance, and also the spirit of community at the heart of this very special theatre. It is a chance to look back on 50 wonderful years of art and impact – and to dream about the next 50.”

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