Young Vic

The Young Vic theatre is a performing arts venue located on the Cut, near the South Bank, in the London Borough of Lambeth.

Young Vic
AddressThe Cut
London, SE1
United Kingdom
Coordinates51.50323°N 0.10748°W / 51.50323; -0.10748
Public transit Waterloo; Southwark
Waterloo; Waterloo East
OwnerThe Young Vic Company
TypeNon-commercial resident company
Capacity420 Main house
150 Maria (studio)
70 Clare (studio)
ProductionRepertory seasons
Opened1970 (1970)
Rebuilt2006: Haworth Tompkins
ArchitectHaworth Tompkins

Its philosophy is to "foster emerging talent and collaborate with some of the world’s finest directors, performers and creatives; creating award-winning productions which engage with the world we live in". For many years, the Young Vic has been synonymous with inclusivity, accessibility and creativity.

The Young Vic was established by Frank Dunlop in 1970. Kwame Kwei-Armah has been Artistic Director since February 2018[1], succeeding David Lan.

The Young Vic's neighbourhood theatre programme, called Taking Part, engages over 15,000 local people every year via a wide range of projects, from skills-based workshops to on-stage performances. Their Directors Program has been running for nearly twenty years. The program currently serves nearly 1,000 directors, designers and producers living in the UK at the early stages of their career.


In the period after World War II, a Young Vic Company was formed in 1946 by director George Devine[2] as an offshoot of the Old Vic Theatre School for the purpose of performing classic plays for audiences aged nine to fifteen.

This was discontinued in 1948 when Devine and the entire faculty resigned from the Old Vic, but in 1969 Frank Dunlop became founder-director of The Young Vic theatre with his free adaptation of Molière's The Cheats of Scapin, presented at the new venue as a National Theatre production, opening on 11 September 1970 and starring Jim Dale in the title role with designs by Carl Toms (decor) and Maria Bjornson (costumes).[3]

Initially part of the National Theatre, the Young Vic Theatre became an independent body in 1974.[4]

In the words of Laurence Olivier, then director of the National Theatre: "Here we think to develop plays for young audiences, an experimental workshop for authors, actors and producers." The aim was to create an accessible theatre which offered high quality at low cost in an informal environment. The aim was to appeal to young audiences, but this time not specifically to children.

Young Vic Theatre

Frank Dunlop completed creation of the theatre venue in 1970, a breeze-block building on The Cut constructed out of a former butcher's shop and an adjacent bomb-site. It was intended to last for five years, but has become permanent.

The auditorium, with a thrust stage, has an approximate capacity of 420, although the configuration and capacity can vary depending on the design of each production.

In addition to the Young Vic's main house, there are now two smaller theatre spaces. The Maria, named after theatre designer Maria Bjornson, is the larger of the two with a capacity of 150. The Clare, named after the former artistic director of the Sheffield Crucible, Clare Venables,[5] seats 70. Like the main house, both smaller theatres have flexible seating configurations which can be arranged to suit the production design. In the two smaller auditoriums seating is usually unreserved, with the actors performing in close proximity to the audience.[6]

The Young Vic primarily performs classic plays, but often in innovative productions. Many well-known actors have worked at the Young Vic including Ian Charleson, who made his memorable professional debut with the Young Vic 1972–74, and who played Jimmy Porter in Look Back in Anger and Hamlet in the first revival of Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead in 1973. Others include Vanessa Redgrave, Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Timothy Dalton, Robert Lindsay, Willard White, John Malkovich, Michael Sheen and Arthur Lowe.

Quintessential rock band The Who held free, weekly concerts at the Young Vic in early 1971 in order to rehearse what would become their masterpiece album, Who's Next. One of these shows was released on the Deluxe edition of this album.

A memorial at the theatre's south-east corner commemorates the 54 people killed in 1941 while sheltering in the cellars of the former building on the site, during the Blitz.[7]

In 1982 the theatre hosted a Poetry Olympics, where comedian Pat Condell took part.[8]

Artistic Directors

  • David Lan (2000 - 2018)
  • Kwame Kwei-Armah (2018 - present)


2004 – Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre

2008 – Laurence Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival Laurence Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre

2013 – The Critics' Circle Peter Hepple Award for Best Musical: The Scottsboro Boys

2016 - Laurence Olivier Award for Best Revival: Yerma

2018 - The Critics' Circle Award for Best New Play: The Inheritance

2018 - Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best New Play: The Inheritance

2019 - Screen Nation Film and TV Awards Diversity In Drama Award: Soon Gone: A Windrush Chronicle

2019 - Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Play: The Inheritance

Refurbishment 2004–06

In 2003, the Young Vic launched a campaign to raise £12.5 million for a major reconstruction of its building and closed in 2004 for work to start.

Designed by architects Haworth Tompkins – also known for their refurbishment of the Royal Court Theatre, Regent's Park Open Air Theatre, and two temporary venues for the Almeida – and with Jane Wernick Associates as the structural engineers, and consulting engineers Max Fordham LLP designing the building services, the refurbishment was completed in October 2006.

The main auditorium has been left intact, but refurbished and technically enhanced. The butcher's shop has also been retained as the main entrance to the building and also the box office.

The remainder of the 1970s structure has been rebuilt to provide new foyers, dressing rooms, two studio theatres, and workshop spaces. An award of £5 million was received from the Arts Council of England.

The Young Vic re-opened on 11 October 2006, with a production of the community opera Tobias and the Angel; with music by Jonathan Dove and a libretto by David Lan.[9]

On 16 May 2007, the refurbished Young Vic won the RIBA London Building of the Year Award.[10] Following this award, the Young Vic was also shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize on 27 July 2007.[11]

A rebranding exercise by Sense Worldwide in 2010 resulted in the abandonment of its 30-year-old "sit anywhere" policy and a new strapline, "It's a big world in here".[12]

Notable Productions

February 2019 - Present

March 2018 - February 2019

March 2014 – February 2015

March 2012 – February 2014

January 2011 – February 2012

September 2010 – January 2011

October 2009 – January 2010

May 2009 – August 2010

January 2009 – April 2009

July 2008 – January 2009

January 2008 – June 2008

June 2007 – January 2008

October 2006 – June 2007

Taking Part

Taking Part, the Young Vic's participation department, produces the highest quality participatory work with over 15,000 local people every year.

Their productions allow for a diverse range of people to perform in shows that respond to the work on the Young Vic stages. Taking Part have worked alongside prisoners, refugees, homeless people, inpatients and participants with learning difficulties or physical disabilities. Taking Part productions have been performed in a variety of settings such as theatres, museums, prisons, hotels and care homes.

Directors Program

The Young Vic has been running the Directors Program for over eighteen years. Serving nearly 1,000 directors, designers and producers living in the UK at the early stages of their career, it is the only scheme of its kind. The program includes the Genesis Network, an online networking forum, as well as directing opportunities such as the Jerwood Assistant Director Program, the Boris Karloff Trainee Assistant Director Program, the Genesis Future Directors Awards and the Genesis Fellow.

Young Vic short films

The Young Vic has now produced five short films in collaboration with the Guardian. Following work on stage at the Young Vic, directors, writers and actors are commissioned to make short, "bold" spin-off films of their stage productions. Each has attracted tens of thousands of views, the aim being that YV Shorts act as a fourth stage for Young Vic work (in addition to the three performance spaces in London). Each film can be found on the Young Vic's website.

Inspired by the Young Vic's production of Edward Bond's play Bingo. Starring Patrick Stewart, directed by Angus Jackson and written by Mark O'Rowe.

Inspired by the Young Vic's production of A Doll's House. Starring Hattie Morahan, written by Nick Payne and directed by Carrie Cracknell.

Inspired by the Young Vic's production of Thomas Middleton and William Rowley's The Changeling. Starring Sinéad Matthews.

Inspired by Belarus Free Theatre, written by Nicolai Khalezin and Laura Wade, starring Nicolai Khalezin and Jude Law and directed by Vladimir Shcherban.

Inspired by the Young Vic's production of A Season in the Congo. Written and directed by Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Associate companies

The Young Vic is home to three associate companies; Belarus Free Theatre, Crying in the Wilderness Productions and the Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme.

Digital Theatre

The Young Vic was one of the launch theatres for Digital Theatre, a project that makes theatre productions available in video download form. The first performances that were filmed were Kafka's Monkey and The Container.[16]


  1. Ellis-Petersen, Hannah (26 September 2017). "Kwame Kwei-Armah named new artistic director of Young Vic". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  2. The Theatres of George Devine by Irving Wardle, Cape 1978 ISBN 0-224-01415-3
  3. Frank Dunlop's CV for Who's Who in the Theatre 17th edition, Gale (1981). ISBN 0-8103-0235-7
  4. The Oxford Companion to the Theatre, OUP (1983). ISBN 0-19-211546-4
  5. Thornber, Robin (20 October 2003). "Obituary: Clare Venables". the Guardian. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  6. "What to Expect". Young Vic. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
  7. "Young Vic war memorial plaque rededicated". Bankside Press. 21 June 2007. Retrieved 1 December 2011.
  8. "Poets' marathon at Young Vic 'Olympics'". The Times. 30 November 1982. Retrieved 24 March 2009.
  9. Review in The Stage.
  10. RIBA London Building of the Year Award. Retrieved 27 July 2007.
  11. RIBA announcement online. See also the RIBA profile of the Young Vic. Retrieved 27 July 2007.
  12. ["Market Research Agency of the Year" Marketing Magazine (8 December 2010) p. 30.]
  13. Tracey Sinclair (8 February 2011). "Exeunt: Vernon God Little". Retrieved 29 September 2011.
  14. "London Theatre Tickets, Theatre News and Reviews - WhatsOnStage". whatsonstage. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  15. Billington, Michael (20 March 2009). "Michael Billington: Kafka's Monkey / Young Vic, London". the Guardian. Retrieved 3 April 2018.
  16. "Leading theatres launch downloadable shows". 23 October 2009. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
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