The Young Vic has revealed its shows for the year ahead and, frankly, we’re rather excited about what the Waterloo venue has planned. From headliners returning in acclaimed plays to productions that cut right to the heart of pressing concerns, there’s much to get theatrical pulses racing.
We already knew about Joe Hill-Gibbins’s upcoming nightmarish look at A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the productions of The Bear/The Proposal and Yellowman that will be directed by Genesis Award winners. Here’s why we think you should be leaping with excitement about the new shows announced for the Young Vic season. (Tickets go on sale to the public at 10:00 on 1 February).
Billie Piper returns in Yerma
Yerma was one of THE shows of 2016. And Piper one of the year’s most acclaimed performers. Don’t be surprised if her name is in the mix when Olivier Award nominations are announced. The original play is set in 1934. Its central character is a woman who can’t have children. Writer and director Simon Stone picked up the plot and placed it seamlessly in the present day. It could so easily have gone wrong, but it didn’t. It went exceptionally right. Piper’s performance was described as “earth-quaking” and “devastatingly powerful”. Now we have the chance to experience it again (or for the first time) from 26 July to 31 August.
Joe Wright returns to theatre
That would be the BAFTA-winning director of Atonement, Pride And Prejudice and Anna Karenina. Of course, just because he can direct films does not mean he can direct plays. Except, he can. He previously directed the stunning A Season In The Congo at the Young Vic in 2013. He’s back directing Brecht’s Life Of Galileo (6 May to 24 June) starring Piper’s Yerma co-star Brendan Cowell in the title role.). The tale of the scientist and philosopher takes in belief versus reason. Just small issues to grapple with, then. It also promises to deliver a Young Vic auditorium like we’ve never seen it before. That’s a big statement for those of us who’ve spent a lot of time there.
Juliet Stevenson reunites with Natalie Abrahami
Juliet Stevenson was buried in a rock pile last time she appeared at the Young Vic’s Main House. That was the 2015 production of Happy Days, when she also worked with Natalie Abrahami. Now the Bend It Like Beckham and Truly Madly Deeply star will play another trapped woman in Wings (14 September to 28 October). The Pulitzer Prize-nominated drama is the story of a former aeroplane-wing walker whose life is devastated when she suffers a stroke. Everything she was certain about is replaced by fragments of truths, relationships and memories. If we had to choose any actress to play this role, Stevenson would be at the top of the list.
Nina Simone takes centre stage
There will be songs. Of course there will. But Nina – A Story About Me And Nina Simone (19 to 29 July) is far more than a jukebox musical. We don’t have anything against jukebox musicals, but you don’t normally find them at the Young Vic. This is a play with music about the My Baby Just Cares For Me singer and her effect on the life of Olivier Award nominee Josette Bushell-Mingo, who co-devised and performs it. It’s a show that questions how far we’ve come since Simone’s Civil Rights efforts in the 1960s.
That’s what we expect from the Young Vic, the tackling of tough subjects. While we’re 60 years on from the 60s, we’re centuries on from the writing of Aeschylus’s The Suppliant Women (13 to 25 November). But when you consider a plot about women forced to flee their homeland and throw themselves on the mercy of a new ruler and people, it takes very little effort to see the modern parallels. In fact, it would be hard to ignore them.
The return of Amir Nizar Zuabi
This may be more niche excitement from a Young Vic fan, but Zuabi’s previous work has been exciting, challenging and fresh. He directs Taha (5 to 15 July), written by Amer Hlehel. It is a second refugee story. This one follows the life of a Palestinian poet who immerses himself in literature to cope with a world where war is the only constant.
Ending the year with winter fun
As with recent hit Once In A Lifetime, it all gets a little more light-hearted to end the year. How To Win Against History (30 November to 23 December) is a musical that has already been a hit in Edinburgh. It’s the story of a man who died in 1905 aged 29 having spent his family’s fortune on exquisite clothes and opulent theatrical productions. Given it will be the Christmas season, we can’t wait to see someone spending more than us, and use his story as a timely reminder.