Kwame Kwei-Armah has been recently announced as the new Artistic Director of The Young Vic and the theatre press has exploded with reactions, commentary and news.

So, here’s what we at Miro Magazine think about the appointment of Kwei-Armah as a next step for a theatre that promises to have,

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Kwame Kwei-Armah

Nastazja Somers, Feminist Theatre maker (founder of No Offence Theatre and curator of HerStory festival)

The appointment of Kwame Kwei-Armah as the new Artistic Director of The Young Vic is most likely the best theatre news this year. As someone who aims to devote their career to promoting intersectional feminist work and eradicate the old way of thinking in British theatre, I jumped in the air when the news broke.

Kwei-Armah is a forward thinking, multidisciplinary artists who understands the challenges that contemporary theatre faces on a day to day basis – his knowledge and compassion for inclusive, contextually and conceptually rich theatre has been admired by many. Kwei-Armah will no doubt honour the legacy of David Lan, but what’s most important is that he will programme versatile and humane work, which will make The Young Vic an even more inclusive venue.

It feels like this appointment is the beginning of something special and gives hope to those who fight to make British theatre more modern, political and representational of the world that we live in.

 

Daniel Perks, Theatre Editor

I first remember Kwame Kwei-Armah as paramedic Finlay Newton in BBC1’s Casualty in 1999. He was charming, funny and caring, an exceptionally talented actor and part of an equally exceptional storyline. I then remember that he performed in Fame Academy for Comic Relief – a stunning, gorgeous voice only beaten in the end by eye candy Will Mellor and the hilarious whirlwind that is Ruby Wax. While these may seem trivial events, they open all our eyes to the character of this man, one that is charitable, dedicated and passionate about performance and the arts.

Of course, Kwei-Armah is renowned in the theatre world for his work as an actor and playwright over the last twenty years. Olivier Award nominee (for Elmina’s Kitchen in 2004); past member of the board of the National Theatre; Artistic Director of Centre Stage in Baltimore since 2011, Kwei-Armah has a wealth of experience in the performance arts. Taking over from David Lan at The Young Vic is a tall order, but one that Kwei-Armah has more than enough experience to fill.

It’s also an exciting step forward for British theatre as a whole. In a world that is moving to champion diversity, inclusiveness and a fairer system that is more representational of the country, Kwei-Armah’s strong stances in favour of this cause is a leap forward for The Young Vic. According to Victoria Sadler’s illuminating article, this bastion of new writing and progressive programmed only two shows out of 17 by female playwrights in 2017. That’s not even mentioning people of colour.

 

Cindy Marcolina, Theatre Writer and Journalist

The appointment of a multi-faceted and well-rounded artist like Kwame Kwei-Armah is a vital step towards changing an industry that strives for diversity. Kwei-Armah is a man who makes history and doesn’t merely talk about it – when his major work, Elmina’s Kitchen, hit the West End in 2003, he was only the second black playwright to achieve a run in Theatreland.

Now, after calling out the lack of diversity no longer than a year ago, as well as an array of acclaimed productions, he has all the potential to be a ground-breaking artistic director. It’s safe to say that the world of theatre is waiting with bated breath to see what Kwei-Armah has in store for The Young Vic.

 

Josh Brown, Editor in Chief

The Young Vic is one of the most dynamic, versatile, and diverse theatres in the UK. Beginning life as an off-shoot of the Old Vic, Lawrence Olivier once said of the venue:

“Here, we think to develop plays for young audiences, an experimental workshop for authors, actors and producers”

With this in mind then, Kwame Kwei-Armah’s appointment as the new Artistic Director is absolutely inspired. Kwei-Armah is a vibrant, critically engaged and multi-faceted artist, unafraid to challenge perceptions and speak his mind. Only last week on a panel of playwrights, he spoke honestly and incisively about post-Brexit theatre:

“The challenge of Brexit to theatre in an increasingly borderless world is – do we want interdependence? I think theatre in Britain has practiced Brexit for as long as I can remember. I think we privilege the English word.”

There is no doubt that theatre always will be forward-thinking and politically charged, but it feels as though Kwei-Armah could break the mould. An unapologetic leader ready to champion emerging, diverse creatives is certainly an exciting and absolutely necessary prospect for British theatre.