As part of Open House London, I booked myself onto a tour of the Young Vic, a theatre I love and have been to several times over the years. There were no productions on the Sunday afternoon I was due to take the tour, so the foyer area was uncharacteristically quiet. We were met by our guide, who took us into the three auditoriums and into the backstage areas while telling us about the history of the theatre.
The Young Vic was formed in 1946 under George Devine, and initially set out to produce classics for a younger audience. It was part of the Old Vic, and later the National Theatre, until 1974 when it set out on its own. The building, completed by architect Frank Dunlop, was constructed around an old butcher’s shop that was the only house left standing in the street after heavy World War II bombing; you can still see the tiled walls and the silver meat hooks when you walk into the box office. A 2004 refurbishment involved architect Haworth Tompkins.
We were taken into the “Big Theatre” first, the main auditorium, and were able to go onto the stage (currently home to Yerma starring Billie Piper) so long as we took our shoes off first. The auditorium is very flexible, but usually seats around 420. We also got to visit the smaller auditorium, the Maria (named after designer Maria Bjornson), which seats around 160, and the tiny Clare studio (named after Clare Venables, former Artistic Director of the Sheffield Crucible), which holds around 60. I’ve been in all of these spaces before, but it was still exciting to be able to examine them “bare” and without a crowd of audience members.
One of the most exciting parts of the tour involved the chance to play around with some props, including a large Jesus statue from The Revenger’s Tragedy, and a fencing sword used in Hamlet. Another involved the chance to see some Olivier awards won by the theatre over the years.
We got to check out the attractive roof terrace, and the library/office which sits in the old butcher’s shop above the box office. Another very exciting room was the costume department, where we got to see a multitude of hats, wigs, assorted fabrics and full costumes, including several I’d previously seen on stage.
Touring the Young Vic was great fun; I always love to go behind the scenes at theatres, and this was no exception. Hopefully I’ll get to go back to see some more productions here in the future.