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Exclusive: Kwame Kwei-Armah to be appointed artistic director of Young Vic

Kwame Kwei-Armah. Photo: Richard Anderson Kwame Kwei-Armah. Photo: Richard Anderson
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Kwame Kwei-Armah is set to be announced as the new artistic director of the Young Vic, The Stage understands.

The Young Vic plans to confirm the appointment to staff this week.

The London theatre has been in the process of appointing a successor to David Lan since he announced his departure in June, after 17 years at the helm.

Kwei-Armah, a writer, director and actor is currently artistic director of Center Stage in Baltimore, Maryland. He is already set to leave that post in June 2018.

He will return to the UK to take over from Lan following the Young Vic’s 2017/18 season. Kwei-Armah was one of seven people shortlisted for the role. The Stage has been told by multiple sources close to the recruitment process that his appointment will be confirmed this week.

Kwei-Armah is understood to have been linked to other artistic director jobs in the UK recently. His recent productions as a director have included One Night in Miami… at the Donmar Warehouse, and a musical about the life of Bob Marley, which he also wrote and which ran at Birmingham Repertory Theatre earlier this year.

He is currently in rehearsals for an adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s The Lady from the Sea, also at the Donmar Warehouse, which he directs.

Kwei-Armah began his career as an actor, appearing in the original London production of Elegies for Angels, Punks and Raging Queens at the Criterion in 1993, as well as a long-running role in BBC medical drama Casualty.

His plays have included Bitter Herb, and Elmina’s Kitchen, which ran at the National Theatre in 2003 and was nominated for an Olivier Award. He has led Center Stage in Baltimore since 2011.

Kwei-Armah has previously hit out at the lack of diverse artistic directors in the UK, describing the situation as “sinful”.

In an interview with The Stage last year, Kwei-Armah also said he thought black representation in the UK has not come as far as the US, and that Brexit has resulted in Britain taking “a step backwards into a world of xenophobia”.

Just last week, he argued that British theatre’s response to Brexit would be “problematic” if it only viewed events through a British lens, advocating a more international approach to the UK’s changing relationship with Europe.

The Young Vic declined to comment when approached by The Stage.

CV: Kwame Kwei-Armah

Born: 1967, London
Training: Barbara Speake Stage School; University of the Arts, London, screenwriting and classical narrative degree course
Career: Casualty (as actor, 1999-2004); writer-in-residence, Bristol Old Vic, (1999-2001); Comic Relief Does Fame Academy (2003); Chancellor of the University of the Arts (2011); artistic director of Center Stage, Baltimore, Maryland (2011 to present)
Landmark productions:
Theatre: A Bitter Herb, Bristol Old Vic (1998), Elmina’s Kitchen, National Theatre (2003), Fix Up, NT (2004), Statement of Regret, NT (2007), Let There Be Love, Center Stage (2010)
TV: Walter’s War, BBC4 (2008)
Awards: Peggy Ramsay Award for A Bitter Herb (1998), Evening Standard award for most promising new playwright for Elmina’s Kitchen (2003)
Agent: Sean Gascoine, United Agents

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