Blog: Kwei-Armah symbolises a new kind of artistic director

Blog | 28 Sep 2017

Blog: Kwei-Armah symbolises a new kind of artistic director

An interesting aspect of Kwame Kwei-Armah's appointment as the new artistic director of the Young Vic is that he's a creative all-rounder: a playwright, actor and director.

Traditionally the theatre world likes to categorise its talent in neat boxes, and all-rounders have been the exception. But recently the boundaries are increasingly blurring, and that can surely only be a good thing.

At our recent panel discussion with The Mono Box (listen out for our podcast next week), a major talking point was the question of whether actors could easily cross over to become playwrights, and vice-versa. 

'There are limitless possibilities: imagine a theatre run by a designer, or a composer'

The unanimous advice from the panel, most of whom worked in multiple capacities, was yes. In fact, more than encouraging it, they suggested that the experience can form a vital aspect of your creative vision.

It will be interesting to see the extent to which Kwei-Armah chooses to write, direct and perform during his tenure. My hope is that he will do all three and in doing so help to reshape the role of artistic director.

Held up next to Michelle Terry's appointment at the Globe, it's an interesting moment for a job that only really became common in the last century. As a journalist I'm always looking for convenient patterns, but the tide does seem to be turning when it comes to the kinds of people being considered to run our theatres.

Peter Hall, as Matt Trueman wrote recently, was symbolic of the old kind of artistic director; a man with a singular vision and classical sensibilities. Now it seems the responsibilities are more pastoral, more community-focussed, and more fluid in terms of creative temperament.

I hope this reinvention continues. Imagine a theatre run by a designer, or a composer. Dare I say it, a critic could be an interesting appointment. There are countless possibilities.

But these are for the future. For now I can only wish Kwei-Armah well in his new role, however he chooses to play it.

- Theo Bosanquet

Image: Kwame Kwei-Armah and Finbar Lynch in rehearsals for The Lady from the Sea at the Donmar Warehouse. © Manuel Harlan

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