45 years Young…

The Young Vic theatre in 1970
The Young Vic theatre in 1970

Molière’s Les Fourberies de Scapin opened on 11 September 1970, the first production at the Young Vic. The budget of £60,000 — about £882,000 today — was offered by the Arts Council based on five years’ rent of an existing building. The Greater London Council offered a five-year lease on a bombsite on The Cut, near the South Bank. The only standing building on the site, a butcher’s shop, was retained (‘we couldn’t afford to knock it down’ joked Bill Howell) and converted to a foyer.

Young Vic plan
Young Vic ground floor plan

With the Young Vic’s founder Frank Dunlop, Howell planned a shallow octagonal theatre to seat 450, with a one row-deep gallery around three sides. The acting area with its long thrust stage was based on study of similar examples such as the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario and the Washington Square Theatre in Greenwich Village, New York. The breeze-block exterior made no bones about the lack of cash — Howell referred to it as ‘a very cheap essay in the early German Gasworks style’.  An ancillary block, on the other side of the foyer housed a large rehearsal room, dressing rooms and coffee bar.

The Young Vic was refurbished by Haworth Tompkins in 2004-6, developing new spaces and facilities around a retained auditorium interior.


3 thoughts on “45 years Young…

    1. hi Alistair, the actual quote, now that I look it up, is ‘a very cheap essay in the early German Gasworks style’–I will edit accordingly! It’s from the article I’ve been serialising:

      W.G. Howell, ‘Vertebrate buildings: the architecture of structured space’, RIBA Journal, vol. 77, no. 3, March 1970, pp.200-208 (p.105).

      Can’t wait to write up YV, just have to finsh Oxford chapter first! All best, Geraint


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