Last Friday, we were lucky enough to be invited backstage at the Young Vic to hear about preparations for their exciting new musical, Annie Get Your Gun.
We met the Young Vic’s Artistic Director, David Lan, who, after 10 years in the job, still speaks with infectious enthusiasm about the theatre and the show currently in rehearsals.
David is clear about the Young Vic’s brief. “Whatever we do, it has to give somebody the chance to do something they’ve never done before. Something a little bit adventurous, a little bit ambitious. There needs to be a sense of going out on a limb.”
The Young Vic is all about exploration, experiments and collaboration, says David. In the last six years, the theatre (originally created to cater for the younger members of Laurence Olivier’s Royal National Theatre) has produced some brilliant musicals. Sell-out Simply Heavenly in 2003 transferred to the West End; The Magic Flute won an Olivier Award; 2008’s Street Scene won an Evening Standard Award…
Another highly successful show for the Young Vic was Brecht’s Good Soul of Szechuan, directed by Richard Jones, starring Jane Horrocks. Towards the end of the run, David tells us, Jane came to him and asked if they could continue performing the show. Of course, the Young Vic had other commitments. But Jane was persistent: “I want to come back in with Richard Jones, and do a show that just keeps on going…”
This is the background to the hotly anticipated Annie Get Your Gun, being performed at the Young Vic this October after 17 years’ absence from the West End.
David takes us to the auditorium; what he believes is one of the most important parts of the Young Vic. “Whatever we do, we’re always able to completely reconfigure the auditorium,” he explains. Annie Get Your Gun will be played on a wide proscenium stage; the audience will sit in unnumbered seats in the stalls and the circle, and, if tickets are in demand, in the technical gallery.
From the tantalising view of techies building the new staging, we’re then taken to the rehearsal rooms, to get an even sweeter taste of the show to come.
Among the well-read Grazia magazines, discarded coffee cups and open, oversized handbags spilling keys, mobile phones and books onto the floor are about 15 cast members, standing in a group around a piano. Three or four of them are expertly twirling plastic pistols around their fingers while they wait for their cues.
A couple are wearing cowboy boots; one girl is in a gingham dress. But whether these are a nod to the show they’re rehearsing or a fashion choice is unclear. Jane Horrocks is also there, working away from the group, looking elegantly dishevelled and diminutive in a denim skirt.
When they start singing, though, the scruffiness of the ripped jeans, socks-no-shoes, beanies and old t-shirts vanishes behind a powerful wall of Irving Berlin’s sumptuous music. They work through a medley of tunes (There’s No Business… They Say It’s Wonderful, and so on…) that sounds like a Finale; the director wants them to pay particular attention to the dynamics. Then we hear a technically trickier song, I Got The Sun in the Morning, which has some of the guys at the back holding their ears in an effort to perfect their harmonies.
All too soon, it’s over, and we’re outside the theatre wishing we were able to see the whole show. We can’t wait to see how director Richard Jones has reworked this American classic for a modern London audience: David warned us it was full of charm, and surprisingly moving. And we’re really excited about seeing Jane Horrocks in the lead role come October…