Kwame Kwei-Armah Stepping Away From Young Vic Theatre; Reveals His Final Season | Playbill

London News Kwame Kwei-Armah Stepping Away From Young Vic Theatre; Reveals His Final Season

The London theatre will present a new musical from Elvis Costello and Sarah Ruhl, the U.K. debut of Passing Strange, and more in 2024.

Kwame Kwei-Armah Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Young Vic Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah has revealed he will step down from leading the London company next fall. The position, which he assumed in 2018, made Kwei-Armah the first African Caribbean director to lead a major British theatre. Over his tenure, Kwei-Armah has seen three West End transfers, two Broadway bows, and one feature film develop from Young Vic productions. He also helped launch the theatre's innovative streaming scheme, which allowed the theatre's productions to reach global audiences.

In a statement announcing his planned departure, Kwei-Armah sounds warning bells about an ongoing funding crisis befalling theatres worldwide, but particularly in the U.K. "The three pillars that have guided my tenure have been innovation, access, and community, and I’m proud of all that we have achieved," he says. "But it is a bittersweet moment. The painful reality is I am leaving a subsidized sector where 13 years of standstill funding is taking its toll. For decades the theatre industry has fueled the U.K.’s world-renowned creative industries, providing vital pathways for artists to flourish, going from subsidized theatre, into the West End, and into TV and film. But without investment we could lose this pipeline of talent within a generation. I’m hopeful that this can and must change, but it needs sincere government intervention.

“I want to thank our audiences and supporters who have continued their Young Vic journey with us and many who have joined us for the first time. I invite you to join me as I’m rocking out at the Young Vic with shows that mean the world to me and sum up what a building like this can do."

The theatre will begin an official search for a new artistic director next week. Kwei-Armah will program one production for the upcoming 2025 season before stepping down later this year.

News of Kwei-Armah's impending departure came alongside a reveal of the theatre's upcoming season. First up is a European premiere for the rock musical Passing Strange. The new production will be directed by Liesl Tommy, with performances running May 14–July 6. Opening night is May 21.

The musical, following a young, Black musician on a quest to find himself, premiered on Broadway in 2008, featuring a book and lyrics by Stew and music by Stew and Heidi Rodewald. Stew won a 2008 Tony Award for his book.

The Young Vic's production will feature set and costume design by Ben Stones, sound design by Tom Gibbons, music supervision by Brandon Michael Nase, music direction by Art Terry, and choreography by Dickson Mbi. Casting, which is to be announced, is by Heather Basten.

Following will be a new musical with music and lyrics by Elvis Costello and a book by Sarah Ruhl, adapted from the 1957 film A Face in the Crowd. Kwei-Armah will direct the story of a radio producer who gives a jailed drifter a spot on the airwaves only to find out the move is more than she bargained for. Performances will run September 10–November 9, with a September 17 opening night.

The project is one of multiple musical theatre projects for Pulitzer finalist playwright Ruhl, who's also working on an adaptation of The Interestings with Waitress songwriter Sara Bareilles.

Closing out the mainstage season will be a new staging of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes with Olivier winner Lyndsey Turner at the helm. Performances will run December 4-February 8, 2025, with opening night set for December 11. The revival, a co-production with Second Half Productions, will feature design by Lizzie Clachan and sound design by Tingying Dong.

Visit for more details about additional non-performance programming planned for 2024.

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