So it might come as a surprise that his inaugural season at London's edgiest producing theatre will open with a Shakespearean comedy. But this musical re-working of Twelfth Night is not Elizabethan drama as we know it.
Kwei-Armah describes it as a 'show that stands community members shoulder to shoulder with professional artists, it’s filled with joyful, soulful music by Shaina Taub; it’s a celebration.'
It's also a tried and tested success to kick start his tenure. The production has already impressed at The Public Theater in New York in 2016 and again in 2017. The New York Times declared it 'jubilant' and a 'continual delight' while Vulture enthused about a 'diverse and delicious' production.
The gender-swapping, identity-adopting chaos of the story offers plenty of scope for playful updates. Kwei-Armah and Taub take inspiration from that famous opening line – 'If music be the food of love' – to rework the verse into contemporary RnB-inspired songs.
With Beyoncé riffs and brass bands, the music makes the humour and emotion in Shakespeare's text instantly accessible. And the lyrics are peppered with puns and astute observations. 'Is it so simple as putting on a pair of pants?' sings a cross-dressing Viola in a potent commentary on gender bias.
Alongside the songs, the other innovation in the production is the way in which it enacts community engagement. Each night an ensemble of around 30-40 Southwark and Lambeth locals will join the professional cast on stage.
We look forward to bopping along with a show that combines tradition and modernity, and which invites people from all walks of life to perform Shakespeare.
|What||Twelfth Night, Young Vic Theatre|
|Where||The Young Vic, 66 The Cut , Waterloo, London, SE1 8LZ | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Southwark (underground)|
02 Oct 18 – 17 Nov 18, 7:30 PM – 10:00 PM
|Price||£10 - £40|
|Website||Click here to book now|