David Lan: From South African apartheid to Artistic Director of the Young Vic theatre

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David Lan: From South African apartheid to Artistic Director of the Young Vic theatre

Born and raised in apartheid South Africa, David Lan is now one of the most influential men in modern day theatre and has been the artistic director at the Young Vic since 2000.

Growing up in Cape Town, David explains the segregation of race that surrounded him. However, at his University there was a theatre which was open to all races. This allowed him to spend a lot of time there, be creative and almost feel like a pocket of resistance. These were David’s first experiences within theatre.

While living in London, David travelled to Zimbabwe to investigate the ramifications of the recently ended civil war. During that vist he was kidnapped by a gang who had been fighting for independence, but was released after two days.



David also worked for the BBC and it was at this time he had an opportunity to direct at the Young Vic. Co-incidentally during this period, Tim Supple, the artistic director at the time left, creating a vacancy which David took up.

Upon gaining his job as artistic director David had to initially both refurbish and run the theatre, something he had never done before.



In his role, David took on the idea of giving major artists a chance to move on and do something they had never done before. He also adopted the plan of getting a closer relationship with the audience, trying to get viewers in that had never experienced it before.



The constant rise and popularity of theatre has caused many fans to be priced out, leaving only select audiences. David explained his solution of constantly finding innovative ways of trying to keep prices low.



David admitted that for younger people to get into theatre directing today is a lot harder. At the Young Vic there are certain young directors schemes, but it may be that you have to work without getting paid for a while before landing anything. He also conceded that greater opportunities may come outside of London, but admitted that the capital is where everyone wants to work, which makes it that much more competitive.



Government cuts have seen a real impact on the arts scene and David confesses that it has been ‘affected quite badly’.



18 months ago David was asked to be involved with the creation of an arts building at the World Trade Center site. He spent a lot of time in New York understanding what would mean a lot to the local people. He also wanted the building to be a centre of international collaboration.



David Lan says he has the best ever team under him at the Young Vic, which enables him to go off and work on things in New York. He also says that one day, he would like to write another play.



The Evening Standard Theatre awards are about to celebrate their 60th year and David explains what it means to him.

London Live are covering the Evening Standard Theatre Awards.

Find out more here.

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