Olivier Awards 2015: Young Vic upstages the National in British theatre award nominations

The Young Vic’s success has been driven by a string of critically acclaimed productions, including A View from the Bridge, The Scottsboro Boys, Bull and A Streetcar Named Desire

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The Independent Culture

The Young Vic, which was established by the National Theatre to promote experimental plays for young audiences, has eclipsed its mother organisation at this year’s Olivier Awards.

While the National received just three nominations – all for the same play – the Young Vic  swept the board with 11, the most for any single venue.

The Young Vic’s success has been driven by a string of critically acclaimed productions, notably A View from the Bridge by Arthur Miller, musical The Scottsboro Boys, Bull, a new play by Mike Bartlett, and Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, for which Gillian Anderson has earned a Best Actress nomination.

Meanwhile the National, one of Britain’s premier publicly funded arts spaces, received three nominations – its fewest for nearly 40 years – for the musical Here Lies Love. Its company usually dominates the shortlist. In recent years it has been honoured for War Horse, One Man, Two Guvnors and The History Boys.

The Young Vic was founded in 1970 by Sir Laurence Olivier (Getty)

“The Young Vic has been the highest-performing theatre in London for about the past 18 months and has had a really astonishing rate of work,” said Alistair Smith, editor of the industry publication The Stage, which in January named the venue its London Theatre of the Year.

“The National, after several really strong years, hasn’t had quite as strong a year. It’s not been the dominant force it has been. The Young Vic has had an astonishingly good year and deserves recognition.” The Young Vic theatre, in Waterloo, south London, began life in 1970 as an offshoot of the Old Vic – the first residence of the National Theatre under Laurence Olivier. Its mission was to “develop plays for young audiences, an experimental workshop for authors, actors and producers”, Olivier said at the time. It became an independent body in 1974.

In 2000 David Lan was appointed artistic director of the Young Vic, which was rebuilt between 2004 and 2006. He led the company’s 20-month “Walkabout” season, co-producing 22 shows with 20 companies across the UK and internationally during the £12.5m refurbishment.


Anderson will face competition from performers including Kristin Scott Thomas (Electra), Imelda Staunton (Good People) and Penelope Wilton (Taken at Midnight) for the Best Actress gong at the awards on 12 April.

Vying for the title of best actor are Richard Armitage (The Crucible), James McAvoy (The Ruling Class), Tim Pigott-Smith (King Charles III) and Mark Strong (A View From The Bridge). The singer and X Factor judge Nicole Scherzinger has been nominated for the Best Supporting Actress in a musical for her West End debut performance in Cats.

Long-running shows Billy Elliot The Musical, Jersey Boys, Matilda The Musical and Wicked are shortlisted for the This Morning Audience Award, the only award voted for by the public.

The stage adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies at the Aldwych Theatre has five nominations.

Mark Strong, centre, is nominated for Best Actor in ‘A View From The Bridge’ (Young Vic)

David Lister: Success is down to a visionary leader

The Young Vic has long been one of Britain’s most fascinating small theatres. Founded in 1970 by Sir Laurence Olivier when he was running the National Theatre at the Old Vic up the road, he wanted a space for young audiences.

In those days it even staged an experimental production involving an audience and The Who. In later years, David Thacker as artistic director made it a go-to destination by establishing a special relationship with Arthur Miller.

Now, again proving a venue’s success is so often down to the vision of one leader, David Lan has overseen the renovation of the building. The work he has put on has been sensational. He developed links with South Africa, bringing in politically charged and challenging plays and imported top European talent.

That is Lan’s method, bring in some of the best international theatre and directors, lure great performers with the chance to play their dream roles. Involve the local community, and – crucially – keep seat prices low. It makes a theatre a genuine destination.