Basquiat and Warhol’s ‘Intimate Friendship’ Explored in Young Vic Drama | Theater
It promised to be a jaw-dropping exhibition, with both performers wearing boxing gloves on display. But the long-awaited 1985 exhibition of joint works by old master Andy Warhol and brilliant new star Jean-Michel Basquiat was struck by critics when it opened in New York. Today, the story of the exhibition is told in a new play at the Young Vic Theater in London.
The world premiere of Anthony McCarten’s drama The Collaboration will be directed by Young Vic artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah, with Paul Bettany (Wandavision) as Warhol and Jeremy Pope (One Night in Miami) in the role of Basquiat. Kwei-Armah said the production, which will be designed by Anna Fleischle, “invites us behind iconography and fame, and inside the intimate friendship between two artists”. The story would ask the public “to take a close look and question our preconceptions,” he added.
The relationship between the artists, and whether each was harnessing the other’s fame, is also the subject of a new piece by Ishmael Reed, which opens in the United States next month. The slave who loved caviar is at the Theater for the New City in New York.
The collaboration opens at Young Vic in February and will be followed by a transfer of a re-orchestrated and Tony-awarded production from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! directed by Daniel Fish who, according to Kwei-Armah, “opens a new perspective on a great American musical”. Michael Billington of The Guardian called Bard SummerScape’s 2019 production “extraordinary” and wrote that “nothing was as planned” in this revival of the well-worn musical. At New York’s Circle in the Square, the set was designed as a community center, and the audience ate chili that had been cooked on stage during the intermission. The revival is described by the Young Vic as “funny and sexy, provocative and penetrating, without changing a word of the text”.
Young Vic’s spring season announcement included news that Deirdre McLaughlin is the recipient of the 2021 Genesis Future Directors Award and will direct a new show in the studio space. The Five Pieces of the Theater component will see a series of five-minute plays, by playwrights babirye bukilwa, GaÃ«l Le Cornec, Martin Crimp, Erinn Dhesi and Mufaro Makubika, directed by James Barnes, David Furlong, David Gilbert, Abigail Sewell and Khadifa Wong. The Young Vic will also invite artists to explore the medium of TikTok as part of its Creative Headspace program, designed to support early-career theater makers, created in response to the pandemic’s devastating impact on independent artists.