Basquiat and Warhol’s ‘intimate friendship’ explored in the Young Vic drama | Theater

It promised to be a knockout exhibition where both artists wore boxing gloves on the poster. But the eagerly awaited 1985 show featuring joint works by old master Andy Warhol and bright new star Jean-Michel Basquiat was beaten by critics when it opened in New York. Now the story behind the exhibition is being told in a new play at the Young Vic Theater in London.

The world premiere of Anthony McCarten’s drama The Collaboration will be staged by Young Vic’s artistic director, Kwame Kwei-Armah, with Paul Bettany (Wandavision) as Warhol and Jeremy Pope (One Night in Miami) as Basquiat. Kwei-Armah said the production, which will be designed by Anna Fleischle, “invites us behind the iconography and fame and inside the intimate friendship between two artists”. The story would ask audiences “to lean close in and challenge our preconceptions,” he added.

The relationship between the artists and the question of whether each of them took advantage of the other’s fame is also the subject of a new play 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 Tony award-winning, re-orchestrated production of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! directed by Daniel Fish, who, said Kwei-Armah, “unlocks a fresh perspective on a great American musical.” The Guardians Michael Billington called the 2019 Bard SummerScape production “extraordinary” and wrote that “nothing was as expected” in this revival of the worn musical. At New York’s Circle in the Square, the set was designed as an assembly hall, and the audience ate chili that had been cooked on stage during the break. The revival is described by Young Vic as “fun and sexy, provocative and elaborate, without changing a word in the text”.

Young Vic’s announcement of the spring season included the news that Deirdre McLaughlin is the 2021 Genesis Future Directors award winner and will be directing a new show in the studio. The theatre’s Five Plays string will see a series of five-minute plays by playwrights babirye bukilwa, GaĆ«l Le Cornec, Martin Crimp, Erinn Dhesi and Mufaro Makubika, to be 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 scheme, designed to support early-stage theater creators created in response to the devastating impact of the pandemic on art freelancers.

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