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A new direction: how Kwame Kwei-Armah broke through barriers to become theatre’s leading man

Soap actor, serious playwright, and now artistic director, Kwei-Armah is still fighting to change theatre—only now, it's from the inside

Kwame Kwei-Armah. Illustration: Tim McDonagh

It’s early evening at the Young Vic. Kwame Kwei-Armah, the theatre’s new artistic director, strides across the packed bar. A young woman standing near me nudges her friend. “That’s Kwame,” she says, and there is genuine excitement in her voice.

Well-known actors in theatre bars elicit this kind of response, but artistic directors? Not often. Rufus Norris would pass pretty well unnoticed in the bar at the National, RSC supremo Greg Doran wouldn’t garner more than a glance from Stratford audiences. But Kwei-Armah commands…

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