We are saddened to hear that our beloved Neighbourhood Theatre Company member Neil Penlington has passed away at the age of 47.
After a phenomenally successful career as a leading dancer with New Adventures, Matthew Bourne’s dance company, Neil experienced homelessness in his later life. It’s here where we first began our artistic and community relationship with him in 2016.
We first met Neil through St Mungo’s, who hold a long-standing history of supporting individuals who are currently experiencing homelessness. St Mungo’s was a place where Neil would later go on to work. We knew from the moment we met him how special and talented he was, and that we were working with someone who had instantly become loved by us and our wider community.
A year later and by chance meeting, our Taking Part department bumped into Neil in Covent Garden, where we asked him to consider auditioning to join the community chorus as part of the production The Suppliant Women (2017). Luckily for us, Neil auditioned and we never looked back. As he performed each night as part of the soldiers chorus, it’s as if he picked up exactly where he left off with his professional career. Neil was born to perform.
We had the recent privilege of working with Neil once again in our main house production of Twelfth Night (2018). Neil had joined the community chorus and was designated Dance Captain. Here we saw Neil truly demonstrate his instinctive leadership ability, love and kindness. Each night for the entire run he led the movement warm up for a community chorus of 60 participants ranging from those aged 18-85, all while holding down a full time job.
Neil knew that he could make a change to people’s lives. He constantly offered support and advice to all of those around him, putting others needs before his own and using his life experience to help others who found themselves in a hard place. When we last worked with Neil, he was a full time member of staff at St Mungo’s as a housing support adviser. During the weekdays Neil would spend his time eliminating homelessness for those around him, before coming to the theatre each evening to express his incredible movement ability to audiences.
We are deeply saddened that Neil is no longer with us, but are so grateful for and will never forget his kindness, love and joy which touched everyone he encountered.
By Rob Lehman, Head of Participation, Young Vic 2019.