A creatively curious collaboration: West Yorkshire Playhouse announce first ever Young Company

West Yorkshire Playhouse has announced their first Young Company, a collective of 12 creatively curious artists aged 18 – 25 who will collaborate together with the Playhouse over the coming months. Supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the Young Company is a cohort of 12 early career artists from across Leeds, including actors, writers and theatre producers, DJs and live artists.

Mentored by West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Director of Creative Engagement Alexander Ferris and Associate Director Amy Leach, the group will spend a year exploring, interrogating and producing an eclectic range of work. The Playhouse will support the group to collaborate in making and producing bold and socially resonant work, as well providing opportunities to learn from professional theatre artists, and use Playhouse resources to learn and develop their own skills.

Director of Creative Engagement Alexander Ferris said: “We are thrilled to have recruited this brilliant group of early career artists to our very first Young Company. The diversity of their skills, experience, art forms and opinions are going to provide a rich and fascinating process as they go forward on their creative journey. It’s the logical next step for many of the young people coming through our Playhouse Youth projects and our Furnace artistic development programme. We are looking forward to embedding the Young Company into the life of the Playhouse and to seeing what their creative collaborations bring.”

The Young Company continues West Yorkshire Playhouse’s commitment to developing artists in the region, placing the Playhouse firmly as an artistic beacon in the North. The new Young Company initiative further links the Playhouse’s award-winning Creative Engagement department, which works with over 10,000 people from a range of backgrounds every year, and Furnace, the Playhouse’s comprehensive artistic development engine.

Associate Director Amy Leach said: “Through Furnace, we are committed to the development of locally based artists at all stages of their career and to supporting them in creating and producing theatre. It is a delight to welcome such a brilliant, eclectic group of early career artists to the Playhouse in what will be a unique, bespoke journey of artistic exploration.”

Click here to find out more about Furnace

Airplays – putting radio dramas centre stage

West Yorkshire Playhouse and BBC Radio Leeds will once again join forces to create Airplays, a brand new project putting radio dramas centre stage. This new collaboration between the Playhouse, BBC Radio Leeds and in association with Leeds College of Music will see four 15 minute radio plays, chosen from an open call out, performed live on stage and broadcast across BBC Radio Leeds this Autumn.

Building on the ambition and success of Nick Ahad’s smash hit Partition in 2017, Airplays will give audiences a unique insight into the creation and recording of radio drama. It will feature dynamic multi-roling actors, live Foley sound-effects and music by a specially curated ensemble from Leeds College of Music.

A call out is now in place for writers based in Yorkshire to submit ideas around the theme of migration to mark the 70th anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush in 1948. The successful proposals will be chosen by a panel made up of representatives from West Yorkshire Playhouse, the BBC, Leeds College of Music and members of the Playhouse’s Theatre of Sanctuary programme for refugees and asylum seekers.

The four selected writers will each receive a fee to develop their idea into a short play to be professionally produced by West Yorkshire Playhouse, performed live to an audience at Leeds College of Music and recorded for broadcast across BBC Radio Leeds.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director, James Brining, said: “At the heart of the Airplays partnership is a joint commitment to empower people to tell their story regardless of their background or experience. We’re delighted to be working with our neighbours BBC Radio Leeds and Leeds College of Music to discover, develop and present the very best new writing in Yorkshire and we can’t wait for audiences to experience the thrill of watching radio drama performed live on stage.”

Managing Editor of BBC Radio Leeds Sanjiv Buttoo said: “Radio Leeds is committed to building strong and lasting partnerships with local organisations and all our communities. West Yorkshire Playhouse is a key provider of theatre and drama for the county and works closely with a variety of groups. We’re very pleased to be working with them on our Airplays project. We both feel it’s important to find new artistic voices in the media and arts, and we hope this project will unearth the writers of tomorrow who will go on to work for both radio and the stage. I hope it encourages those who feel they have a story in them, and most of us do, to come forward and give it a go!”

The window for submissions is now open for Airplays. All entries to be received by 6pm on Thursday 10 May 2018. Dates for performance and broadcast to follow.

Click here for more information

Jill Halfpenny to star in world premiere of The Girl on the Train at West Yorkshire Playhouse

Full casting was announced today for the world premiere of The Girl on the Train, the brand new stage adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ gripping novel adapted by Rachel Wagstaff & Duncan Abel. Directed by Old Vic Associate Director Joe Murphy (Woyzeck, Old Vic), The Girl on the Train is produced by West Yorkshire Playhouse in association with Simon Friend.

Television and stage star Jill Halfpenny, known for leading roles in Three Girls (BBC) and Liar (ITV) on the small screen, plus iconic stage musicals including Abigail’s Party, Chicago and Legally Blonde in the West End, will take the lead role of Rachel Watson, the disillusioned commuter who finds herself as a suspect in an extraordinary mystery.

Adam Best (Holby City, BBC, Hedda Gabler, National Theatre) takes the role of Rachel’s ex-husband Tom, Sarah Ovens (Two Way Mirror, Theatre by the Lake) will play Tom’s new wife Anna, Florence Hall (Lovesick, Netflix) will play Megan Hipwell and Theo Ogundipe (Cymbeline, Royal Shakespeare Company) will play Scott Hipwell.

Colin Tierney (Coronation Street, ITV) and Jonas Khan (Our Girl, BBC) complete the cast as D.I. Gaskill and Kamal Abdic.

Rachel Watson longs for a different life. Her only escape is the perfect couple she watches through the train window every day, happy and in love. Or so it appears. When Rachel learns that the woman she’s been secretly watching has suddenly disappeared, she finds herself as a witness and even a suspect in a thrilling mystery in which she will face bigger revelations than she could ever have anticipated.

Director Joe Murphy said: “It is a thrill and privilege to be bringing such a loved book to the stage – even more so at the extraordinary West Yorkshire Playhouse. We have assembled a fantastic creative team and an incredible cast. Our version really allows us to explore the character of Rachel, seeing the whole story from her point of view, and having the incomparable Jill Halfpenny taking on the role ensures an exhilarating night for audiences.”

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “I’m delighted to welcome Joe Murphy and such a strong cast and creative team to the Playhouse, and I can’t wait to support them in bringing this story to life. This new stage adaptation is by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel is not only a real dissection of character, which Joe is so skilled at interrogating, it’s also a thrilling piece of drama that delights and surprises. I can’t wait to share it with the people of Leeds.”

The Girl on the Train is designed by Lily Arnold, with Sound Design and Composition by Isobel Waller-Bridge, and Lighting Design by Lizzie Powell.

Click here to book tickets

West Yorkshire Playhouse to take Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads to all Leeds postcodes

To bring the curtain down on the Playhouse’s Courtyard stage ahead of its redevelopment, West Yorkshire Playhouse will present six of Alan Bennett’s iconic Talking Heads at the Playhouse and across the city of Leeds. The monologues will be directed by Artistic Director James Brining, Associate Director Amy Leach and Director in Residence John R. Wilkinson and will be presented in rep this June.

Ahead of the performances at the Courtyard Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse will tour Talking Heads to every LS postcode in a celebration of its relationships with communities and organisations across the city. An open call out is now in place for local Leeds residents to enter a ballot to host one of the iconic monologues in their own homes from 4 – 9 June.

Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads, originally written for BBC Television and broadcast between 1988 and 1998 respectively, are cherished by many for their poignant, emotional and observant accounts of the everyday lives of everyday people.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “This is a major undertaking for the Playhouse and is a huge thank you to the city of Leeds and all of our partners, advocates and participants who over the years have supported and welcomed the ambition of the Playhouse. To be able to take these iconic and beloved pieces to every part of the city is a fitting tribute to one of Leeds’ most renowned and beloved playwrights, and an opportunity for the Playhouse to offer something truly unique to its communities.”

To be in with the chance of having one of the Talking Heads performed in your living room, free of charge, apply using the online entry form. All entries to be received by Monday 16 April at 5pm. Potential hosts will be contacted by Monday 23 April at 5pm.

Click here to enter the ballot

Significant Interventions – changing perspectives of disability on stage

Ramps on the Moon
Our Country’s Good
Article by Matt Trueman

People are still put off by the label disability theatre,” says actor Garry Robson. “They don’t see it as professional theatre. To them, it reeks of theatre for health or charity.”

Robson knows what he’s talking about. A wheelchair user, having contracted polio as a child, he’s spent his career on the sidelines of British theatre. For all the progress made in recent years, deaf and disabled actors are still seriously under-represented on stage and on screen. Specialist disability-led theatre companies are confined to studio stages and self-contained audiences. Reports routinely stress the numerous barriers to access, opportunity and equality.

Ramps on the Moon is a significant intervention. A three-year initiative, recently extended to six, it aims to shift significantly the status of deaf and disabled theatre artists in Britain by staging a series of large-scale, high profile productions. Six producing theatres around the country have joined forces with the pioneering company Graeae to bring deaf and disabled artists onto main stages – and so into the mainstream.

The intention is to spark a cultural change – not just in terms of the opportunities available to deaf and disabled artists, but in terms of the wider attitude to and appreciation of their work. “It’s about changing the perception of audiences and organisations,” explains director Fiona Buffini. The key word, she stresses, is integration: How to bring deaf and disabled artists and actors into the wider theatre culture and industry.

Our Country’s Good, which started a nationwide tour at Nottingham Playhouse in March, is Ramps on the Moon’s third show. Each has been intentionally populist programming – expansive enough to fill a big stage and crowd-pleasing enough to pull in a crowd.

Kicking off with a broad satirical comedy, The Government Inspector, Ramps on the Moon followed up with a musical, The Who’s surrealist rock-opera Tommy. Its deaf-blind and dumb protagonist chimed with the company’s core mission, but Tommy also transcended disability. Ken Russell’s 1977 film turned it into a cult hit.

The beauty,” says Robson, “was that we weren’t playing to a niche audience who come along to integrated performance. Most of our audience were slightly tubby, bald guys wearing Who t-shirts. They didn’t realise it was an integrated performance.”

Our Country’s Good is both a continuation and a step-change. A staple of school syllabuses, Timberlake Wertenbaker’s 1988 play is well-known and much-loved. It tells the story of a shipload of convicts exiled to Australia in the late 18th Century, putting on a play in their penal colony. At its best, it’s an immensely moving work – proof of art’s power to change lives. It shares that philosophy with Ramps on the Moon.

Seen through the prism of disability, the play grows in its scope. “It’s about a nation getting rid of its unwanted, parcelling them up and sending them off,” says Robson. “Increasingly, as a disabled person in this country, over the last few years, that’s how it’s beginning to feel. We’re being attacked via the benefits system. You start to feel like a marginalised group – pushed aside.

Director Fiona Buffini echoes that. For her, Our Country’s Good seeks to find the humanity in everyone, its convicts and army officers alike. Its argument, she says, is between those that believe people don’t change and those convinced that they both can and do. “It insists on the possibility of redemption,” she says. “It’s about seeing beyond stereotypes and giving people access to all kinds of things that they’re normally denied. It’s about seeing people as human beings.

The shift comes as a result of the play’s style: a modern classic, but also a naturalistic drama. Ramps on the Moon exists to examine approaches to access– captioning, signed shows, audio description and so on. Instead of seeing those things as impositions, slotting them into distinct accessible performances, Ramps on the Moon includes them as standard, aiming to enfolding them into the onstage action.

It’s an approach that embraces the ‘aesthetics of access’ and both Robson and Buffini believe it can enrich a show’s meaning. “It can be theatrically exciting,” says Robson. “It’s another palette – not a civil rights, tick-box thing, but a creative tool in its own right.” With stylised theatre, it adds an extra layer of theatricality. For a musical, sign serves as a kind of choreography and captioning, an invite to sing along.

Naturalism, though, poses other problems and Buffini was wary of disrupting Our County’s Good’s fiction. Instead, she’s inserted access techniques into the action itself, so that deaf convicts sign or speak for one another, interpreting amongst themselves as well as for audiences. It’s opened the play up to new possibilities: one curt army officer resists interpretation; another, more sympathetic, learns British Sign Language himself. “It’s part of the world onstage,” Buffini says. “We’re storytelling with it.”

That’s what actors and theatremakers do – deaf, disabled or otherwise. Ramps on the Moon is making that possible. “There are some very talented deaf and disabled performers out there,” Robson stresses. “They deserve to get work, but it should always be the best person for the job. We’re not asking for special favours.”

Matt Trueman is an award-winning critic and arts journalist. He writes for a range of publications, including the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Financial Times and the Independent, as well as the New Statesman, Time Out, the Scotsman and the, Whats’ On Stage and The Stage.

Click here to book tickets

Cloughie in the community – The Damned United to tour Leeds Venues this April

Continuing West Yorkshire Playhouse’s commitment to taking artistic work into Leeds communities, this April The Damned United will visit venues across the city following its Playhouse run.

The production, currently playing on the Playhouse stage, will embark on a tour visiting community and non-traditional venues including working men’s clubs and sports centres; taking the beautiful game of football and the magic of theatre out into the city.

Adapted from David Peace’s bestselling book, the compelling production follows Brian Clough and his controversial 44 days as manager of Leeds United, a team he openly despised, and that hated him. Hailed as one of the most controversial figures in football, The Damned United takes audiences inside the flawed but brilliant mind of ‘Old Big ‘ed’ in a refreshed staging of the hit play.

The Damned United stars Luke Dickson as Brian Clough, David Chafer as Peter Taylor and Jamie Smelt as Sam Longson/Syd Owen/Jack Kirkland and others.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “When we talked about The Damned United coming back to Leeds for another run I knew we should take it out as our community tour. It’s important to us that the work we make reflects and engages with our city and The Damned United is a story that really means something to people in Leeds. Clough is both a villain and hero, and to this day, the mention of his name still stirs up powerful feelings in local football fans. It’s a story wrapped up in people’s experiences of growing up in the city so to bring this popular title to audiences in our theatre – and then out on tour to our local area – is a fantastic thing.”

Red Ladder Artistic Director Rod Dixon said: “As a story it has it all –passion, power struggles, tragedy and a classic anti-hero in Clough. The play perfectly captures the grit and poetry of David’s writing. We’re thrilled to be taking The Damned United into the heart of communities as Red Ladder Local and West Yorkshire Playhouse.”

Click here for more information

Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill

Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill, a journey through the life and songs of one of the greatest musical theatre composers of the 20th century, comes to City Varieties, Leeds from 15 – 21 June.

The glamorous world of cabaret is the setting for an exhilarating tour of highlights from the Kurt Weill songbook, from the smoky cafés of 1920s Berlin to the Broadway stages of the 1940s. Numbers include ‘Mack the Knife’, ‘Pirate Jenny’, ‘Alabama Song’, ‘September Song’, ‘Speak Low’ and many more.

Born in 1900 in Dessau, Germany, Weill was a prominent composer in Berlin in the 1920s and early 1930s, before fleeing Nazi Germany and settling in the United States. He collaborated with many of the leading lyricists and playwrights of the age, from Bertolt Brecht to Ira Gershwin, Alan Jay Lerner, and Langston Hughes.

This dramatic, compelling retrospective of Weill’s groundbreaking work, co-produced by Opera North and West Yorkshire Playhouse, brings together a motley crew of characters: the murderers, gangsters and fugitives who people some of Weill’s extraordinary catalogue of songs.

The show is brought to life by an ensemble of performers from Opera North with musical direction by former Head of Music Martin Pickard. Directed by one of the most inspirational figures in British theatre, Giles Havergal (Opera North’s Albert Herring, The Barber of Seville, The Merry Widow) the voyage begins in the smoky Weimar-era cafes of the 1920s in the company of The Threepenny Opera’s Mack the Knife and Pirate Jenny.

From another of Weill’s revolutionary collaborations with Bertolt Brecht, The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, comes the gloriously debauched ‘Alabama Song,’ as covered by The Doors and David Bowie.

As Weill’s scores are burned by stormtroopers in front of Berlin’s State Opera House and he and his wife Lotte Lenya are forced to flee Germany, the troubled years leading up to World War II are vividly sketched with selections from Johnny Johnson, which opened on Broadway in 1936.

Weill’s American exile yields the beautiful, heartfelt ‘September Song’ and ‘Speak Low,’ both memorably recorded by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan and Billie Holliday among others, and part of Weill’s own chapter in the Great American Songbook.

Selections from Street Scene, with lyrics by Langston Hughes, fuse European opera, American musical theatre, jazz, and the sounds of post-war New York life a full decade before West Side Story. Numbers from Weill’s final work, Lost in the Stars, based on Alan Paton’s book Cry, The Beloved Country, show his powers undiminished at the time of his premature death in 1950.

Richard Mantle, General Director, Opera North, comments: “Hot on the heels of Opera North’s international tour of Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate, we are looking forward to taking this trip through the oeuvre of another of the greatest song stylists of the last century.

“Kurt Weill himself was a great collaborator, so it seems fitting that we will be reunited with our friends at West Yorkshire Playhouse for this co-production, with the incomparable Giles Havergal at the helm; and Leeds City Varieties, so steeped in Britain’s own tradition of popular song, will be the perfect setting.”

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “I am thrilled we are continuing to grow and develop our relationship with Opera North. Joining forces to fuse together the much-celebrated music of Kurt Weill and staging the production in the beautiful City Varieties will be a thrilling experience for Leeds audiences.

“I continue to look forward to working with the formidable talents of the Opera North chorus on The Magic Flute in 2019, and the Playhouse’s co-production at the historic surrounding of the Howard Assembly Room later in the year for Not Such Quiet Girls.”

Tickets for Berlin to Broadway with Kurt Weill are on sale now.

Click here to book tickets

West Yorkshire Playhouse and Live Art Bistro join forces to present audacious new work

West Yorkshire Playhouse is partnering with Live Art Bistro to co-present two shows at LAB’s venue on Regent Street this Spring, in a continuation of the Playhouse’s commitment to ensuring Leeds has one of the most vibrant cultural landscapes in the country.

LAB will host two innovative contemporary shows, Mind The Gap’s Mia: Daughters of Fortune and Sh!t Theatre’s DollyWould, both critically acclaimed, vibrant performances visiting the city following successful runs at Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

LAB is an artist-led venue and curatorial team based in Leeds. Over the last six years, they have developed an international reputation as an independent creative hub offering opportunities for a broad spectrum of different artists. West Yorkshire Playhouse has a long-standing relationship with LAB and is committed to continuing to support their important work.

West Yorkshire Playhouse New Work Producer Gilly Roche said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with Live Art Bistro to present two of this year’s most exciting and entertaining pieces of new work. Internationally renowned for its adventurous programming and generous support of artists, LAB is a perfect host for these two boundary-pushing productions. The Playhouse is proud to champion Live Art Bistro and can’t wait for new audiences to experience this unique space.”

Live Art Bistro Co-Creative Director Matthew Allen said: “We’re incredibly happy to work in partnership with West Yorkshire Playhouse and we can’t wait for audiences to see the brilliant work of Mind the Gap and Sh!t Theatre. We’re excited to continue to strengthen our relationship with the Playhouse and build a more united, collaborative cultural ecology in Leeds.”

A fast moving, raw and eye-opening production that challenges perceptions of learning disability and parenthood in today’s society, Mia: Daughters of Fortune is presented by Bradford’s ground-breaking learning-disability theatre company Mind the Gap. Hilariously anarchic, Mia: Daughters of Fortune is created and directed by Joyce Nga Yu Lee.

The award winning Sh!t Theatre present DollyWould, a bold new show about country legend Dolly Parton, cloning, branding, immortality and death. Filled with musical interludes, daft outfits and sharp comedy, DollyWould is a riotously rude exploration of authenticity and fake-ness.

Mia: Daughters of Fortune, Live Art Bistro
Fri 27 April – Sat 28 April 2018

DollyWould, Live Art Bistro
Fri 11 May – Sat 12 May 2018

 

West Yorkshire Playhouse announces five-year partnership with SOYO

West Yorkshire Playhouse has announced a five-year cultural partnership with SOYO as part of the landmark Playhouse redevelopment project. Confirmed as a Principal Capital Partner, SOYO (part of the Yorkshire-based Caddick Group) provides a welcome boost to the Playhouse’s redevelopment and vital financial support through this period of revitalisation.

SOYO, the £300m redevelopment within Leeds’ cultural quarter Quarry Hill, has pledged a long-term commitment to supporting West Yorkshire Playhouse, alongside Moda which is delivering hundreds of new homes for rent at SOYO. They will join Irwin Mitchell as Principal Capital Partners of the Playhouse’s redevelopment.

The £14m redevelopment project, led in partnership with Leeds City Council, will be funded by £4.4m from the City Council, alongside a £6.6m Arts Council England contribution and £3m from the Playhouse’s own resources (including a fundraising target of £2.3m). The proposals for the redevelopment which will mark a vital new chapter in the Playhouse’s long history will see the building transformed and modernised to include changes and improved access to the theatre, a new city-facing entrance and the addition of a new studio theatre space in the Bramall Rock Void.

The five-year partnership includes financial support for West Yorkshire Playhouse’s redevelopment, which is due to start in June 2018, as well as support for the Playhouse to continue to produce great shows during the construction works. The centrepiece of the collaboration is the Playhouse’s Pop Up theatre, in association with SOYO, which will temporarily transform a workshop space on the Playhouse site into a 350-seat theatre, presenting a full and varied programme throughout Autumn 2018 to Spring 2019.

This innovative, long term partnership creates a unique opportunity to experience the Playhouse as it has never been seen before in an environment changing and growing into SOYO – the cultural quarter of Leeds.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Executive Director Robin Hawkes said“The Playhouse is delighted to work with Caddick Group and help develop the vision for the SOYO neighbourhood. The Playhouse redevelopment will generate a new focus for the city and establish a base to attract artists and creatives from across Yorkshire and the North. We are proud to be partnering with a business that shares a passion for Leeds and an ambition to build the future of the cultural quarter.”

Myles Hartley, MD at Caddick Developments, the company behind SOYO, said: “SOYO is proud to be collaborating with its neighbours to create one of the best places in the UK to live, work, play, learn and be entertained. Since our initial discussions, West Yorkshire Playhouse has been a keen supporter of SOYO and our vision to create a unified voice for Leeds’ most culturally significant area, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with the Playhouse and especially to our association with the Pop Up theatre over the coming months.”

Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership, added: “Leeds City Region has a strong cultural heritage which resonates internationally and is a key driver for investment. The news of this new partnership between SOYO and West Yorkshire Playhouse is fantastic for both the city and the region, and I look forward to the opening of the Pop Up theatre in Autumn 2018 which will continue the Playhouse’s tradition of great programming during the redevelopment.”

Councillor Richard Lewis, Leeds City Council’s executive member for regeneration, transport and planning, said: “Following our recently launched cultural strategy and £35m programme taking us to Leeds 2023, we will soon announce the ‘Our Spaces’ strategy transforming and developing our public realm and city spaces into cultural venues. It’s pleasing therefore to see developers understand the benefits that culture and collaboration can bring in today’s partnership between this landmark development and West Yorkshire Playhouse, which is a welcome example of both and our ambition for the city.”

For more information on West Yorkshire Playhouse’s redevelopment click here

West Yorkshire Playhouse to tour short plays co-written by people living with dementia into care homes

Three, a triple bill of short plays co-written by people living with dementia commissioned by West Yorkshire Playhouse, will tour care homes and community settings in and around Leeds, with performances sponsored by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), which supports the research of the NHS.

Part of the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Every Third Minute festival of theatre, dementia and hope, the trio of 15-minute plays performed one after the other have been co-written by people with dementia and professional writers, making its debut at West Yorkshire Playhouse on 9 March.

The production will then tour for two weeks (12 March – 24 March) to care homes and community centres around Leeds. Engaging with a wide variety of residential care settings, the Playhouse’s Community Partner Areas will be locations on the tour, such as Rothwell and Armley.

NIHR staff will host research cafes at two of the tour venues: Seacroft Grange, a care village in Seacroft on 15 March, and the Ramgarhia Sikh Centre in Leeds, on 18 March. The research cafes will be relaxed, informal gatherings giving members of the public the chance to get involved in research into dementia through the Join Dementia Research initiative.

Join Dementia Research is a service which allows people to register their interest in participating in dementia research and be matched to suitable studies. It is led by the NIHR in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society, Alzheimer’s Research UK and Alzheimer Scotland.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Theatre and Dementia Research Associate Nicky Taylor said: “We’re delighted to be working with the National Institute for Health Research as Associate Sponsor of the Three care homes and community centres tour. Three celebrates the potential and creativity of people living with dementia, demonstrating that the stories they choose to share are valid and important.

“West Yorkshire Playhouse relishes the opportunity to share artistic work that promotes awareness of dementia within our Leeds community. By working with the NIHR, we’re hoping theatre can act as a conversation starter, to increase understanding of the importance of research in improving the experiences of people living with dementia and their families and to find new ways to start discussing health, creativity and living well.”

Evie Chandler, Patient Public and Carer Involvement and Engagement Officer at the NIHR, said: “It’s wonderful that we have partnered with the West Yorkshire Playhouse to take our message of research and hope out to the community.

“We’re really looking forward to meeting people and sharing with them the possibilities of getting involved in dementia research.”

Acknowledging that every three minutes in the UK someone will begin living with dementia, West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Every Third Minute festival of theatre, dementia and hope is the very first of its kind. Curated by people living with dementia, Every Third Minute puts people living with dementia at the heart of the creative process, and features an outstanding programme of theatre, performance and live music.

Every Third Minute builds on the Playhouse’s pioneering work with people living with dementia, designed and delivered by the theatre’s award-winning Creative Engagement team.

Every Third Minute runs until Saturday 31 March.

Click here for more information

Full casting announced for smash-hit musical Sunshine on Leith opening this April

Full casting has been announced today (Fri 2 March) for the smash-hit musical Sunshine on Leith, a West Yorkshire Playhouse production opening in Leeds this April. Featuring classic songs from Scottish favourites The Proclaimers, this foot-stomping production written by the acclaimed Stephen Greenhorn and directed by Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining, will run at West Yorkshire Playhouse from Friday 20 April to Saturday 19 May ahead of a major UK tour.

Leading the cast are Steven Miller and Paul-James Corrigan, playing fellow servicemen and best friends Davy and Ally. Steven’s extensive theatre credits include the National Theatre of Scotland’s The James Plays and Frantic Assembly’s Othello while Paul is best known for his long-standing role as Stevie in Scottish drama River City.

Starring alongside them are Hull born Jocasta Almgill as Yvonne, with recent theatre credits including the award-winning In The Heights at the Kings Cross Theatre and leading roles in the West End’s Dream Girls, and Neshla Caplan joins the cast as Liz following recent roles in Arabian Nights at The Lyceum Edinburgh and the award-winning Adam for National Theatre of Scotland.

Phil McKee (Vera, Jekyll & Hyde, ITV) and Hilary Maclean (whose previous theatre work includes playing Lady Macbeth in Macbeth at Manchester Royal Exchange) will play husband and wife Rab and Jean, with Lorraine Graham (wonder.land, Manchester International Festival/National Theatre) playing Hazel and Bradford born Nikki Patel playing Eilidh.

The cast is completed with Euan Bennet, Joel Burman, Tyler Collins, Richard Colvin, John McLarnon, Lorna McMillan, Matthew Malthouse, Emma Mullen, Sioned Saunders and Kara Swinney.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “Creating Sunshine on Leith over ten years ago was a joyful experience. It’s such an entertaining and emotionally charged musical, which explores ideas of home and identity, falling in love and picking up the pieces when it all falls apart. Now, back in my hometown of Leeds, those overarching themes of home and where you put down your roots are as important as ever, and it’s brilliant to be bringing this show back to life at the Playhouse with a fantastic new company. This will be the last big musical in the Quarry theatre before we undergo our major transformation of the building, and I’m hugely excited for audiences to share that with us.”

Originally a stage musical before being transformed in to the 2013 hit feature film adaptation starring Jane Horrocks and Peter Mullan, Sunshine on Leith sees the return of servicemen Davy and Ally from war overseas to be confronted with civilian life filled with relationships, blind dates and commitments. As the pair embark on intertwining journeys in love, they begin to question what home really means to them as they rediscover their sense of identity.

Set to the timeless songs of the much-loved The Proclaimers, including “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)“, “Letter from America” and of course the emotive “Sunshine on Leith”, this feel good musical asks the question, would you walk 500 miles for love?

Click here to book tickets

West Yorkshire Playhouse to stage the timeless Dickensian classic A Christmas Carol for Christmas 2018

Magical, musical and with all the joys of a timeless Christmas family story, West Yorkshire Playhouse, in association with Hull Truck Theatre, is set to raise spirits with a new and fresh adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, as tickets go on sale for Christmas 2018.

The production, originally staged at Hull Truck Theatre, is directed by West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Associate Director Amy Leach (Romeo & Juliet, Kes, The Night Before Christmas). Adapted by the West Yorkshire born, award-winning playwright Deborah McAndrew, the show will take audiences on a sumptuous, spine-tingling winter’s tale, with performances from Tuesday 20 November 2018 to Sunday 13 January 2019.

It’s Christmas Eve in Victorian Leeds, but the cold-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge hasn’t an ounce of festive cheer. As the cold night draws in, four ghostly spirits take Ebenezer on a magical journey through his past, his present and his future, hoping to show him the error of his ways. With Christmas spirit, fun, music and magic at its heart, this timeless Charles Dickens tale is brought to vivid life in the Playhouse’s Pop Up Theatre.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “Christmas at West Yorkshire Playhouse is always a truly magical time and this year will be no different. I saw the play in Hull last year and I loved the inventiveness and creativity Amy and her team brought to a story known and loved by so many. It is brilliant for us to have the opportunity to create the show here in Leeds in association with Hull Truck Theatre, and share it with our audiences in our exciting new Pop Up space. This show will be part of our nine month Ensemble Season and I’m looking forward to welcoming audiences into the Pop Up Theatre for a unique Christmas experience whilst the main Playhouse building undergoes its major transformation.”

Director Amy Leach said: “A Christmas Carol is one of my favourite festive tales – a cracking story that delivers spine-tingling chills, warms the heart and delivers Christmas joy to all. Debbie’s fresh, spooky and thrilling adaptation roots the story in the North and delivers all the thrills and delights one expects from this classic Christmas tale. I can’t wait to share this production, with its magical design and beautiful music, with audiences young and old at the Playhouse.”

A Christmas Carol will play in the Playhouse’s newly formed Pop Up Theatre on its existing Quarry Hill site. This innovative and unique space seating 350 people will give audiences a rare and inventive new way to enjoy a live show, with story-telling firmly at its heart. The new space is being created in a specially redesigned area of the existing theatre, meaning that as work continues to reinvigorate the building, audiences can still experience Christmas at the Playhouse.

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The Damned United – stage adaptation of David Peace’s novel returns to West Yorkshire Playhouse after sell-out success

The Damned United is returning to West Yorkshire Playhouse as it joins forces with Red Ladder Theatre Company to present the acclaimed stage production of David Peace’s novel about Brian Clough’s disastrous 44-day period as manager of Leeds United. A sell-out success when it received its world premiere, The Damned United returns with intimate new staging, bringing audiences up-close to the sweat, fury and power-struggles from pitch-side and inside the flawed but brilliant mind of ‘Old Big ‘ed’. The Damned United will be performed in the Courtyard theatre from 27 March – 7 April before hitting the road, as West Yorkshire Playhouse and Red Ladder Local tour it to community venues across Leeds.

Directed by Red Ladder’s Artistic Director Rod Dixon and adapted from Peace’s novel by award-winning playwright Anders Lustgarten, The Damned United is performed by a company of three – Luke Dickson (Brian Clough), David Chafer (Peter Taylor) and Jamie Smelt (Sam Longson/Syd Owen/Jack Kirkland et al) – bringing to life this gritty story about the beauty and brutality of football, the working man’s ballet.

The rights for The Damned United were donated by David Peace to Red Ladder Theatre Company for £3.68 – a penny for each page in the novel – as a show of support for the Leeds-based radical theatre company when it received a 100% cut to Arts Council Funding. In 2016 Red Ladder and West Yorkshire Playhouse co-produced the world premiere of The Damned United which played to full houses during a five-week sell-out run. The play has been reworked as a small-scale production for its first tour of the UK, including this Leeds community tour.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “When we talked about the production coming back to Leeds for another run I instantly knew this should be the production we should take out for our community tour. Now in its fourth year, the Playhouse’s community tour is forever growing and thriving, thanks to the brilliant audiences that attend. I am excited for audiences to see this revitalised and fresh new production.”

Red Ladder Artistic Director Rod Dixon said: “We’re thrilled to be bringing back The Damned United to West Yorkshire Playhouse and taking it into the heart of communities across Leeds. As a story The Damned United has it all –passion, power struggles, tragedy and a classic anti-hero in Clough – which lends itself brilliantly to theatre. Anders’ adaptation captures the grit, poetry and darkness of David’s writing, and by charting the fall of Brian Clough and exposing what made ‘Old Big ‘ed’ tick, audiences are given a fascinating insight into the troubled but brilliant mind of a flawed genius –who to this day, remains one of the most controversial figures in sporting history.”

Author David Peace says: “Football itself, at every level, is drama, theatre and spectacle played out before a living, breathing and usually very partisan audience; this is what Anders, Rod and everybody involved brought to the story which neither the book nor the film could do.”

Creative credits: Written by Anders Lustgarten; Adapted from the novel by David Peace; Directed by Rod Dixon; Set & Projection Designs by Nina Dunn; Lighting Design by Tim Skelly; Sound Design by Ed Heaton; Originally co-produced with West Yorkshire Playhouse.

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West Yorkshire Playhouse to host innovative new work in 2018 Studio Season

Reinstating its temporary studio theatre for three weeks throughout February, the Playhouse will host a vibrant programme of unmissable performance, including critically acclaimed work from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

The season will be the final of its kind in the Playhouse’s current Barber Studio, with The Bramall Rock Void, a dedicated, flexible and intimate new third space built during the Playhouse’s capital redevelopment, becoming a permanent home for small scale work from Autumn 2019.

Shortlisted nominee for the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award 2017 What If I Told You joins the programme of work, created and performed by West Yorkshire Playhouse Associate Artist Pauline Mayers.

West Yorkshire Playhouse New Work Producer Gilly Roche said:“Over the last three years, our programme of dynamic, small-scale work has gone from strength to strength. With the Bramall Rock Void just around the corner, we believe this final Barber Studio programme is the best yet – innovative, urgent and thoroughly entertaining.

We’re particularly thrilled to welcome back Pauline Mayers and the critically acclaimed What If I Told You, developed here at the Playhouse ahead of a successful run at Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2017.”

Studio Season Programme

What If I Told You? (13 – 17 Feb) – Throughout Pauline’s life, people have made assumptions about her based on her gender, background and skin colour. She’s defied these expectations at every turn, tearing up the narrative that society tried to impose on her. Carefully balancing theatre and dance, What If I Told You? immerses the audience in Pauline’s world as she invites them to pause, breathe and reconsider the stories we tell about our past and the history on which we build our futures. A West Yorkshire Playhouse and Mayers Ensemble co-production.

Penguins (15 – 17 Feb) – Roy and Silo are just like the other penguin pairs at Central Park Zoo – they are very happy together. When the duo decide to try and hatch a rock in place of an egg, they find themselves on an adventure which could mean raising a chick for real. Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Prime Theatre and Cahoots NI present a delightful new theatre and dance production of friendship, fun and identity, celebrating being different and the ever-changing meaning of family.

Black Men Walking  (21 – 24 Feb) – Written by world record-holding beatboxer Testament and directed by Eclipse Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Dawn Walton, Black Men Walking follows three friends who hike together on the first Saturday of every month, finding themselves looking back through history before they can move forwards. An Eclipse Theatre Company and Royal Exchange Theatre co-production, Black Men Walking is a Revolution Mix story. The Playhouse are proud to partner Eclipse Theatre Company on Revolution Mix, and host Black Men Walking as a result of the Revolution Mix project.

Maggie May (26 Feb) – A rehearsed reading of a brand new Playhouse commission that explores the experience of living with dementia by award-winning playwright Frances Poet, presented as part of Every Third Minute, a festival of theatre, dementia and hope.

The Purple List (26 Feb) – Written by Libby Pearson and performed by Ian Baxter, this one man play explores the lives of two gay men as they navigate their way through the care system and the changes in their relationship, presented as part of Every Third Minute, a festival of theatre, dementia and hope.

This Is Us (27 Feb) – a performance platform showcasing new work by artists living with dementia in a supportive environment, including a chance for the audience to give feedback, presented as part of Every Third Minute, a festival of theatre, dementia and hope.

Blank Tiles (28 Feb) – World scrabble champion Austin Michaels used to know over 200,000 words, then he was diagnosed with Alzheimers Disease. Since his diagnosis, Austin has been in a race against time to document his memories, before they fade. A humorous and poignant play by writer and performer Dylan Cole, Blank Tiles is presented as part of Every Third Minute, a festival of theatre, dementia and hope.

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Ramps on the Moon consortium, including West Yorkshire Playhouse, secures fresh funding to normalise inclusion in theatre

The Ramps on the Moon consortium which includes West Yorkshire Playhouse, will receive £2.1m from Arts Council England to continue their support of inclusivity in the arts.

Ramps on the Moon, a consortium of seven major theatre companies, are committed to positive change by putting Deaf and disabled artists at the centre of their work.

This new funding will allow this work to continue, as the group strives to transform mid to large scale mainstream touring theatre by breaking down barriers to participation.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: ‘We’re thrilled that our Ramps on the Moon partnership has secured this vital funding, allowing us to continue our mission to bring change and equality to our industry. This ground-breaking project championing integration not only breaks down barriers, but ensures there are opportunities for all to realise their ambitions.’

The critically acclaimed Tommy, the most recent Ramps on the Moon production, ran at the Playhouse in May 2017, with the next production being Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good playing from Wednesday 11 April in the Courtyard theatre.

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Young People – New Work Commission

Are you passionate about creating work with and for young people?
Do you want to collaborate with six leading producing theatres from across the UK to place young people’s voices at the centre of a creative process?


The Brief

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Dundee Rep Theatre, Royal & Derngate Northampton, Theatre Royal Plymouth, Northern Stage and Derby Theatre have partnered together to commission an individual to develop a brand new production that each venue will perform during Summer 2019.

In previous years there have been 3 partnership commissions with a range of different venues. These commissions have led to the creation of Girls Like That by Evan Placey, Immune by Oladipo Agboluaje and most recently The Blue Road by Laura Lomas. Moving forward into the next round we are interested in opening up the process to different disciplines within theatre. We are inviting applications from writers or dramaturgs who have a strong interest in creating work with young theatre makers aged 14-21.

This could be the creation of a piece of new writing or an adaptation of an existing text. We are looking for applicants who are confident in a room with young people and who will work closely with our youth theatres and young companies to put their voice at the centre of the final piece.

We are looking for theatre artists with at least 2 professional productions under their belt and who are passionate about supporting young people to voice their ideas and create bold, exciting theatre.

The final piece should be no longer than 1hr in length and needs to be suitable for a flexible cast of 15-25 performers.

The Process

This creative process takes place over a number of stages starting in April 2018 with final performances taking place from June to August 2019.

Apr 18 Initial workshops with each venue. Led by artist/writer

Jun – Sep 18 Artist writing first draft/ adapting story/ developing text

Oct 18 Weekend residential led by artist with 4 members of each venue, to be held in a central location. Opportunity to workshop 1st draft/adaptation

Oct – Dec 18 Working on and finalising rehearsal draft/ adaptation

Dec 18 Rehearsal draft finished

Jan 2019 Rehearsal process begins, each venue working with 2nd draft.

Jan –Feb 19 Weekly rehearsals in all venues. Artist to visit each venue for one rehearsal. Any final edits in place by Feb.

Mar 19 Weekly rehearsals continue with final draft.

Jun/Jul 19 Final performances at Derby, Dundee & Northampton. Artist to attend at each venue.

Aug 19 Intense 4-week rehearsal process at Plymouth. Artist to attend one rehearsal and final performance.

*Leeds & Newcastle performances dates TBC

Applications

To apply please send a CV and covering letter

  • max 1 side A4
  • explaining your relevant experience, what interests you in this opportunity and working with young people in particular.
  • All applicants from writers should include two extracts of your previous work.
  • Applications from dramaturgs should include two examples of previous work.
  • Alongside this please send a project proposal (max 500 words) outlining how you would approach this opportunity and how you imagine placing young people’s voices at the centre of the process.

Fee

  • The fee for this project is £7,500 to include the creation of the final production, development workshops and rehearsal attendance. Travel and accommodation will also be provided.
  • Please submit your applications to Lisa Williamson, Participation & Young Artists Associate, Dundee Rep Theatre

Lwilliamson@dundeereptheatre.co.uk

Dundee Rep Theatre
Tay Square
Dundee
DD1 1PB

Deadline: Monday 5 February at 12pm

There will be a short-listing process following which all short-listed artists should be available to discuss their proposals in detail on Thursday 8 February.

Full casting announced for James Graham’s smash hit political drama This House

Rehearsals began this week for James Graham’s critically acclaimed and prescient political drama examining the 1974 hung parliament This House. Designed by Rae Smith (The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, Barber Shop Chronicles, West Yorkshire Playhouse), This House opens at West Yorkshire Playhouse on 23 February (National Press Night 28 February).

Taking on a new importance in the current political climate This House rolls back to 1974, with the corridors of Westminster ringing with the sound of infighting and back biting as Britain’s political parties’ battle to change the future of the nation, whatever it takes.

In an era of chaos, both hilarious and shocking, there are fist fights in the parliamentary bars, high-stakes tricks and games are played, and sick MPs are carried through the lobby to register their crucial votes as the government hangs by a thread. This House strips politics down to the practical realities of those behind the scenes; the whips who roll up their sleeves, and on occasion bend the rules, to shepherd and coerce a diverse chorus of MPs within the Mother of all Parliaments.

Playing a colourful host of MP’s and Whips is Ian Barritt (The Alchemist, National Theatre), William Chubb (King Lear, Old Vic), Giles Cooper (Henry V, Shakespeare’s Globe), Stephen Critchlow (Loyalty, Hampstead Theatre), James Gaddas (Billy Elliot, Palace Theatre), Natalie Grady (Brassed Off, Oldham Coliseum), Marcus Hutton (Private Lives, Nottingham Playhouse), Harry Kershaw (The Play That Goes Wrong, West End), Louise Ludgate (Iron, Traverse / Royal Court), Geoffrey Lumb (Paddington 2), Nicholas Lumley (Kiss Me Kate, RSC), Martin Marquez (Mother Courage and her Children, National Theatre), Miles Richardson (The Contractor, Birmingham Rep) and Charlotte Worthing (These Trees Are Made Of Blood, Arcola Theatre and Southwark Playhouse).

Returning to the cast are David Hounslow ((the fall of) The Master Builder, West Yorkshire Playhouse), Ian Houghton (War Horse, New London Theatre), Matthew Pidgeon (Salome, RSC), Tony Turner (Ink, Almeida/West End) and Orlando Wells (The Woman in Black, Fortune Theatre), who previously featured in the West End production of This House.

Directed by Jeremy Herrin with Jonathan O’Boyle, the production has lighting design by Paule Constable and Ben Pickersgill on tour, music by Stephen Warbeck, choreography by Scott Ambler and sound by Ian Dickinson.

This House is produced on tour by Jonathan Church Productions and Headlong.

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West Yorkshire Playhouse’s smash hit The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe set to break box office records

West Yorkshire Playhouse announced on Friday that smash-hit The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is set to break all existing box office records, becoming West Yorkshire Playhouse’s most popular ever production.

Having already sold over 61,000 tickets and with a week left to run, West Yorkshire Playhouse’s The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, co-produced with Elliott & Harper Productions and Catherine Schreiber, has surpassed the previous record of 60,821 tickets, which has stood since 2005. The show will also become the highest grossing production in the Playhouse’s 48 year history generating over £1.5m at the box office, surpassing the previous record set by Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The enchanting production, with a total run of 8 weeks, has continued the Playhouse’s commitment to access, staging Relaxed and Dementia Friendly performances, and offering tickets through long-standing community schemes enabling a diverse range of audiences to celebrate Christmas at the Playhouse.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “This is an outstanding achievement for the Playhouse, and is a credit to each and every person that has made this spectacular show come to life. Staging The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe in the round was always going to be a huge undertaking, however it’s been amazing to see our audiences’ reactions.

We are delighted with the popularity of the show, and pleased that throughout the run we’ve been able to offer a range of ticket prices. A total of 22,000 people will have seen the production for £14 or less; with just under 7,000 tickets at £14 available across every performance of the run; 1,000 people from communities not engaged with the theatre experiencing the production for just £3, and 14,000 school children having watched the show for £14. We’re so proud to be able to bring such a brilliant production to all of our audiences, and look forward to continuing this in years to come.

Autumn 2018 will bring a new theatre experience for our audiences, as we construct our Pop-Up Theatre during our redevelopment period, staging Dicken’s classic, A Christmas Carol as our festive production.”

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is a West Yorkshire Playhouse production in association with Elliot and Harper Productions and Catherine Schreiber, and will run until 27 January.

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A surprise from Narnia for Gawber Primary School pupils!

We were delighted to welcome the children of Gawber Primary School in Barnsley, South Yorkshire to the afternoon performance of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe today…

Ahead of their visit, the children had been incredibly busy in their classroom preparing Narnia-themed artwork, including pictures, paintings, puppets, models, drawings and paintings of Aslan and Mr Tumnus, making Narnia money pots and even Aslan masks. They even have a table in their class named Narnia!

The pupils were treated to a very special surprise after the show, as the cast members from The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe came out to greet them. We hope you enjoyed the show Gawber Primary School, come back and see us soon!

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West Yorkshire Playhouse announces leading law firm Irwin Mitchell as first Principal Capital Partner for its major redevelopment

West Yorkshire Playhouse today announced a significant five year sponsorship partnership with the Leeds office of Irwin Mitchell as part of the Playhouse’s landmark redevelopment project.

Confirmed as the Playhouse’s first Principal Capital Partnership, the five year deal with the leading law firm provides the Playhouse with a vital contribution towards its £2.3m fundraising target as it embarks on a major new chapter in its history.

Irwin Mitchell in Leeds has been a committed partner of West Yorkshire Playhouse’s award-winning access programme since 2009, enabling the Playhouse to deliver more than 400 accessible performances and supporting its pioneering development of Relaxed and Dementia Friendly performances – the next of which are scheduled for February’s production of Still Alice starring Sharon Small.

The £14m redevelopment project, led in partnership with Leeds City Council, will be funded by £4.4m from the City Council and £3m from the Playhouse’s own resources (including ongoing fundraising), alongside a £6.6m Arts Council England contribution. The plans will deliver a full modernisation of the Playhouse building, including significantly improved access across the theatre and a brand new city-facing entrance, with work due to start this June. Plans have been confirmed as part of the agreement that the Playhouse’s new glass fronted foyer on St Peter’s Street will be named The Irwin Mitchell Foyer.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Executive Director Robin Hawkes said: “We’re thrilled Irwin Mitchell are joining our redevelopment project as our first Principal Capital Partner, celebrating our strong nine year relationship. I’m delighted our organisations can continue to develop the partnership in this way, and I’m incredibly grateful for this important contribution towards our landmark redevelopment. I’m really looking forward to working with the Irwin Mitchell team and welcoming them into the Playhouse as our relationship progresses over the next five years.”

Paddy Sturman, Banking & Finance Partner at Irwin Mitchell in Leeds, said: “We have been sponsors of the Playhouse for almost a decade now, something we are incredibly proud of. We are absolutely delighted to extend this relationship and take it to a new level ahead of an exciting period in the Playhouse’s development and at a time when access to the arts and entertainment becomes more central to the debate about city living.”

“The wider Quarry Hill development project is likely to be one of the most high profile developments in Leeds City Centre over the next two or three years and so to play a key role in facilitating the redevelopment of the Playhouse is extremely exciting and this latest agreement will raise our profile within the city. The theatre is looking to engage more closely with the business community in Leeds as part of its future strategy and this fits neatly with our own ambitions within the Yorkshire region.”

The law firm is also one of the Playhouse’s principal legal advisers, continuing to advise on a range of commercial matters for the Playhouse and its members.

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Full cast announced for new stage adaptation of Still Alice at West Yorkshire Playhouse, starring stage and screen actor Sharon Small

Full casting was announced today for the major new production of Still Alice, the stage adaptation of best-selling novel by Lisa Genova, adapted by Christine Mary Dunford. This West Yorkshire Playhouse production in association with Michael Park for The Infinite Group is directed by David Grindley (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Gate Theatre, Dublin), and explores the effects of early-onset dementia on identity, family and relationships, in an uncompromising yet tender portrayal. Still Alice opens West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Every Third Minute festival, a pioneering festival of theatre, dementia and hope that is the first of its kind.

Sharon Small, most recently featuring in the BBC’s Trust Me and Channel 4’s Born to Kill and well known for the BBC’s The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, takes the role of Alice, joined by Ruth Gemmell (Silent Witness, BBC; Penny Dreadful, Sky Atlantic) in the role of Herself, Alice’s inner thoughts.

Dominic Mafham (The Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare’s Globe / World Tour; W1A / BBC) takes the role of Alice’s husband John, Andrew Rothney (Grain in the Blood, Traverse Theatre) joins the cast as Alice’s son Thomas, with Alaïs Lawson (Journey’s End, Fluidity Films) as Alice’s daughter Lydia.

Clara Indrani (Marcella, ITV) also joins the cast as Tamara and Micah Balfour (Emmerdale, ITV) features as Dr Davis.

Still Alice sees driven professional Alice Howland, a university professor at the top of her game, diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 50. Compelled to confront her new reality, she draws on her resilience to remain independent, fighting to maintain her identity as her world changes.

Director David Grindley saidI’m delighted to be working with such an incredibly talented cast and creative team on such a brilliant project at West Yorkshire Playhouse, and I’m looking forward to sharing such an affecting story with Leeds audiences. This production has a very rich context, rooted in the Playhouse’s pioneering work with people living with dementia, marking a key moment as part of the Every Third Minute festival.’  

Consultant living with dementia Wendy Mitchell joins the creative team, working with the cast offering an insight into living with the condition. Designer Jonathon Fensom (Farinelli and the King, Shakespeare’s Globe / Sonia Friedman Productions) and Lighting Designer Jason Taylor (Rita, Sue and Bob Too, Out of Joint) join the creative team, alongside award winning Gregory Clarke (Albion, Almeidia) as Sound Designer and Composer, and Francesca Jaynes (Through the Looking Glass, Walt Disney Pictures) as Movement Director.

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West Yorkshire Playhouse announces Every Third Minute: a festival of theatre, dementia and hope curated by people living with dementia, opening with new stage adaptation of Still Alice

Continuing our award-winning work with people living with dementia, West Yorkshire Playhouse today announced the programme for Every Third Minute: a festival of theatre, dementia and hope.

The first of its kind, the festival has been curated by people living with dementia and their supporters, acknowledging every third minute in the UK someone will begin living with dementia.

An eclectic programme of performances, conversations, installations, training and workshops, the festival opens with the brand new stage adaptation of Lisa Genova’s best-selling novel of Still Alice.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Theatre and Dementia Research Associate Nicky Taylor said “We hear many stories about caring and grieving for people living with dementia, but we rarely hear stories of people’s experiences of actually living with dementia. Every Third Minute is about amplifying those voices and changing perceptions and attitudes, through a far reaching programme that broadens the narrative of dementia. Placing people with dementia in decision-making positions we can challenge the more negative expectations and limitations that can arrive hand in hand with a diagnosis, and instead celebrate their potential and creativity.”

Every Third Minute Festival curator Bob Fulcher said “I’m thrilled to have curated the Every Third Minute festival and I’ve enjoyed the process immensely. As a curator I’ve really enjoyed making decisions about all aspects of the festival, from the programme, to the festival’s title, logo and even the colours in the brochure. It’s been a real pleasure to be involved, and enormously satisfying to be asked to participate in this way.”

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said “I’m incredibly proud of this industry-leading festival, continuing our pioneering work with people living with dementia. Building on our reputation as the UK’s foremost Dementia Friendly theatre following introducing the first Dementia Friendly performance in 2014 and producing our Best Practice Guide in 2016, it’s fantastic to have the opportunity to put people living with dementia at the heart of the creative process. We’re delighted to be opening the festival with the stage adaptation of Still Alice, bringing Lisa Genova’s novel to life in a brand new production.”

Opening with a brand new version of Still Alice starring Sharon Small in the Courtyard Theatre, the performance programme, a diverse and far reaching selection of performances compiled by the festival curators, includes Three, three new plays co-written by people living with dementia paired with professional writers, live music from artist Hannah Peel, a rehearsed reading of Maggie May by award-winning playwright Frances Poet and Spare Tyre’s multi-sensory immersive experience The Garden for people living with dementia and their supporters.

A series of conversations, including a Dementia Wikithon, a session where people living with dementia and their supporters can edit the Wikipedia pages on dementia and related topics, and training and workshops for families, healthcare professionals and artists, will run alongside the performance programme, with more events and performances to be announced.

West Yorkshire Playhouse run regular activities for people living with dementia, including Our Time sessions for people living with dementia and their partners, Peer Support Sessions in partnership with other cultural organisations throughout the city, and Dementia Friendly performances. The Playhouse’s innovative approach has been recognised with national awards from the Alzheimer’s Society and National Dementia Care Awards.

Every Third Minute Announced Listings

Performances

Still Alice (9 Feb – 3 March) – David Grindley (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Gate Theatre, Dublin) directs star of stage and TV Sharon Small (The Inspector Linley Mysteries, Trust Me, BBC) as Alice in the brand new stage adaptation by Christine Mary Dunford of Lisa Genova’s best-selling novel. Marking a key moment in the Every Third Minute festival, Still Alice explores the effects of early-onset dementia on identity, family and relationships, in this uncompromising yet tender portrayal. Still Alice is a West Yorkshire Playhouse production in association with Michael Park for The Infinite Group.

Maggie May by Frances Poet, Rehearsed Reading (26 Feb) – A rehearsed reading of a brand new Playhouse commission that explores the experience of living with dementia by award-winning playwright Frances Poet.

The Purple List (26 Feb) – Written by Libby Pearson and performed by Ian Baxter, this one man play explores the lives of two gay men as they navigate their way through the care system and the changes in their relationship.

This Is Us (27 Feb) – a performance platform showcasing new work by artists living with dementia in a supportive environment, including a chance for the audience to give feedback.

Blank Tiles (28 Feb) – World scrabble champion Austin Michaels used to know over 200,000 words, then he was diagnosed with Alzheimers Disease. Since his diagnosis, Austin has been in a race against time to document his memories, before they fade. A humorous and poignant play by writer and performer Dylan Cole.

The Nature of Forgetting (6 – 9 March) – Following a sell-out run at Edinburgh Fringe, this powerful, explosive and joyous piece by Theatre Re explores what is left when memory is gone through mime, physical theatre and live music.

The Garden (8 – 9 March) – Bringing the outside in, this multi-sensory journey through the seasons inspires imagination and awakens the senses. This immersive performance for people with dementia and their supporters is by Spare Tyre.

Three (9 March) – Three brand new short plays showcasing unique stories of life and flights of the imagination by rarely heard voices, co-written by people living with dementia and professional writers. Following the 9 March performance at the Playhouse, Three will go on to a two-week tour of Leeds care homes.

Hannah Peel: Awake But Always Dreaming (10 March) – Northern Irish artist and composer Hannah Peel shares her spellbinding music album live. The bright, raw magic and joy of personal relationships are set alongside the gradual loss of her grandmother to dementia.

Memory and Beyond (31 March) – Young people from our Playhouse Youth Theatre explore the fragility and importance of memories. A thought provoking evening of devised theatre, showcasing the unique perspective of living well with dementia through the eyes of Leeds teenagers.

Conversations

Creativity Testing (10 March) – A creative activity and conversation exploring how we might test for creativity in people living with and without dementia, with visual artist Charlie Harrison.

Dementia Wikithon (10 March) – A session for people living with dementia and their supporters, where they can edit and inform existing Wikipedia pages on dementia and related topics led by an expert Wikimedian.

Training and Workshops

Music for Life (10 March) – Music making sessions for people with dementia, the people who support them and general public exploring how music and improvisation can help us to experience the present, and communicate with others without relying on memory or words. Led by Julian West in collaboration with Wigmore Hall.

Installations

Skin to Mind – A video installation by artist Charlie Murphy showing the process of skin cells being transformed into brain cells, offer insights into the cutting-edge technologies used in dementia research.

Talking Life on Tour – An interactive phone with the personal stories and life observations of people experiencing dementia, led by Susanna Howard.

Creativity Testing, Dementia Wikithon, Music for Life, artist Charlie Murphy’s installation and Talking Life on Tour are projects led by Created Out of Mind, a team aiming to explore, challenge and shape perceptions and understanding of dementia through science and the creative arts.

Every Third Minute runs from Saturday 9 Feb to Saturday 31 March.

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Green light for West Yorkshire Playhouse redevelopment with Arts Council England funding confirmation and grant of planning permission

Arts Council England have today confirmed a total grant of £6.6m towards the landmark redevelopment of West Yorkshire Playhouse, with further news that the project has been granted planning consent, thereby giving the green light for a transformational moment in the theatre’s history.

The £14m project, led by Leeds City Council, will be funded by £4.4m from the City Council and £3m from the Playhouse’s own resources (including ongoing fundraising), alongside the Arts Council England contribution.

The plans will deliver a full modernisation of the building, including the addition of the new Bramall Rock Void studio theatre space, significantly improved access across the theatre, and a brand new city-facing entrance.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Executive Director Robin Hawkes said “This is a fantastic combination of news to receive just before Christmas. It is the culmination of nearly five years of hard work by so many people both at the Playhouse and at the Council, and means we can go into the New Year planning positively for a new era for our theatre. We are very grateful to partners at Arts Council England for putting their trust in us to deliver this brilliant project as well as for their ongoing input, guidance and support, and we look forward to giving Leeds the 21st Century theatre it deserves.”

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said “The Playhouse is used and loved by hundreds of thousands of people every year. The opportunity to make the theatre even more accessible, welcoming and fit for purpose for the 21st Century is one we relish. We take the responsibility of refashioning the Playhouse extremely seriously and look forward to many more years of fantastic theatre here in Leeds when we open the doors of the new Playhouse in 2019.”

Leader of Leeds City Council Councillor Judith Blake said “We are absolutely thrilled that this exciting project to transform one of our city’s most prominent and respected arts institutions has secured funding so pivotal to its continued progress. Working alongside our partners at West Yorkshire Playhouse for the past few years, our shared vision has been to reshape the venue into a modern, state-of-the-art theatre which is the focal point of a new cultural hub for the whole city to enjoy. This announcement will allow us to take a giant leap towards making that vision a reality, improving and securing the Playhouse and further enhancing our city’s world class cultural offering for future generations.”

Sarah Maxfield, Area Director North, Arts Council England said “I’m pleased that we have been able to support the exciting refurbishment plans for West Yorkshire Playhouse through our National Lottery funded capital programme. The plans to modernise the building mean that artists, participants and audiences will have an even better experience as one of the North’s leading theatres, and I look forward to seeing how the work progresses.”

The Playhouse will continue to stage work during the redevelopment process, temporarily transforming a workshop space on the theatre’s site into a substantial 350 seat Pop Up theatre.

A programme of work will run in the Pop Up theatre throughout Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019, with Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol announced as the Christmas 2018 production.

Click here for more information

West Yorkshire Playhouse announces final Spring/Summer 2018 Season before embarking on major redevelopment

West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Spring/Summer 2018 Season presents vital world class theatre, showcasing innovative new work, thrilling drama and uplifting stories of Leeds and the world.

The season includes:

West Yorkshire Playhouse Productions

Every third minute in the UK someone will begin living with dementia. Continuing our award-winning, pioneering work with people living with dementia, the Playhouse presents the ground-breaking Every Third Minute (9 Feb – 31 March) a festival of theatre, dementia and hope. The first of its kind, the festival puts people living with dementia at the heart of the creative process, curating a broad programme of work from new theatre and workshops to live music from singer/songwriter Hannah Peel, and the joyous The Nature of Forgetting fresh from a sell-out run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

David Grindley (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Gate Theatre, Dublin) directs star of stage and TV Sharon Small (The Inspector Linley Mysteries, Trust Me, BBC) as Alice in the brand new stage adaptation by Christine Mary Dunford of Lisa Genova’s best-selling novel of Still Alice (9 Feb – 3 March). Marking a key moment in the Every Third Minute festival, Still Alice explores the effects of early-onset dementia on identity, family and relationships, in this uncompromising yet tender portrayal. Still Alice is a West Yorkshire Playhouse production in association with Michael Park for The Infinite Group.

James Graham’s prescient political drama This House (23 Feb – 10 March), which played to sold-out houses at the National Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre and in the West End, launches its first ever national tour from West Yorkshire Playhouse. Set in the engine rooms of Westminster in 1974, this politically urgent production is directed by Headlong Artistic Director Jeremy Herrin, and designed by Rae Smith (Barber Shop Chronicles, The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, West Yorkshire Playhouse).

Following the sell-out success of the 2016 world premiere, the West Yorkshire Playhouse and Red Ladder Theatre Company co-production The Damned United (27 March – 7 April) returns to Leeds. This passionate account of Brian Clough’s ill-fated tenure as manager of Leeds United will return to the Courtyard Theatre in a stripped back new staging before visiting venues across Leeds as part of our Community Tour programme, continuing the Playhouse’s commitment to staging work in the heart of our communities.

Transporting the Playhouse to 1787 Australia is Timberlake Wertenbaker’s classic drama Our Country’s Good (11 – 21 April). Directed by Fiona Buffini, this fully accessible production is produced by Nottingham Playhouse in association with Ramps on the Moon (Tommy, The Government Inspector).

Set to a classic soundtrack by The Proclaimers, West Yorkshire Playhouse’s brand new production of the life-affirming hit musical Sunshine on Leith (20 April – 19 May) opens in the Quarry Theatre before embarking on a major national tour. Scripted by award-winning stage and TV writer Stephen Greenhorn and directed by West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, West Yorkshire Playhouse), this heartwarming, foot stomping adventure explores the true meaning of home.

West Yorkshire Playhouse is delighted to produce the world premiere of The Girl on the Train (12 May – 9 June). Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel adapt Paula Hawkins’ riveting best-selling novel, and hit Dreamworks film, bringing the thriller that enthralled the nation to the stage for the very first time. Directed by Joe Murphy, who makes his Playhouse debut following Woyzeck starring Star Wars’ John Boyega at the Old Vic, The Girl on the Train is a West Yorkshire Playhouse production in association with Simon Friend.

The joyous final production in the Quarry Theatre ahead of the transformative redevelopment is Searching for the Heart of Leeds (19 – 23 June), a celebration of the vibrant stories and people of our city. Performed by a community company, this empowering closing production is written by BAFTA-nominated writer Mark Catley, directed by Playhouse Director of Creative Engagement Alexander Ferris, (Rise, Old Vic Community Company) and with movement by the internationally renowned Phoenix Dance Theatre.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining, Associate Director Amy Leach and Director in Residence John R. Wilkinson direct the Courtyard Theatre’s closing production, Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads (14 – 23 June). Sharp, witty and pertinent, Talking Heads will be performed in the Courtyard Theatre, across the city in the homes of local Leeds residents and in community venues. This is a prelude to the Playhouse’s plans from Summer 2018; the doors to the Quarry and the Courtyard theatres will be closed for a major redevelopment, and the Playhouse’s artistic programme will be transported to new and exciting venues, including the Playhouse’s own Pop Up Theatre within its Quarry Hill home.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said:

“Our Spring/Summer 2018 Season will fill the Playhouse with vibrant and eclectic work both of epic and intimate scale. I want the work on our stages to continue to interrogate where we are in the world, UK and in the city we reside; questioning what it means to be human, what you call home, and where you lay your roots – from the joyful celebration of Sunshine on Leith to the quiet reflection of Still Alice.

Our creative work is made up of three component parts – the performance programme on our stages, our award-winning creative outreach activities with diverse communities, and our Furnace artistic development programme which supports new and emerging theatre makers to develop their practice. These three components are all interconnected and equally important to us – without the others each component would not have the strength and vitality that they do. Together they provide our audiences, artists and participants with a plethora of opportunities to get involved with the Playhouse.

Our upcoming redevelopment in 2018 is an exciting new chapter in the Playhouse’s history, providing us with the opportunity to further increase our contribution to the ever-growing and rich cultural scene this city has to offer. This is a ground-breaking moment which will transform the building and the organisation, improved access to and around the theatres, and the addition of a new studio theatre space in the Bramall Rock Void and providing a new city-facing entrance. As the redevelopment work begins, we will temporarily transform one of our workshop spaces here on the Playhouse site into a substantial 350-seat theatre. A full and varied programme of work will run throughout Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019 – creating a unique opportunity to experience the Playhouse as you’ve never seen it before. As part of that programme I am delighted to announce A Christmas Carol for Christmas 2018.”

Work at Live Art Bistro in partnership with West Yorkshire Playhouse
The Playhouse is committed to ensuring West Yorkshire has one of the most vibrant cultural landscapes in the country. This season the Playhouse, in partnership with Live Art Bistro, co-present two shows that are pushing at the boundary between narrative theatre and live art at Live Art Bistro’s venue on Regent Street:

Bradford’s ground-breaking learning-disability theatre company Mind the Gap present Mia: Daughters of Fortune (27 – 28 April). Created and Directed by Joyce Nga Yu Lee, this fast moving, raw and eye-opening production explores the truths and myths about learning disability and parenthood in today’s society, performed by learning disabled artists.

Following a sell-out run at Edinburgh Fringe, the award winning Sh!t Theatre present DollyWould (11 12 May), a bold new show about country legend Dolly Parton, cloning, branding, immortality and death.

Work in the Barber Studio
West Yorkshire Playhouse Associate Artist Pauline Mayers presents What If I Told You? (13 – 17 Feb), a West Yorkshire Playhouse and Mayers Ensemble co-production. Carefully balancing theatre and dance, What If I Told You? immerses the audience in Pauline’s world as she invites them to pause, breathe and reconsider the stories we tell about our past and the history on which we build our futures.

Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Prime Theatre and Cahoots NI present Penguins (15 – 17 Feb), a delightful new theatre and dance production of friendship, fun and identity, celebrating being different and the ever-changing meaning of family.

Written by world record-holding beatboxer Testament and directed by Eclipse Theatre Company’s Artistic Director Dawn Walton, Black Men Walking (21 – 24 Feb) follows three friends who hike together on the first Saturday of every month, finding themselves looking back through history before they can move forwards. An Eclipse Theatre Company and Royal Exchange Theatre co-production.

Visiting Productions
Internationally renowned contemporary dance company, Phoenix Dance Theatre present the world premiere of Windrush: Movement of the People (7 – 10 Feb). A lively celebration of the rise of multicultural Britain celebrating the 70th anniversary of the arrival of SS Empire Windrush that bought the first Caribbean migrants to the UK, Windrush: Movement of the People debuts as part of Phoenix Dance Theatre’s 2018 Mixed Programme.

Birdsong Productions Ltd in association with Original Theatre present Birdsong (13 – 17 Feb), a mesmerising story of love and courage. A young Englishman embarks on a passionate and dangerous affair with the beautiful Isabelle Azaire in pre-war France, turning both their worlds upside down. This adaptation by Rachel Wagstaff of Sebastian Faulks’ bestselling novel marks the 100th anniversary of the end of WW1.

Bursting with growing grannies, feathery farm animals and bags of frothbuggling family fun, Curve and Rose Theatre Kingston present the magnificent George’s Marvellous Medicine (13 – 17 March). Filled with adventure as plucky George contends with his grumbling, grouchy Grandma, Roald Dahl’s treasured tale is set to delight children and adults alike in this phizz-whizzing spectacular.

The world famous Teletubbies are starring in their first ever theatre show Teletubbies Live (27 – 28 March). Join Tinky Winky, Dipsy, Laa-Laa and Po in a performance full of love, fun and laughter as they explore the magical world of Teletubbyland.

Peppa Pig and friends make a fantastic return to the Playhouse with brand new live show Peppa Pig’s Adventure! (9 – 10 June). Join Peppa and friends as they get ready to go on an exciting camping trip to the woods, full of games, laughter and live music.

Award-winning Mark Thomas returns to West Yorkshire Playhouse with the funny, moving and necessary Showtime From The Frontline (15 – 17 March). Presented by Lakin McCarthy in association with Theatre Royal Stratford East, Mark and his team set out to run a comedy club and put on two nights in Jenin in the West Bank, only to find that it is not so simple to celebrate freedom of speech in a place with so little freedom.

Transporting the Playhouse back to 1840 is the thrilling adaptation of Henry James’ classic ghost story, Turn of the Screw (20 – 24 March). As a governess takes a role caring for two orphans in a seemingly idyllic country house, she begins to realise they are not alone. This terrifying tale which inspired Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black is written by Tim Luscombe and directed by Daniel Buckroyd.

Kneehigh make a spectacular return to the Playhouse with the Bristol Old Vic co-production The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk (20 – 24 March). Lovers Marc and Bella are immortalised as the picture of romance, but whilst on canvas they flew, in life they walked through some of the most devastating times in history. Directed by Emma Rice, this production told in Kneehigh’s inimitable storytelling style is interwoven throughout with music and dance inspired by Russian Jewish tradition.

Drag star Divina De Campo leads the cast of Dancing Bear (6 – 7 April). A dizzying cabaret of contradictions presented by Jamie Fletcher & Company and Contact, Dancing Bear explores the tightrope of personal integrity, social acceptance and mental health that many LGBT+ people find themselves precariously balancing on through a flip of pop tune and storytelling.

Brilliantly updating Pierre de Marivaux’s classic French farce, actor Nigel Planer (The Young Ones, Filthy Rich and Catflap) reimagines the 18th Century romantic comedy as The Game of Love & Chai (1 – 5 May). Seeing a modern Asian family in England grapple with love and marriage, this brand new production employs Bollywood song and dance to delicious effect in a clash of class and passion.

Northern Broadsides Hard Times (22 – 26 May) is a new adaptation of Charles Dickens great Northern novel. In a world where imagination is forbidden, dark, cold mills are interrupted by the colour and vibrancy of Sleary’s Circus in a touching and hilarious tale of suppressed love, seduction and longing.

Work presented outside of Leeds

West Yorkshire Playhouse, National Theatre and Fuel co-production Barber Shop Chronicles, inspired by a Leeds barber and currently playing at the National Theatre, will embark on a tour of Australia and New Zealand from 18 January.

Smash-hit spectacular Strictly Ballroom The Musical, presented by Global Creatures in association with West Yorkshire Playhouse, makes its West End debut at the Piccadilly Theatre from 16 March.

Click here to book tickets

Major Boost to West Yorkshire Playhouse Redevelopment

Following a substantial donation from The Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation to the West Yorkshire Playhouse redevelopment project, plans have been confirmed to create a new studio space within the theatre, which will be named The Bramall Rock Void. This sizable contribution to the redevelopment in 2018 goes almost half way to achieving the target of £2.3m required to supplement the generous funding of the project anticipated from Leeds City Council and Arts Council England.

Built into a rock void that currently sits underneath the theatre’s box office, this dedicated, flexible and intimate new third auditorium will support the Playhouse’s commitment to developing new artists and continue to give space to its award-winning Creative Engagement programme.

The Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation has been a committed supporter of West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Creative Engagement programme for many years, and has previously backed the opening of First Floor (the Playhouse’s dedicated space for young people) as well as community engagement work that has happened across Leeds and West Yorkshire, and the Playhouse’s artist development programme. Their continuing support of the Playhouse will also extend and deepen the theatre’s reach during the redevelopment and on reopening.

The redevelopment of West Yorkshire Playhouse will mark a new chapter in the theatre’s history. As well as creating the new Bramall Rock Void, the redevelopment proposes to transform and modernise the building improving access to and around the theatres and a new city-facing entrance. The project which is managed by Leeds City Council has a total budget of £14m. Anticipated funding for the project is made up of £6.6m from Arts Council England (ACE), £4.335m from Leeds City Council and a £3.032m injection from the Playhouse’s own resources (including fundraising). The donation from The Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation has helped to give the fundraising an early and very welcome boost.

Construction work will begin at the Playhouse from Summer 2018, continuing through to Autumn 2019. The theatre will remain open during the redevelopment works, presenting a season of work in a new pop-up theatre on-site.

Liz and Terry Bramall said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be able to support the creation of a new and exciting theatre space as part of the Playhouse redevelopment and to lend it our name. The Bramall Rock Void will be a unique space for new work and a wonderful platform for Yorkshire based artists and creatives. Our Foundation has supported James, Robin and the Playhouse team for many years now, and we are very proud of the work the theatre delivers and the support it offers young people and the wider Leeds and Yorkshire communities. The Playhouse is a huge asset for our region and we are delighted to be able to help to secure its long term future.”

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “The Bramall Foundations’ support over recent years has made a huge impact on West Yorkshire Playhouse. Their commitment to the theatre has been a vital and crucial element in us being able to realise our ambitions as a leading regional theatre with an award-winning and industry-leading creative engagement team. The new Bramall Rock Void space will help us to develop the Playhouse’s reputation as an innovative and nurturing organisation that works hard to retain Yorkshire born and based talent in the region.”

West Yorkshire Playhouse Executive Director Robin Hawkes said: “We are delighted to be able to recognise the incredible support and commitment the Bramall Foundation has shown the Playhouse. The Bramall Rock Void will ensure that we continue to programme new and emerging work as part of our core programme and deliver it in a more financially sustainable way. I am very grateful for the support we receive from the Bramall trustees and their personal engagement in our work is also very inspiring. Their faith and enthusiasm in this project has been a key driver for us.”

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8 facts you might not know about West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Christmas production of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe

1. Carla Mendonça, mum Sophie Johnson in ITV’s My Parents Are Aliens, is playing the icy White Witch…

2. …and 23 metres of beautiful white faux fur have been used to make her incredible cloak.

3. Over 150 costumes have been created in our wardrobe department…

4. …and 63 magical puppets are being hand made from scratch in our workshop, including 22 mice, 1 cat…

 

5. …and 11 Narnian monsters!

6. The cast is made up of 17 extremely talented actors, plus 4 musicians live on stage…

7. …who will perform 72 shows across 8 weeks.

8. And finally, we’ll open our doors to over 40,000 audience members, as they experience the largest Christmas show in the Playhouse’s history!

Click here to book tickets

Due to popular demand, extra The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe performances added

West Yorkshire Playhouse is extending the run of festive spectacular The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe for a further week. Opening at end of November, this brand new adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ classic story will now run until Saturday 27 January.

This major new production will see West Yorkshire Playhouse’s 750 seater Quarry stage transformed into a 1000 seater theatre in the round, bringing director Sally Cookson and designer Rae Smith’s incredible vision to life.

Telling of four war time evacuees sent to live with an eccentric Professor in the country, an innocent game of hide and seek leads the children through a magical wardrobe marking the start of a life-changing adventure. Performed by a multi-talented cast including ITV’s My Parents Are Aliens actor Carla Mendonça as the White Witch, this visually spectacular production showcases stunning puppetry and aerial performance in this new adaptation of C.S. Lewis’ treasured classic.

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is a West Yorkshire Playhouse, Elliott & Harper Productions and Catherine Schreiber co-production.

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A Pevensie Family Day Out: The cast of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe explore Harewood House

With faux fur coats wrapped tightly and woollen socks pulled high, the cast of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, West Yorkshire Playhouse’s spectacular Christmas production, took a very special trip to Leeds’ Harewood House. The four war time evacuees, Peter (Michael Jean-Marain), Susan (Patricia Allison), Edmund (John Leader) and Lucy Pevensie (Cora Kirk), skipped through hallways and danced round lamp posts, all in search of the magical land of Narnia.

Harewood House, which opens its doors to the public this festive season with its very own Victorian Christmas, acted as the perfect backdrop for the cast to get into role. Taking in the grand surroundings on the Harewood estate, the actors took the opportunity to prepare to play the adventurous Pevensies taken in by the eccentric Professor Quirke in his country manor, ahead of discovering the land of Narnia beyond a very magical wardrobe.

Playing from 29 November, acclaimed director Sally Cookson directs a multi-talented cast in The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, based on C.S. Lewis’ treasure classic. The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is a West Yorkshire Playhouse, Elliott & Harper Productions and Catherine Schreiber co-production.

Click here to book tickets

Director Sally Cookson on The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe

West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Quarry stage is to be transformed into a magical world this Christmas, staging the reimagining of CS Lewis’ much loved classic, The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe.

Spellbindingly enchanting, the production sees four war time evacuees discover an icy kingdom through a magical wardrobe, come face to face with the White Witch, and form a bond with the most unforgettable lion.

Directed by Olivier Award nominee Sally Cookson, (Peter Pan and Jane Eyre, for the National Theatre and Bristol Old Vic and Hetty Feather in the West End and on tour), the production will see the Quarry stage transformed into a theatre in the round for the first time.

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is produced in association with Elliott & Harper Productions and Catherine Schreiber, and runs at West Yorkshire Playhouse from 29 November – 21 January.

CS Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is such a treasured classic. How you are approaching this new reimagining?
We are going to be devising this production which means that we don’t have a script at the beginning of rehearsals. Through collaboration and a shared exploration of C.S. Lewis’ novel, the script emerges during the seven-week rehearsal process. This way of working enables everyone involved from the creative team and actors to the stage management to input ideas about how to tell this story. The result will be a unique adaptation that reflects the entire company’s response to the book.

You’re collaborating with War Horse designer Rae Smith. Can you offer an insight on how the show will look and feel?
I’m a massive fan of Rae’s work and have always admired her creativity and skill as a designer, so it’s a privilege to be working with her on The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe. Rae understands collaboration and is a very playful designer. She doesn’t just sit in a design studio on her own working out what to do – she comes into the playing space with the actors and responds to what’s going on in the room. Several months before rehearsals began we did a two-week workshop where a lot of brainstorming and playing was carried out. Rae was a big part of that process – offering up ideas, sketching what we were doing and responding to the group. Her design was hugely inspired by what came out of that workshop – she doesn’t impose a design on a production but serves the story and how we as a company want to tell it. We will be performing The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe in the round and Rae has designed a beautiful set which will enable the cast to tell the story in a very theatrical and magical way – frozen wastelands, polar expeditions and arctic exploration have been an influence. Her costumes, although referencing the 1940s when the story is set, will be very playful and witty – building on the actors’ own personality as well as defining their character. Animals, humans and fantastical creatures will all have the magic of Rae’s touch.

Why do you think The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe has such an enduring appeal?
Like all brilliantly written stories The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is multi-faceted, and each reader takes something different from it. For me, a big part of the story’s emotional heart is provided by its Second World War setting. The four Pevensie children are separated from their family and their home. Due to the evacuation, they have to leave their mother in a dangerous city where bombs are being dropped while their father is away fighting. The trauma of these events informs how each of the children behave and their need to see good overcome evil is played out in Narnia – a magic land where they are able to have some control.

The idea of going through an ordinary, dusty old wardrobe into a fantasy world is tantalising and thrilling. Our imaginations are piqued by this notion and it makes us look at our own wardrobes and wonder what would happen if we were to climb in and discover a strange new place. It is a simple fairy tale about good versus evil, but within its 160 pages C.S. Lewis explores what it is to be human, how we need to feel loved, how badly we behave when we’re scared, the beauty of nature and imagination, being brave, loyalty, family, friendship, winter, spring and summer!

What personal significance does The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe have to you?
I know the story from childhood, and from reading it to my daughter when she was little, and from the BBC adaptation from long ago, so I have a nostalgic, emotional connection to the book linked to my childhood and that of my daughter’s. But I am enjoying this new relationship I am forming with the book as I work on turning it into a piece of theatre. There are so many elements to the book and deciding how to interpret iconic features of the story, like going through the wardrobe into winter, how to create Aslan, how do we show Spring emerging etc – I’m loving the challenge and am forming a very close attachment to the book. It has such a solid structure and is expertly crafted, I have a lot of respect for C.S. Lewis – he knew what he was doing.

Who else is working on the project?
The creative team I’m working with are all at the top of their game, so I feel very lucky to have them on board. I’ve worked with Benji Bower (Music), Dan Canham (Movement), Adam Peck (Writer) and Gwen Hales (Aerial) several times, but Rae Smith (Design), Craig Leo (Puppetry), Bruno Poet (Lighting) and Ian Dickinson (Sound) are new playmates.

What connection do you have with West Yorkshire Playhouse?
It’s a theatre I’ve always wanted to work at. When I was an actress many years ago I auditioned for a show that was opening in Leeds – sadly I didn’t get the part!

Who is the production for?
Anyone between the ages of 7 and 107. I know that a visit to the local Christmas show is often the one annual theatre trip people make, so I want it to be special and appeal to all ages. It is also many people’s first ever experience of theatre. As well as telling the story as theatrically as I can I also want to ignite the audience’s imagination, and make them fall in love with theatre. Fingers crossed.

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Crumble’s Search for Christmas: West Yorkshire Playhouse’s enchanting Christmas adventure for 2-6 year olds

Join West Yorkshire Playhouse for Crumble’s Search for Christmas this festive season, a heart-warming tale of friendship and adventure, written, devised and directed by Robert Alan Evans (The Night Before Christmas, West Yorkshire Playhouse).

When winter comes it’s time for Crumble to hibernate. At least, that’s what Crumble has always been told. With the family hurrying and scurrying to make final preparations before the last leaf falls, a chance encounter sets curious Crumble on the most extraordinary adventure to discover the true meaning of Christmas.

A festive tale of friendship and bravery, this brand new production is set to delight both children and their grown-ups as curious Crumble discovers the magic of winter for the very first time.

Writer and Director Robert Alan Evans said: “Creating a brand new Christmas production at the Playhouse is a fantastic opportunity, it’s always a delight to share a new story with the warm Leeds audiences.

Crumble’s Search for Christmas asks what Christmas might look like if you had never seen or experienced it before. It’s about discovery, bravery and how true friendship can be the best Christmas present in the world. The production is an hour-long family experience for both children and adults alike.”

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “Crumble’s Search for Christmas is a brilliant new adventure, and I am thrilled to see Rob return to the Playhouse for the festive season. He is a fantastic writer, theatre maker and director and his work really speaks to audiences of all ages. This magical tale of Crumble’s extraordinary journey into the big wide world poses the question, what does Christmas time really mean? I can’t wait to share it with our young audiences and their grown-ups.”

Crumbles Search for Christmas stars Leeds born Riana Duce who trained at York University (The Jungle Book, Manchester Open Air Theatre), Bradford born and Royal Central School of Speech and Drama trained Lucy Bairstow (#DIGS, Theatre with Legs) and Leeds born Emily Goldie who trained at Manchester School of Theatre (Romeo and Juliet, HOME).

Crumble’s Search for Christmas plays in the Courtyard Theatre from Saturday 25 November to Saturday 30 December.

Click here to book tickets

How West Yorkshire Playhouse are celebrating the Leeds 2023 First Stage Bid

On Friday 27 October Leeds will submit its first stage bid to become European Capital of Culture 2023, and West Yorkshire Playhouse plan to celebrate in style. With stalls taking over St Peter’s Square there’ll be the chance to sample some of the finest food and drink the city has to offer, meet the people creating our culture every day, and have a sneak peek behind the scenes of our greatest cultural venues, including West Yorkshire Playhouse. As well as the programme of work on the Playhouse’s stages, we’re inviting the public to get involved in a range of free workshops and activity across the building from backstage tours to open rehearsals and creative writing workshops.

ActivityLocation and Time
The Tin Drum

On Oskar’s third birthday, he decides to remain a child forever. Armed with a heart full of rage and a seemingly indestructible tin drum, he sets about to reveal the world for what it truly is. A story retold by Kneehigh.

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Quarry Theatre

7.30pm.  Tickets from £13.50. Age guide 14 +.

Sarah and Duck’s Big Top Birthday

Join Sarah and Duck and a host of your favourite friends, including The Ribbon Sisters, The Shallots, Flamingo & John and Umbrella, as they plan a birthday party for Scarf Lady in their garden.

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Courtyard Theatre

10.30am & 1pm. Tickets £12.50.  Age guide 3+.

Backstage Tour

From our Quarry and Courtyard Theatres in to our Wardrobe departments and our rehearsal rooms, there’s no better way to take a look behind the scenes of the theatre than to take a backstage tour of the Playhouse. Tours will be starting in the Playhouse foyer every half hour between 11.30-12.30pm and 2-4pm.

Tours are free on 27 October, but need to be booked with Box Office on 0113 213 7700.

West Yorkshire  Playhouse

Every half hour between 11.30am-12.30pm and 2pm-4pm.

Visual Arts Workshop

Visual Arts workshop open to all running all day.

First Floor, St Peter’s Square

11am – 3pm

Music and Drama
For young people with a learning disabilityDesigned for young people with a learning disability aged 14 – 25. If you need one-to-one support, please bring someone with you.
First Floor, St Peter’s Square

Music 11am-11.45am
Drama 12noon-12.45pm

Music and Drama
For young people aged 11 to 19.

Designed for young people aged 11 – 19 who have done some arts activities before at school or elsewhere and want to try something new.

First Floor, St Peter’s Square

Music 1pm-1.45pm
Drama 2pm-2.45pm

Open Rehearsals (age 14+)

25 young people rehearse Zoetrope, a new play that deals with mental health premiering in the Courtyard Theatre on 2 November.

West Yorkshire Playhouse,

Rehearsal Room 2, meet in the Foyer
11.30am-12noon, 12.30pm-1pm, 2.30pm-3pm.

Max. of 15 per visit.

Kneehigh Theatre Storytelling

Two Kneehigh Artists tell inspirational local stories they have collected from the people of Leeds

 

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Priestley Room
6.30pm.

Max. of 30 people.

Listen & Make

A family friendly activity surrounding the performance of Sarah and Duck’s Big Top Birthday. With a Story Den every 15 mins, plus arts and crafts.

 West Yorkshire Playhouse Foyer
11.30am-1pm, 2pm-3pm
Conversation Café

Meet participants from our Theatre of Sanctuary and learn about activities for refugee and asylum seekers living in Leeds.

 West Yorkshire Playhouse, Coffee Shop
1pm-2.30pm
Born and Bred Exhibition

A new exhibition from the project These Northern Types by Split, an exploration of Northern identity.

 Newlyn Gallery at West Yorkshire Playhouse
All day 11am-3pm

Click here to find out more

Creating the magical world of Narnia: bicycles, puppets, and 24 metres of white faux fur

Transforming West Yorkshire Playhouse into Narnia, the talented cast and creatives are well underway creating the magical world of The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe in a brand new adaptation of C.S Lewis’ treasured classic.

In a first glimpse of rehearsals, the actors are pinned and fastened into rolls of faux fur and silk and adorned with glasses, tails, crowns and furry tails by an on-hand Wardrobe department as they start to bring their characters to life.

CITV’s My Parents Are Aliens actress Carla Mendonça is draped with 24 metres of soft and sumptuous white faux fur as she takes on the role of the icy White Witch, whilst comedian Alan Francis and Lucy Tuck tried out their snow-shoe beaver tales for the first time.

Designer Rae Smith said: “Experimenting with costumes, materials, puppets and props is a brilliant and interactive way of creating a character from within the rehearsal room. By simply dressing up and playing in role with the actors they begin to develop the physical storytelling of the show. A costume could come out of the imagination of the actor, or the story itself, making it a richer starting point which can give surprising results.”

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe tells the story of four war time evacuees whose venture through an old wardrobe sets them on a courageous journey to save the mystical world of Narnia from the evil White Witch. Directed by acclaimed director Sally Cookson, with a company of multi-talented performers including physical theatre artists, musicians and circus performers, The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe is a West Yorkshire Playhouse, Elliot & Harper Productions and Catherine Schreiber co-production.

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Kneehigh telling stories of Leeds

In preparation for the spectacular West Yorkshire Playhouse, Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse and Kneehigh co-production The Tin Drum, performed by Kneehigh in their inimitable storytelling style on the Quarry stage, Kneehigh artists Anna Maria Murphy and Dom Coyote have sought out inspirational stories from the people of Leeds as part of their Rambles project.

Meeting and walking around the city with individuals from the Playhouse’s Young People, Older People, Community and Theatre of Sanctuary (refugee and asylum seeker groups) programmes, Anna and Dom have gathered inspiring tales creating original songs, poems and moving postcards celebrating the city.

The songs and poems collected by Anna and Dom will be performed by a unique choir made up of individuals from Asmarina Voices (West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Theatre of Sanctuary Women’s Group), First Floor’s Friday Night Music (the Playhouse’s dedicated space for young people), and Heydays (West Yorkshire Playhouse’s creative arts programme for older people). This free event will be hosted in the Playhouse’s bar area at 6.45pm ahead of The Tin Drum on Friday 20 and Saturday 21 October.

Join us pre-show on Tuesday 24 and Friday 27 October at 6.30pm in the Priestley Room, as Anna and Dom will share a free storytelling performance inspired by the tales of Leeds collected from the Rambles.

Additional activity delivered by Kneehigh artists includes writing workshops, teacher CPD sessions and artist and facilitator CPD sessions running from 18 – 26 October. For more information please contact Ruth Hannant.

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West Yorkshire Playhouse Associate Artist Reece Dinsdale on (the fall of) The Master Builder

West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Courtyard stage has been transformed in to the complex world of (the fall of) The Master Builder, a gripping reimagining of Henrik Ibsen’s classic text.

Thrilling and electrifying, this contemporary new production sees the highly successful architect Halvard Solness win the prestigious Master Builder Award, until a knock on the door from an unexpected visitor threatens to undermine all he has built.

Reimagined by award-winning playwright, screen writer and director Zinnie Harris and directed by West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining, celebrated Yorkshire actor and West Yorkshire Playhouse Associate Artist Reece Dinsdale stars in the lead role.

(the fall of) The Master Builder runs at West Yorkshire Playhouse until 21 October.

This production is a brand new adaptation, how does Zinnie Harris’ reimagining differ from Henrik Ibsen’s classic text?
Zinnie’s contemporary version has been inspired by Ibsen’s The Master Builder, but this is no mere translation. Zinnie has been inspired by Ibsen’s play to deal with wider, more relevant and contemporary issues that are present in the original but have been drawn out by shifting elements of the story and looking at the events of the play through a modern-day lens.

This version is called (the fall of) The Master Builder, does Solness have a long way to fall? How are you approaching the character?
Solness is fascinating character – a successful architect, seemingly at the height of his powers. On the surface, he’s a talented and personable guy. However, he’s at a certain age where his fear of growing older, and the inevitable decline that goes with that, is at the very forefront of his mind. Mostly he fears the ambitious youth who are rapidly catching up with him and whom he believes wish to drag him into the mire. Here is a man who has always had his own way… but for how much longer? Plus, he has secrets… secrets that he hopes will remain hidden. He is a man standing at the precipice, staring into the abyss.

As we get older we all worry that our best years (both physically and mentally), our most productive and creative times, might well be behind us. These are issues that worry most people, not just actors. Being of the same age, I can readily identify with certain aspects of the character. I’ve tried asking questions of him that I might well ask of myself. With Solness it gnaws away at him. Luckily, thus far, I myself have managed to remain a little more sanguine.

Can you offer an insight on how the show will look and feel with it being a contemporary version?
We’ve set the production in the heart of West Yorkshire – it could be Leeds, Huddersfield, it could be Wakefield. Whilst the production is based on Ibsen’s The Master Builder, our version needs to be viewed as a brand new play. It has a contemporary style and flavour, with some pretty ripe language at times, mostly all of it performed with Yorkshire accents. Someone even takes a selfie at one point!

This is the first time that you and James Brining have worked together. What are you looking forward to?
I think James is an extraordinary man – intelligent and insightful and with a generosity of spirit to go with it. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching his previous productions, including Alan Bennet’s Enjoy, Sondheim’s Into The Woods and Zodwa Nyoni’s Ode to Leeds… to name but a few.

We’d been talking for a while about doing something together. I like and respect him enormously and I think that’s hugely important. It can take actors many years to relax and be themselves in a rehearsal room. I know already that, with James, I will be afforded the best atmosphere in which to explore the role and hopefully get our combined creativity to flow. I’m hugely excited to be working with him, he’s a top chap.

Congratulations on being appointed as Associate Artist at West Yorkshire Playhouse, what does that mean to you?
It’s a huge honour to be asked. I absolutely love the Playhouse, the people who work in it, and what they are endeavouring to achieve. Whenever I enter the building, it always feels like I’ve come home. I helped open the theatre some 27 years ago, playing the central role of Jack Rover in Wild Oats, and here I am now, still giving it a go. It’s such a creative and thriving community and I’m just delighted to be able to do my bit.

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Inspirational women fighting for equality: Pink Sari Revolution

In India’s rural Uttar Pradesh province violence towards women is rife. Sampat Pal, leader of the notorious, working class feminist movement ‘The Gulabi Gang’, is fighting for change. With the gang boasting 400,000 members and growing, with a uniform of blazing pink saris, women are finding the strength and empowerment to stand up and fight against the violence in the ‘badlands’ of India.

Pink Sari Revolution tells the real-life story of the formidable Sampat Pal and the gang as they challenge the daily oppression. Based on a book of the same name by the internationally renowned author and journalist Amana Fontanella-Khan, this explosive new drama reveals the real cost of making a stand.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “This is a truly inspiring story of how a brave and strong group of women are standing up against the violence and demands a deep patriarchal culture has placed on them. It is a hugely powerful production and I am thrilled to be co-producing with our equally inspirational partners, Leicester Curve, Belgrade Theatre and English Touring theatre, to share this story far and wide.”

In a joint statement, Curve’s Chief Executive Chris Stafford and Artistic Director Nikolai Foster said: “As well as entertaining, theatre holds a mirror to society and challenges the injustices of our times. The powerful true story of the Pink Sari Revolution does both of these things brilliantly. We are indebted to our producing partners at Belgrade Theatre Coventry, West Yorkshire Playhouse and English Touring Theatre and our project funders Arts Council England and British Council for enabling us to tell this incredible story.”

Pink Sari Revolution is directed by award-winning theatre director and Curve’s Associate Director Suba Das. The production has been adapted for the stage by Indian playwright Purva Naresh, winner of the United Nations Laadli Media Award for her work on gender. Pink Sari Revolution has Lighting Design by Olivier award winner Tim Lutkin and Set and Costume design by Isla Shaw (The Witches, James and the Giant Peach, West Yorkshire Playhouse). Incorporating elements of traditional Indian music and dance, Composition and Sound Design is by Indian Artist Naren Chandavarkar and Curve Associate Artist Aakash Odedra provides movement direction.

Taking the lead role of Sampat Pal is Syreeta Kumar, an actor known for her frequent work with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), as well as roles in television such as Apple Tree Yard and films including Notes on a Scandal.

The company is completed by Goldy Notay (It’s a Wonderful Afterlife, Bend it Films and Handful of Henna, Sheffield Crucible), Munir Khairdin (Whitechapel, Carnival Films and As You Like It, Curve), Ronak Patani (Macbeth, National Theatre and Primetime, Royal Court), Sharan Phull (Romeo and Juliet, National Theatre and The Importance of Being Earnest, Curve) and Ulrika Krishnamurti (Made in India, UK National tour and Rockford, Sic Productions).

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West Yorkshire Playhouse Youth Theatre and Leeds CAMHS join forces to tackle the stigma around mental health

A poignant production which explores young people’s mental health is being created by West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Youth Theatre in collaboration with Leeds Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS).

Written for West Yorkshire Playhouse by Rebecca Manley, Zoetrope follows seven young people as they tackle emotional and behavioural difficulties in a timely exploration of the mental health of our young people and the resources afforded to them.

In preparation for the performance the Zoetrope cast have collaborated with Leeds Community Healthcare’s CAMHS service, inviting both young people and NHS staff into rehearsals to share their insights and experiences. CAMHS provides services for young people under 18 when mental health issues get in the way of daily life.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Director of Creative Engagement Alexander Ferris said: “This production features young people from all over Leeds who take part in regular activities at the Playhouse. We are really proud of our Young People’s offer with over 500 people getting involved with creative activities every week. This production is a great example of how we like to work – to support young people to express their voices through high quality theatre.”

West Yorkshire Playhouse Youth Theatre Director Gemma Woffinden said: “At West Yorkshire Playhouse we strive to make theatre that gives young people a platform to express their ideas about the world with real integrity. By working with CAMHS our young actors have gained an insight into the processes, job roles and most importantly first hand experiences of the challenges faced by young people suffering with mental health issues. It has been a truly valuable experience working with the CAMHS staff and patients in rehearsals.”

Vandhna Sharma, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Practitioner, said: “Being involved in Zoetrope has given the CAMHS young people a real sense of confidence and helped them realise how their knowledge and experience has made them the experts. Our CAMHS young people have loved learning about a theatre production and were touched by how polite and considerate the Zoetrope cast are, in particular when they shared their experiences of mental health and the support they received, which helped provide authenticity and depth to the Zoetrope characters.”

The audience get to see young people navigate their way through mental health difficulties and support processes from their perspective, as well as understand the impact it has on every area of their life.”

Zoetrope plays at West Yorkshire Playhouse from 2 – 4 November.

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Loud and passionate: Leeds young people making their voices heard at West Yorkshire Playhouse

A group of Leeds young people are using theatre to make their voices heard in a fusion of protest and performance inspired by punk Ian Dury and The Blockheads musical Reasons to be Cheerful.

Loud, passionate and accompanied by a live band, the energetic outdoor performance inspired by the raucous production will see twenty young people challenge the perceptions and assumptions made of the millennial generation in front of West Yorkshire Playhouse’s main entrance.

Created by an inclusive cast of 14 – 25 year olds from West Yorkshire Playhouse’s young people’s offer, including learning disability and young carer’s programmes, the performance uses theatre to protest against the label ‘Snowflake’, a derogatory term used to describe millennials as less resilient and more emotionally vulnerable than previous generations.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Creative Engagement Director Alex Ferris said:
“We are really proud of this group of young people who have united to share their views through this performance connected to Reasons to Be Cheerful. The group represent a range of ages and backgrounds from the Young People’s work at the Playhouse. This typifies what we do – bringing people together, regardless of background or experience, and offering them a platform to make their voices heard.”

Generation Snowflake is a free outdoor pre-performance taking place on 10 – 11 October at 6.55pm, ahead of Ian Dury and The Blockhead’s musical Reasons to be Cheerful at West Yorkshire Playhouse which plays from 10 – 14 October at 7.30pm. Part gig, part play, Reasons to be Cheerful is a celebration of Ian Dury and The Blockhead’s greatest hits, directed by pioneering disabled led theatre company Graeae’s Artistic Director Jenny Sealey MBE.

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Visually dazzling and daringly provocative: The Tin Drum in rehearsals

Creating the evocative re-imagining of Günter Grass’ seminal novel, the company of The Tin Drum lead us through a radical yet delicate world for this theatrically electrifying new production.

Making a dazzling return to the Playhouse, Kneehigh, alongside West Yorkshire Playhouse and Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, present Grass’s surreal and daring 20th Century masterpiece in Kneehigh’s celebrated storytelling style.

Directed by Kneehigh’s Artistic Director Mike Shepherd, The Tin Drum follows child Oskar as he refuses to grow up in an ugly world. Armed with a heart full of rage and a singing voice that shatters glass, Oskar sets about to reveal the world for what it truly is.

Visually spectacular, this West Yorkshire Playhouse, Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse and Kneehigh co-production plays in the Quarry Theatre from Tuesday 17 to Saturday 28 October.

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Full casting announced for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at West Yorkshire Playhouse

Full casting was announced today for the major new production of C.S Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe at West Yorkshire Playhouse this Christmas. The co-production with West Yorkshire Playhouse, Elliott & Harper Productions and Catherine Schreiber will be directed and devised by Sally Cookson and the company, taking audiences through the wardrobe into the mystical world of Narnia from 29 November 2017 – 21 January 2018.

The multi-talented performers making up the exceptional cast include physical theatre artists, musicians and circus performers. Working with such an outstanding ensemble, Cookson’s inimitable style and unique method of devising theatre will breathe new life into C.S Lewis’ treasured tale of adventure.

Peter Caulfield will play the loveable Fawn, Mr Tumnus. His extensive credits in theatre and television include BBC1’s Doctor Who, Channel 4’s Cucumber, and King Herod in the Olivier award-winning production of Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. Joining him are Iain Johnstone as the great lion Aslan and CITV’s My Parents Are Aliens actress Carla Mendonça as the White Witch.

The Pevensie children will be played by Michael Jean-Marain as Peter, John Leader as Edmund, Patricia Allison as Susan and Cora Kirk as Lucy.

Lucy Tuck (Beryl, New Vic Theatre) will play Mrs Beaver, comedian and writer Alan Francis (War Horse, National Theatre/New London Theatre) will play Mr Beaver and wolf Maugrim will be played by Northern School of Contemporary Dance trained Ira Mandela Siobhan (Mosquitoes, National Theatre). The cast is completed by Amalia Vitale, Helena Parke, Sofie Lybäck, Tom Wainwright, Anwar Russell, Gareth Aled and Marie Hamilton.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe tells of four war time evacuees, whose venture through an old wardrobe sets them on a courageous journey to save the mystical world of Narnia from the evil White Witch.

Director Sally Cookson, whose recent work includes Jane Eyre and Peter Pan for the National Theatre and Hetty Feather in the West End and on tour said: “With the start of rehearsals imminent the team are incredibly excited to begin. I’m delighted to be working with this fabulous ensemble of extraordinary performers from a range of disciplines, including puppetry, dance and circus. The wardrobe door is opening…”

Award winning War Horse designer Rae Smith will transform the Quarry stage into a theatre in the round for the first time. Joining Sally and Rae on the creative team for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe are Leeds born Adam Peck as Writer in the Room, Ian Dickinson as Sound Designer, Dan Canham as Movement Director, Bruno Poet as Lighting Designer, Composer and Musical Director Benji Bower, Craig Leo as Puppetry Director, Gwen Hales as Aerial Director, Tom Paris as Design Associate, Associate Director Sarah Fielding and Jill Green as Casting Director.

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West Yorkshire Playhouse’s smash-hit Strictly Ballroom The Musical to transfer to the West End for Spring 2018

West Yorkshire Playhouse’s smash-hit spectacular, Strictly Ballroom The Musical, is to make its West End debut at the Piccadilly Theatre in 2018. Following the success of its UK Premiere at West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2016, the opulence and glamour of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical will begin performing in London from Friday 16 March 2018.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “We are thrilled that this exceptional musical is transferring to the West End after playing to sell-out houses here at the Playhouse – Leeds’ audiences absolutely loved it.

This production is full of heart, energy and world class dance led by the brilliant talents of Drew McOnie, and it will no doubt continue to delight audiences in the capital.”

Strictly Ballroom The Musical is the hilarious story that inspired the world to dance. Based on the multi award-winning movie and the first installment from Baz Luhrmann’s acclaimed Red Curtain Trilogy, the musical production is a kaleidoscope of colour and fun. When maverick championship ballroom dancer Scott defies all the rules of competition to follow his heart, he teams up with left-footed partner Fran to win the National Championship his way.

Featuring the film’s classic break-into-song numbers such as Love is in the Air, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps and Time After Time, Strictly Ballroom The Musical also includes electrifying songs from a host of internationally acclaimed artists.

Strictly Ballroom The Musical is directed by Drew McOnie (On The Town, Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park; The Wild Party, The Other Palace; Jesus Chris Superstar, Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park; Jekyll & Hyde, Old Vic, and Hairspray, National Tour), and based on the original Australian musical created by Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin, with a book by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce and produced by Global Creatures. Casting is yet to be announced.

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