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.

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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.

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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.

Activity Location 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.

Click here to book tickets for The Tin Drum

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.

Click here to book tickets for Reasons to be Cheerful

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.

Click here to book tickets

West Yorkshire Playhouse is hosting National Theatre New Views Hub

New Views is the National Theatre’s annual playwriting programme for 15-19 year olds. Each year hundreds of students from across the UK learn about playwriting from some of the finest writers in the business and write their own 30 minute plays, with one play chosen to be staged at the National Theatre in London with a professional cast. This year marks the third year the Playhouse will run the course for a group of young people in Leeds. Last year one of the young people from the New Views 2016- 2017 at the Playhouse was shortlisted by the National Theatre with their play, receiving rehearsed reading by professional actors.

This group is for individual young people looking to learn and develop their playwriting talents in free weekly sessions with professional director Tess Seddon and award-winning playwright Charley Miles. Each week the session focuses on a different part of creating a script, generating ideas and developing your voice as a writer through exercises, discussions and feedback.

The Playhouse will host a group of 15 young people between the ages of 15 – 19 with an interest in writing for theatre; perhaps transferring their writing skills from another craft, such as spoken word or music, or performers who want to try something new. The course is great fun; though writing for the stage is a challenging craft that requires time and some dedication to completing a first draft.

The West Yorkshire Playhouse Hub will meet on Thursdays from 5-7pm on the following dates:

Thursday 12 October
Thursday 19 October

Half Term

Thursday 2 November
Thursday 9 November
Thursday 16 November

Christmas Break

Thursday 11 January
Thursday 18 January
Thursday 25 January
Thursday 1 February

If you’d like to participate, please fill out the expression of interest form by clicking the button below and email it to engagement@wyp.org.uk by Monday 25 September 2017.

New Views Expression of Interest Form

(the fall of) The Master Builder in rehearsals: a gripping reimagining

The cast of (the fall of) The Master Builder explore the tension and drama of a successful man confronting his past in rehearsals for Zinnie Harris’s thrilling adaptation, opening on the 30 September.

Directed by West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining (Ode to Leeds, Enjoy, The Crucible, West Yorkshire Playhouse), this electrifying new production sees the unquestionably successful architect Halvard Solness achieve the truly admirable Master Builder Award, until a knock on the door from an unexpected visitor threatens to undermine all he has built.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Associate Artist Reece Dinsdale (Richard III, Alan Bennett’s Untold Stories, West Yorkshire Playhouse) takes the title role, with Susan Cookson (Romeo and Juliet, West Yorkshire Playhouse), Michael Peavoy (Sweeney Todd, West Yorkshire Playhouse & Manchester Royal Exchange), Robert Pickavance (James and the Giant Peach, West Yorkshire Playhouse), David Hounslow (This House, National Theatre), Emma Naomi (Dead Don’t Floss, National Theatre), and Katherine Rose Morely (Last Tango in Halifax, BBC One) joining the rest of the cast.

(the fall of) The Master Builder plays in the Courtyard Theatre from Saturday 30 September to Saturday 21 October.

Click here to book tickets

Frantic Assembly’s Ignition is back!

Frantic Assembly will be returning to Leeds to find this year’s Ignition Company. We are excited to be joining their annual search for the next generation of performers. Have you got what it takes?

As well as visiting Leeds, Frantic will be travelling to other cities in the UK to find 12 of the brightest and bravest young men to form the Ignition 2017 Company, a fantastic opportunity to learn new skills, create original work and perform to a live audience.

Are you male? Aged 16-20? Are you risk-taking and energetic? Do you want to be challenged and achieve what you never thought was possible? Then this is for you!

Taster workshops are an opportunity to try out Frantic Assembly’s high-energy, risk-taking, physical style. Trial workshops build on skills learnt in the Tasters and discover the Ignition 2017 Company. Both workshops are completely FREE and you don’t need any experience to take part, just bring your energy and personality!

By coming to a Trial workshop, you are also automatically part of the Back Up programme, meaning further training with Frantic Assembly and other exciting opportunities at West Yorkshire Playhouse, just for you, even if you don’t get into the company!

Think you have what it takes? Sign up now on the Frantic Assembly website.

Taster: Saturday 23 September 11am or 2pm
Trial: Saturday 7 October

OR

Text the following to 07811439706
– Full name
– TASTER and/or TRIAL + Location
– Date of birth
– Email address
– Please let us know if you have any disabilities or special needs that we need to know about to – support you taking part in the workshop

To find out more about Frantic Assembly click here.
To learn more about first floor click here.

Celebrating the birth of Carnival: Queen of Chapeltown cast meet Carnival royalty

Celebrating 50 years of Leeds West Indian Carnival, the cast of West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Queen of Chapeltown performed an exclusive extract of the play in Chapeltown’s Reginald Centre to an invited audience of previous Carnival royalty.

Past Queens and winning costume designers, including 1984 winner Angela Carr, 1989 winner Sheila Howarth and designer of over 20 winning costumes Hughbon Condor, met with the cast before watching an exclusive short performance from the show ahead of Wednesday’s opening night.

Founding carnivalist Arthur France MBE also attended the event, meeting with his fictional counterpart actor Raphael Bushay, who plays the role of Arthur in the production. Inspiring the Queen of Chapeltown story along with other members of the Leeds West Indian community, Arthur’s inspirational first-hand account of the birth of Carnival stirred much of this vibrant new production, celebrating a significant moment in Leeds’s history.

Following the journey of four West Indians as they arrive in 1960’s Leeds, the professional Queen of Chapeltown cast, including Chapel Allerton’s Emily Butterfield, will be joined by a 15 strong Leeds community ensemble.

Written by Colin Grant and directed by Amy Leach, Queen of Chapeltown plays in the Quarry Theatre, Wednesday 13 – Friday 15 September.

Queen of Chapeltown is supported by Leeds 2023

Click here to book tickets

Kneehigh’s dazzling return to West Yorkshire Playhouse with Günter Grass’ epic The Tin Drum

Kneehigh are making an epic return to Leeds with The Tin Drum, a West Yorkshire Playhouse, Kneehigh and Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse coproduction directed by Kneehigh Artistic Director Mike Shepherd. A new adaptation of Günter Grass’ surreal seminal 20th century novel, The Tin Drum is brought to thrilling theatrical life in a visually dazzling, dark and daringly provocative production playing at West Yorkshire Playhouse from 17 – 28 October.

On Oskar’s third birthday he rails against the adult world and decides to remain a child forever. Armed with a heart full of rage, a singing voice that shatters glass and a seemingly indestructible tin drum, Oskar sets about to reveal the world for what it truly is. However, the world has other plans for our hero…

Exploring the rise of fascism through the eyes of a child, Günter Grass’ post-war masterpiece has never been more prescient. His classic novel, which presents anti-hero Oskar refusing to grow up as he watches the growth of ugly and suffocating totalitarianism around him, is reimagined by Kneehigh as part Baroque opera, part psychedelic white-out and part epic poem: a burlesque, a blitzkrieg and a tsunami.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Bringing said: “We’re delighted to welcome Kneehigh back to the Playhouse, and thrilled to be collaborating on this project with Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse. Kneehigh’s popularity is certainly well justified, and I can’t wait to share this dazzling new production with the people of Leeds. Combining the Playhouse’s ability to tell truly epic stories with Kneehigh’s enduring inventiveness and imitable style, The Tin Drum will be an extravaganza of psychedelic music and theatre exploring and re-evaluating the conflicts of the 20th century through a contemporary lens.”

Kneehigh’s Artistic Director Mike Shepherd said: “I am thrilled to have reassembled the creative team behind Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs) for Günter Grass’ extraordinary novel The Tin Drum. Our iconic anti-hero, Oskar, will lead us through a world as delicate as moth’s wings and as incandescent as a blazing saw mill. A grand musical satire, it promises to be furious, funny and fiercely full of hope – a story very much for now.”

Written by Kneehigh regular Carl Grose, with music by award-winning composer and Kneehigh Associate Artist Charles Hazlewood, the ensemble cast include British mime artist Les Bubb, long time Kneehigh collaborator and composer Dom Coyote (The Night Before Christmas, West Yorkshire Playhouse), Kneehigh Associate Artist, puppeteer and puppet designer Sarah Wright, Nandi Bhebhe (946 – The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips, Kneehigh), Damon Daunno (Beardo, Pipeline Theatre Company), Bettrys Jones (Life of Galileo, Young Vic), and previous Kneehigh collaborators on Dead Dog In A Suitcase (and Other Love Songs) Rina Fatania, Angela Hardie, Patrycja Kujawska, Beverly Rudd. The cast are joined by musicians Ross Hughes, Alex Lupo and Ruth Wall.

Click here to book tickets

West Yorkshire community ensemble prepare to perform alongside professional cast in rehearsal for Queen of Chapeltown

Fifteen community performers are currently in rehearsals for Queen of Chapeltown, West Yorkshire Playhouse’s vibrant new production celebrating the 50th anniversary of Leeds West Indian Carnival.

Recruited through open auditions in August, the community actors are from across Leeds and West Yorkshire, with some of the group already involved in the Playhouse’s Youth Theatre and First Floor, our dedicated space for young people.

The community ensemble play a vital role supporting the professional cast in the production, which follows the journey of four West Indians as they arrive in Leeds, bringing to life the jubilant hosting of the first ever King and Queen Show.

Inspired by original first-hand accounts from the West Indian community, Queen of Chapletown is by leading BBC Radio Producer, author and historian Colin Grant and directed by West Yorkshire Playhouse Associate Director Amy Leach.

Writer Colin Grant said: “Queen of Chapeltown is a play written for the people of Leeds, drawing on the vibrant spoken testimonies of local people. There have been numerous challenges: recreating the glamour and competing dance styles at the 1960s Mecca Locarno; populating a tiny bedsit in Chapeltown crammed with Carnival pioneers; and reimagining the giant Cooperative hairdressers brimming with trainees and improvers. None of that conjuring of the past could have been achieved without the creativity of our generous community cast. The Queen of Chapeltown lifts her crown to them all.”

The professional cast include Chapel Allerton based Emily Butterfield, Huddersfield based Gabriel Paul, Raphael Bushay, Benjamin Cawley and Elexi Walker who played Mercutio in the Playhouse’s acclaimed spring production of Romeo and Juliet.

Queen of Chapeltown plays in the Quarry Theatre, Wednesday 13 – Friday 15 September.

Queen of Chapeltown is supported by Leeds 2023

Click here to book tickets

This House: James Graham’s smash-hit political drama to kick off West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Spring/Summer 2018 season ahead of a UK Tour

James Graham’s critically acclaimed and prescient political drama This House, which played to sold-out houses at the National Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre and in the West End, will launch its first ever national tour from West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds on 23 February – 10 March 2018, with the National Press Night for the production held at West Yorkshire Playhouse on Tuesday 27 February, 7.30pm. This House will mark the opening of the Playhouse’s Spring / Summer 18 season before the production embarks on an extensive UK Tour.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “I saw the original production at the National Theatre in 2012 and I’m thrilled audiences in Leeds will have the opportunity to experience it in the Quarry Theatre here at the Playhouse.  This will be our fourth collaboration with Headlong in as many years and the relevance of the play, as British politics lurches from one crisis to another, remains as strong as when I first saw it.  Jeremy Herrin and his excellent creative team have produced a compelling piece of contemporary theatre and I can’t wait to see it in our space.”

Roll back to 1974. The corridors of Westminster ring with the sound of infighting and backbiting 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, fist fights break out in the parliamentary bars, high-stake tricks and games are played, while sick or dying MPs are carried through the lobby to register their crucial votes as the government hangs by a thread.

Set in the engine rooms of Westminster, 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.

This House is directed by Headlong Artistic Director Jeremy Herrin (People, Places and Things, National Theatre and West End Tour), and designed by Rae Smith (War Horse, National Theatre, Barber Shop Chronicles, West Yorkshire Playhouse/National Theatre/Fuel, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, West Yorkshire Playhouse), with lighting design Paul Constable, music by Stephen Warbeck, choreography by Scott Ambler and sound by Ian Dickinson. Casting is to be announced.

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

Click here to book tickets

Hit Musical, Sunshine On Leith, in a major new production at West Yorkshire Playhouse for Spring 2018

West Yorkshire Playhouse will take the city of Leeds on foot-stomping adventure with the hit musical Sunshine On Leith, by acclaimed writer Stephen Greenhorn with a soundtrack of classics from The Proclaimers, ahead of a UK tour.

This final Playhouse production in the Quarry Theatre before the upcoming redevelopment sees Artistic Director James Brining (Into The Woods, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, West Yorkshire Playhouse) directing this brand new version of the award-winning musical. Set to the timeless songs of the much-loved band 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 the one you love?

Craig and Charlie Reid from The Proclaimers said: “We are very honoured that one of the top theatres in Britain is mounting the show. We hope that the performances are joyful events for the cast and audiences.”

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “I am thrilled to be directing Sunshine On Leith, a show which is bursting with heart and energy. 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. As the UK questions whether it’s still one country and what “Britain” means in the 21st Century, this show questions if your roots and your home really define you. With the beautiful, barnstorming, popular songs of The Proclaimers as its soundtrack, the show never fails to ignite big and powerful emotions from its audience. I can’t wait to introduce it to Leeds and take it out on tour.”

Writer Stephen Greenhorn said: “It is fantastic to have the chance to revive and revitalise Sunshine On Leith with James Brining at West Yorkshire Playhouse. It has been 10 years since we first staged the musical in Dundee and I can’t wait to bring this musical back to theatre audiences in an exciting new production.”

Originally a stage musical before being transformed in to the 2013 hit feature film adaptation, Sunshine On Leith sees the return of servicemen Davy and Ally from war overseas to be confronted 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.

Brining’s fresh and affirmative take on this warm-hearted musical will have set and costume designed by Colin Richmond, who’s work includes Curve’s tour of Sunset Boulevard, Kiss Me Kate for Opera North and Wendy and Peter for the RSC.

Joining the creative duo, the Playhouse is thrilled to welcome back the formidable talents of David Shrubsole as Music Supervisor. His work nationally and internationally has included London Road and My Country at the National Theatre, The Wind In The Willows for the London Palladium and The Rise and Fall of Little Voice at West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Click here to book tickets

(the fall of) The Master Builder: A contemporary reimagining of Ibsen’s classic drama

Halvard Solness is at the pinnacle of his career. His success is unquestionable, his status undeniable and his newest accolade, the Master Builder Award, is truly admirable. He’s on the precipice of unparalleled greatness when an unexpected visit stirs up memories of the past, which threaten to undermine all he has built.

Directed by Artistic Director James Brining (Ode to Leeds, Enjoy, The Crucible, West Yorkshire Playhouse), (the fall of) The Master Builder is written by award-winning playwright, screen writer and director Zinnie Harris, who celebrated success this year with three productions at Edinburgh International Festival.

Starring accomplished actor, director and Playhouse Associate Artist Reece Dinsdale (Richard III, Alan Bennett’s Untold Stories, West Yorkshire Playhouse) in the title role, the cast includes Susan Cookson (Romeo and Juliet, West Yorkshire Playhouse), David Hounslow (This House, National Theatre), Emma Naomi (Dead Don’t Floss, National Theatre), Michael Peavoy (Sweeney Todd, West Yorkshire Playhouse & Manchester Royal Exchange), Robert Pickavance (The Twits, Curve) and Katherine Rose Morely (Last Tango in Halifax, BBC One).

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “Zinnie Harris’ adaptation is a mesmeric and gripping exploration of power. This retelling of such a classic text feels timely, a contemporary story addressing gender, control and privilege. Zinnie breathes agency into Ibsen’s female characters, generating terrific energy, tension and jeopardy.”

Playwright Zinnie Harris said: “I’m delighted to be working with West Yorkshire Playhouse and James Brining to bring this new adaptation of Ibsen’s masterpiece to the stage. Reimagining Ibsen’s text has been fascinating and reframing the production for now has given the piece real urgent relevance. It’s been a pleasure to create this new and contemporary version that makes for a thrilling adaptation.”

West Yorkshire Playhouse Associate Artist Reece Dinsdale said: “I’m thrilled to be working on such an exciting project, (the fall of) The Master Builder being the follow-up role to Richard III, after my appointment as Associate Artist at the Playhouse. It’s an absolute pleasure to be back in this building and working with James Brining. Halvard Solness is a fascinating character to play – a man standing right at the precipice and staring down into the abyss. Someone at the very height of his success being forced to confront his deepest fears. His dread of the ambitious young, the steady decline of his creative powers, and the murky secrets of his past come right to the fore in the very moment we meet him.”

(the fall of) The Master Builder is designed by acclaimed set and costume designer Alex Lowde (Pygmalion, West Yorkshire Playhouse & Headlong, Enjoy, West Yorkshire Playhouse), with lighting by international lighting designer Sinéad McKenna and sound by award-winning sound designer and composer Jon Nicholls.

Click here to book tickets

Queen of Chapeltown: West Yorkshire Playhouse to mark Leeds West Indian Carnival 50th anniversary with major new production

Paying homage to Leeds’ rich culture, West Yorkshire Playhouse is working in partnership with Leeds West Indian Carnival Committee to celebrate the 50th Anniversary year of Carnival with the vibrant new production Queen of Chapeltown, as part of a season of Carnival inspired events.

Inspired by original first-hand accounts from the West Indian community, Queen of Chapeltown weaves recognisable Leeds voices from the real life events of Carnival’s birth in 1967 into an exuberant snapshot of this significant moment in British history.

Following four West Indians as they arrive in Leeds, including founding Carnivalist Arthur France MBE, the production spans a journey through time seeing the Quarry theatre transform from post-war Britain to the jubilant hosting of the first ever King and Queen Show. Surrounded by a company of community actors, a professional cast of five will share stories inspired by those involved in the inaugural Leeds West Indian King and Queen Show at Leeds’ Jubilee Hall.

This newly commissioned play is written by leading BBC Radio Producer, author and historian Colin Grant and directed by West Yorkshire Playhouse Associate Director Amy Leach, with dramaturgy by actor and broadcaster Burt Caesar and movement direction by West Yorkshire Playhouse Associate Artist Pauline Mayers.

Writer Colin Grant said: “In an inhospitable post-war Britain a group of pioneering West Indians came up with a simple and defiant riposte: Carnival. Queen of Chapeltown captures that moment of extraordinary transformation: the birth of a tradition which, for one weekend in August, would wash away the bad taste of anti-immigrant sentiment with a burst of colour and flash of exuberance that would forever change Leeds and Britain.”

Founding Member and Leeds West Indian Carnival Chairperson Arthur France said: “I left the tiny island of Nevis in the 1950s, leaving my home and family behind for a new future in the UK. As a student in Leeds, I yearned for Caribbean culture and heritage and Leeds West Indian Carnival was born as an antidote to that yearning. I’m excited to see how Queen of Chapeltown will document the very beginnings of Carnival and the challenges we overcame to make it happen, and celebrate that first burst of Caribbean culture, music and art in Leeds 50 years on.”

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “Leeds West Indian Carnival is one of the oldest Carnivals in Western Europe and plays such a key part of Leeds’ cultural make-up. We are delighted to be working in collaboration with the Leeds West Indian Carnival Committee to share and curate pieces of work which celebrate and mark this moment within the history of the city of Leeds. For four years we have played host to the vibrant and joyous King & Queen Show and to be part of the city’s anniversary celebrations is tremendously important to the Playhouse.”

Director Amy Leach said: “This is the 50th year of Leeds West Indian Carnival and I am thrilled to be directing a piece as part of the major celebrations that are happening across the city. This is a play that celebrates and remembers those pioneering voices who, against all odds, pulled together this incredible event that has shaped the city. The production has risen out of interviews conducted by BBC Radio Producer and Oral Historian Colin Grant. Inspired by those first-hand accounts, Colin has created a play that explores the momentous year of 1967, and pays tribute to the young West Indian people who, unbeknownst to them, were making history.”

Continuing the 50th anniversary celebrations, events running alongside Queen of Chapeltown include: Leeds Carnival King & Queen Show, a joyous celebration with incredible costumes, steel pans and a Carnival Choir; Carnival Chronicles, written and directed by Zodwa Nyoni (Ode to Leeds, West Yorkshire Playhouse), a piece of new writing exploring migration, love and loss; and Carnival Messiah Film Screening, celebrating and commemorating 10 years since the final performance of Geraldine Connor’s inspirational piece.

Click here to book tickets

Furnace Festival 2017: A kaleidoscopic celebration of new theatre

This two week-long festival is an eclectic celebration of new work, fresh ideas and audacious artistic voices from Yorkshire and beyond, celebrating the best new theatre at all stages of development.

Firmly rooting the Playhouse as a hub for creative excellence and an artistic beacon in the North, the festival showcases the Playhouse’s commitment to supporting artists at all stages of their careers, from polished productions to initial creative explorations.

Combining the best new theatre, work in development and workshops and events, Furnace Festival 2017 celebrates the future of theatre on the Playhouse stages.

West Yorkshire Playhouse New Work Producer Gilly Roche said: “Furnace is a vital element of our work at West Yorkshire Playhouse. It’s our engine room, where artists test out new ideas, take wild creative leaps and push at the boundaries of what theatre can achieve. Furnace Festival is an eclectic celebration of some of the very best contemporary theatre in the country. We’re showcasing a kaleidoscopic programme of new work – from the very first spark of an idea to multi-award winning shows visiting Yorkshire for the first time.”

The best new theatre:

An Arc Stockton Production, developed with the support of West Yorkshire Playhouse
Written by Daniel Bye
Instructions for Border Crossing
Fri 15 – Sat 16 Sept, 7pm
A twelve-year-old girl sneaks across the border into her own country. Her parents watch her on a computer screen. The works of a half-forgotten performance artist seem to hold the key to bringing down a brutal system operating on our behalf and under our noses. Do you join in? Or do you look the other way? Leeds artist Daniel Bye returns to the Playhouse blending his trademark storytelling with a series of live interventions from the audience, the show itself being as unstable as the world it describes.

A Trans Creative and Contact coproduction
You’ve Changed
Tue 19 Sept, 7pm
Its fourteen years since Kate transitioned and a lot has changed. However, where gender is concerned, are we still stuck in the dark ages? Written by award-winning transgender artist Kate O’Donnell and created with Lea Anderson MBE, You’ve Changed, longlisted for the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award, shines a light on the ins and outs and ups and downs of transitioning through song, dance, hard-won wisdom and hilarity.

Presented in partnership with Live Art Bistro
Created by Nic Green
Cock and Bull
Wed 20 Sept, 8.30pm
Originally conceived for the eve of the 2015 UK general election, Cock and Bull sees performers Nic Green, Rosana Cade and Laura Bradshaw convene to perform their own alternative, party conference. Presented in partnership with Playhouse neighbours Live Art Bistro, the Total Theatre Award winning Cock and Bull is a transforming choreography of words and a passionate speech of the body, underpinned with the real-time energy of political dissatisfaction and Tory tongue-speak.

A West Yorkshire Playhouse, Royal Exchange Theatre, Roundhouse and Camden People’s Theatre coproduction in association with LittleMighty
Created by Testament
WOKE
Wed 20 – Fri 22 Sept, 7pm
Hip-Hop and feminism are on a collision course and Testament reckons he’s the guy to sort it out. A rapper and World Record Holding Beatboxer, he thinks he’s a right-on kind of guy – then his daughter is born and suddenly he’s not so sure. With beatboxing, spoken word, storytelling and hip-hop classics as you’ve never heard them before, WOKE sees Testament explore and unpick his own prejudices.

Commissioned by Northern Stage and Soho Theatre
Created by RashDash
Two Man Show
Thur 21 – Fri 22 Sept, 8.30pm
Abbi and Helen are making a show about Man and men. They want to talk about masculinity and patriarchy, but the words that exist aren’t good enough. So, there’s music and dance too. Winning a Fringe First 2016 Award and the Stage Award for Acting Excellence, Two Man Show is Rash Dash’s loud and raucous exploration of masculinity and patriarchy.

A Mother’s Ruin and West Yorkshire Playhouse coproduction
Hot Queer Smithy
Sat 23 Sept, 8pm
Manchester queer performance outfit Mother’s Ruin curate a kaleidoscopic cabaret of new work and debate on the final night of Furnace Festival. Join glamorous bearded drag lady Timberlina and a collection of Northern LGBTQ+ artists for a night of provocative performance and riotous discussion.

Work in development:

Scratch
Mon 11 Sept, 8.30pm
An informal showcase of raw and untested performance ideas whereby artists at all stages in their careers are given a platform to explore and interrogate new projects.

Rachel Mars and West Yorkshire Playhouse Theatre of Sanctuary
Joke Translation Service
Tue 12 Sept, 7pm
The length of a typical stand up comedian’s headline set, Joke Translation Service sees the most beloved jokes told from an array of cultures. If no one gets it, it’s explained away until we finally get the punchline. Performance maker and writer Rachel Mars presents this full-length work in progress sharing, in association with West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Theatre of Sanctuary.

West Yorkshire Playhouse and LUNG Theatre
Trojan Horse
Wed 13 Sept, 7pm
In 2014, The Department for Education launched an inquiry into Islamic radicalisation in Birmingham schools. Three years later, opinion is still divided about what happened. Following the real life stories of the people at the heart of the enquiry, this full length work in progress sharing of documentary theatre investigates our failing school system, institutional racism and the imposition of British Values.

West Yorkshire Playhouse
Written by Olivia Hirst
The Annex
Thur 14 Sept, 7pm
Exploring an illicit relationship between a student and teacher, The Annex examines teenage love, naivety and fantasy. This full length reading of this smart and searing new play by Pontefract-based writer Olivia Hirst is directed by West Yorkshire Playhouse Literary Associate Jacqui Honess-Martin.

Workshops and events:

Furnace Social Club Night
Sat 23 Sept
West Yorkshire Playhouse is launching Furnace Social Club, a new network for local artists. It’s a community, a conversation and a chance to come together, meet people and spark new collaborations. Over the course of the year, the Playhouse will host a series of Furnace Social Club Nights inviting local artists to informal get-togethers, from film screenings to board game nights.

Our first ever Furnace Social Club Night will take place on the final night of Furnace Festival. Hosted by Artistic Director James Brining, Associate Director Amy Leach and Creative Engagement Director Alex Ferris, the event will outline the Furnace activity across the next twelve months.

Further skills workshops, conversations and events held as part of the festival are too be announced.

Click here to book tickets

Partition: a unique radio and theatre collaboration marking a defining moment for the Indian sub-continent

West Yorkshire Playhouse and BBC Radio Leeds have collaborated to present Partition, a unique radio broadcast and live performance marking the 70th anniversary of the division of India and creation of Pakistan.

This specially commissioned radio play, written by Leeds writer and established arts journalist Nick Ahad, explores the devastating legacy of a religious division which cost around a million lives.

Enacted from the perspective of a modern day couple, Partition explores how the history of the Indian sub-continent continues to tear families apart many years after the events of 1947. As Muslim Saima and Sikh Ranjit prepare for their wedding hate threatens to destroy their union. Will love or hate prevail?

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director, James Brining, said: “We are thrilled to be working with BBC Radio Leeds to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Partition. It’s fantastic for two leading West Yorkshire organisations to collaborate by staging this production marking such an important chapter in the political and social history of the lives of many of the region’s citizens.

“This partnership offers us the unprecedented opportunity to combine both our knowledge and skills. To be able to share this story with the community, engaging those we may not otherwise reach, is certainly something to be celebrated.”

BBC Radio Leeds Editor, Sanjiv Buttoo, said: “Partition is very much an important landmark for our South Asian communities, and the memories of 70 years ago are still fresh for the current generation of British Indian and British Pakistani families.

“Historically this world event saw the largest ever movement of mankind, so we commissioned this play to give an insight of how it still affects our lives in a profound way.

“We are very proud and excited to be working closely with the team at West Yorkshire Playhouse to bring our listeners history in a modern, contemporary and relevant way”.

Directed by Stefan Escreet, Artistic Director of Ragged Edge Productions, the cast include Leeds based Balvinder Sopal (Call The Midwife, BBC) and Dominic Gately (Barnbow Canaries, Beryl, West Yorkshire Playhouse), Bradford based Mez Galaria (Peacocks, Theatre in the Mill) and Manchester based Darren Kuppan (The Tempest, Shakespeare’s Globe).

Partition will be broadcast on BBC Radio Leeds (and a number of other BBC local radio stations) at midnight on 14/15 August, marking the exact time when the British partitioned India 70 years ago. It will then be performed live in the Playhouse’s Courtyard Theatre from 8 September.

Click here to book tickets

West Yorkshire Playhouse to march hand in hand with Leeds Pride

On Sunday 6 August a 50 strong troupe from West Yorkshire Playhouse will march hand in hand at the Leeds Pride celebrations. Adorned with the vibrant colours of the rainbow, the team from the Playhouse will be flying their flags high for the generous and warm spirited event, which has made the City of Leeds a more colourful place since 2006.

Marching with our own very own Playhouse Queen, members of staff, artists and the community who work alongside the Playhouse will take part in the procession.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “ We are thrilled to join others across the city in celebrating the vibrancy and voices of LGBTQ+ people by marching at Leeds Pride Parade this year. This season, we’re collaborating with some of the best LGBTQ+ artists in the country to tell incredible stories for all ages. Acceptance, equality and empowerment are central to our values both on and off the Playhouse’s stages and we are proud to be a home for LGBTQ+ artists and audiences from Yorkshire and beyond.”

Running since 2006, Leeds Pride is the largest Pride event in the UK to still be a completely free with over 40,000 people attending over the weekend. In total there will be over 60 floats on parade culminating in an afternoon of vibrant entertainment on the main stage in Millennium Square.

Leeds Pride
Sunday 6 August

Click here to see What’s On at West Yorkshire Playhouse

Summer Sublets 2017

For two weeks from 31 July to 11 August (Monday – Friday), Summer Sublets invites professional artists from all disciplines to occupy the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

We’ll give over as many rooms as we can to artists who need rehearsal space, desk space, writing space, singing space, dancing space, recording space or breathing space. These rooms will be rough and ready, varied in size and spread all over this enormous building – from cloakrooms to meeting rooms and rehearsal spaces to dressing rooms. We want artists who are developing new ideas of all descriptions to fill the building with noise, activity and conversation.

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We can’t provide any financial or technical support for Summer Sublets, but the Playhouse’s Artistic Team will be on hand to offer producing and dramaturgical advice if needed. We’ll also organise informal get-togethers over the course of the two weeks, so that all the artists in the building can meet up in the evening, start a conversation about what they’re up to and extend their creative community for the future.

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What we offer residents:

A residency in a space suitable to your creative practice, here at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. A residency of between three and ten days in length. Producing, administrative and dramaturgical support when available.

What we ask for in return:

A very informal sharing of what you’ve been up to over the course of your residency on Friday, August 11th at 5pm at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. This will be to an audience of selected WYP staff members and the other Summer Subletters.

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What we’re looking for:

We accept applications to Summer Sublets from across the UK, but we will prioritise artists who were born, raised or are currently living in Yorkshire.

We invite artists to explore specific projects during Summer Sublets. This could be an idea that you’ve always wanted a bit of headspace to focus on, or a new project that’s in its early stages of development.

How to apply:

If you’d like to apply to be part of Summer Sublets, please download and fill in the application form here and email it back to our Artist Development Co-ordinator, Jenny Sullivan, at jenny.sullivan@wyp.org.uk by Thursday 20 July at 6pm.

Find out more about Artist Development at the Playhouse

A far-reaching season comprised exclusively of newly written productions

West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Autumn/Winter 17 Season is a vibrant collection of diverse stories from across the world, retold by exceptional theatre makers.

West Yorkshire Playhouse productions

Partition (8 – 9 Sept) is an exciting collaboration between West Yorkshire Playhouse and BBC Radio Leeds, for a radio broadcast and live performance marking the 70th anniversary of the fateful division of colonial India into two separate religious states. Written by Leeds writer and established arts journalist Nick Ahad and directed by Stefan Escreet, Partition explores the devastating legacy of a religious division which cost around a million lives, through the eyes of a modern day betrothed couple. Will hate, rather than love, prevail?

In celebration of Leeds Carnival’s 50th birthday, the Playhouse’s Associate Director Amy Leach (Romeo & Juliet, Kes, West Yorkshire Playhouse) directs Queen of Chapeltown (12 – 15 Sept). A newly commissioned play by Colin Grant, this exuberant snapshot documents the creation of Carnival, paying vibrant homage to the city’s rich culture and celebrating the role of calypso and Carnival Queens in rooting West Indian heritage in Yorkshire. Queen of Chapeltown is part of a major week of artistic activity in the theatre for Leeds Carnival 50.

(the fall of) The Master Builder (30 Sept – 21 Oct) is a reimagining of Henrik Ibsen’s classic drama for 2017. Playhouse’s Artistic Director James Brining (The Crucible, Into the Woods, West Yorkshire Playhouse) directs Associate Artist Reece Dinsdale in the title role. Written by Zinnie Harris this timely world premiere tells of a once great man whose past transgressions and abuse of power threaten to catch up with him.

The Tin Drum (17 – 28 Oct) is a thrilling new co-production by West Yorkshire Playhouse, Kneehigh and Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse. This epically imaginative re-telling of Günter Grass’s classic novel explores love and war as musical satire, through the eyes of its exceptional and unreliable child narrator, Oskar. An adventure of protest, power and hope, The Tin Drum is directed by Kneehigh’s Artistic Director Mike Shepherd.

The world premiere of Pink Sari Revolution (7 – 11 Nov) is an impassioned protest through movement and music, against the tirade of female violence in modern-day India. Created by award-winning Indian and British Asian artists, this co-production with Leicester’s Curve and Belgrade Theatre Coventry is based on a true story of resistance, as documented in the celebrated biography by internationally renowned journalist Amana Fontanella-Khan and will be directed by Suba Das (Wipers, Curve Leicester).

Meet a fantastic and friendly creature for Crumble’s Search For Christmas (25 Nov – 30 Dec) created by the ever-popular Robert Alan Evans (The Night Before Christmas, West Yorkshire Playhouse). This charming festive adventure, which is perfect for 2-6 year olds, sees the mysterious Crumble escape hibernation and scurry up from the burrow for a night of wintry mischief.

The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe (29 Nov –21 Jan 2018) produced in association with Elliott & Harper Productions and Catherine Schreiber, this spellbinding new production is directed by Olivier award nominee Sally Cookson, (Peter Pan, La Strada, Jane Eyre, National Theatre). Transforming the Quarry into a theatre in the round for the first time, with design by the award-winning Rae Smith (War Horse), this enchanting story based on C.S. Lewis’s unforgettable book tells of four war time evacuees who discover an icy kingdom through a magical wardrobe, in Sally Cookson’s inimitable theatrical style.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said:

“This is a truly wide-reaching season of vibrant new stories, some well-known, some brand new, drawn from a rich range of perspectives across nations, cultures and histories, uncovering the new, the startling and the incredible through performance.

Audiences will journey from accounts of Partition India, across great 20th century European classics from Germany and Norway, and back to post-war Leeds where West Indians dream of re-creating Caribbean Carnival in Chapeltown.

Every piece is a fresh imagining; some respond to the social disjunctions that dominate today’s news headlines, some celebrate friendship and community, whilst also marking key historical moments in the living memory of the local and international communities in West Yorkshire and beyond.

Last season saw our first-ever co-production with the National Theatre, together with Fuel, on Barber Shop Chronicles, the stormingly successful UK premiere of Strictly Ballroom The Musical and an epic Northern Romeo & Juliet; Autumn/Winter 2017 continues this momentum, through stimulating, original stagings of incredible stories from personal protest to national uprising.

West Yorkshire Playhouse continues to work with the highest-calibre artists across the international performance scene. Sally Cookson, whose successes include Peter Pan, La Strada, and Jane Eyre with the National Theatre, will direct The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe in the first Quarry Theatre production in the round. Zinnie Harris has three productions at the Edinburgh Festival and Edinburgh Fringe this summer marking her status as a leading British playwright. Meanwhile, true originals, Kneehigh, are working with us to create a breathtaking re-telling of Günter Grass’s The Tin Drum, after their last sell-out Playhouse show, 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips.

We’re also renewing our investment in locally created, small scale studio work, through our Artistic Development programme, Furnace, which supports and develops writers, directors and actors born, raised or living in Yorkshire.

Some of the most exciting, locally rooted productions in our previous seasons were developed by Furnace and showcased at our new work Furnace Festival in our studio. Returning for September 2017, the festival is a unique opportunity for artists and audiences to unite, sparking collaborations and nurturing the local theatre ecology.”

Visiting productions

The UK’s foremost narrative ballet company, Northern Ballet present the heartbreakingly moving The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (5 – 9 Sept). Divided by a barbed wire fence, two boys strike up an unlikely friendship against the backdrop of the unthinkable events of World War II. Never told before through dance, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is based on the book John Boyne, by special arrangement with Miramax.

Based on the internationally bestselling novel by Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner (19 – 23 Sept) transports the Playhouse to war-engulfed Afghanistan, as two childhood friends are torn apart by a terrible incident which will shatter their lives forever. Heart-wrenching and pertinent, this tale of friendship spanning cultures and continents was originally produced by Nottingham Playhouse and Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse.

Northern Broadsides’ For Love or Money (26 – 30 Sept) is a new adaptation of Alain-René Lesage’s savage eighteenth-century comedy Turcaret. A small town in Yorkshire sees a beautiful widow wooed by two suitors, leading to a rivalrous love triangle. This story of monstrous wealth and whopping lies is directed by Northern Broadside’s Artistic Director Barrie Rutter and adapted by Skipton-born writer Blake Morrison.

Pioneering disabled led theatre company Graeae in association with Belgrade Theatre Coventry present Reasons To Be Cheerful (10 – 14 Oct). Celebrating the infectious music of Ian Dury and the Blockheads, this punk rock musical and gritty coming of age tale sees young Vinnie and his mates lay everything on the line to see hero Dury’s sold out gig.

BAFTA award-winning CBeebies TV show Sarah and Duck is brought to life in brand new stage production Sarah & Duck’s Big Top Birthday (24 – 28 Oct) presented by MEI Theatrical in association with Polka Theatre. Blending a fantastic range of puppetry, storytelling and music, the enchanting Sarah and Duck will delight younger audiences in this magical adventure.

Furnace Festival (11 – 23 Sept)

Celebrating the best new work at all stages of development, this two week-long festival is an eclectic celebration of new theatre, fresh ideas and audacious artistic voices from Yorkshire artists and beyond.

Amongst the programme a host of Fringe First award-winners return to the Playhouse, including Rash Dash with the critically acclaimed Two Man Show and Daniel Bye’s new political thriller Instructions for Border Crossing.

Other highlights include LittleMighty’s WOKE, a Playhouse co-production with the Royal Exchange Theatre, Roundhouse and Camden People’s Theatre performed by World Record holding human beatboxer Testament; LUNG Theatre’s work-in-progress Trojan Horse, co-written and directed by award-winning playwright and former Playhouse Trainee Director Matt Woodhead; plus readings of new writing including Northern Soul by acclaimed playwright Jim Cartwright and The Annex by West Yorkshire artist Olivia Hirst.

Continuing the Playhouse’s commitment to emerging and developing artists from across the region a scratch night, skills workshops, conversations and events will also be held as part of the festival.

Furnace Festival full listings

Scratch (11 Sept): An informal showcase of raw and untested performance ideas whereby artists at all stages in their careers are given a platform to explore and interrogate new projects.

Rachel Mars, Joke Translation Service (12 Sept): Performance maker and writer Rachel Mars presents this full-length work in progress sharing, in association with West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Theatre of Sanctuary.

LUNG, Trojan Horse (13 Sept): This full length work in progress sharing questions the consequences of pushing our country’s values of liberalism and tolerance to breaking point.

Olivia Hirst, The Annex (14 Sept): A full length reading of the smart, searing and funny new play by Pontefract-based writer and founding member of the award-winning Lost Watch Theatre Company.

Jim Cartwright, Northern Soul (15 Sept): A full length reading of renowned playwright Jim Cartwright’s (The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, The Road) new work.

Daniel Bye, Instructions for Border Crossing (15 – 16 Sept): Leeds artist Daniel Bye returns to the Playhouse blending his trademark storytelling with a series of live interventions from the audience, the show itself being as unstable as the world it describes.

Transcreative, You’ve Changed (19 Sept): Written by award-winning transgender artist Kate O’Donnell and created with Lea Anderson (MBE), You’ve Changed shines a light on the ins and outs and ups and downs of transitioning through song, dance, hard-won wisdom and hilarity.

Nic Green, Cock and Bull (20 Sept): Presented in partnership with our neighbours Live Art Bistro, the Total Theatre Award winning Cock and Bull is a transforming choreography of words and a passionate speech of the body, underpinned with the real-time energy of political dissatisfaction and Tory tongue-speak.

LittleMighty, WOKE (20 – 22 Sept): Beatboxing, spoken word, storytelling and hip-hop classics as you’ve never heard them before, WOKE sees World Record holding beatboxer and rapper Testament unpick his own prejudices.

Rash Dash, Two Man Show (21 – 22 Sept): Winning a Fringe First 2016 Award and the Stage Award for Acting Excellence, Two Man Show is Rash Dash’s loud and raucous exploration of masculinity and patriarchy.

Mother’s Ruin, Hot Queer Smithy (23 Sept): A Mother’s Ruin and West Yorkshire Playhouse co-production, Manchester queer performance outfit Mother’s Ruin curate a kaleidoscopic cabaret of new work and debate on the final night of Furnace Festival.

The final night of Furnace Festival will see How We Tell Our Story (23 Sept), a launch evening reinvigorating the Playhouse’s Creative Engagement and Artist Development work. Offering one of the most comprehensive programmes in the country, the event will redefine how we define our work in these areas, presenting a vital new strategy for the next phase in the Playhouse’s journey. How We Tell Our Story is hosted by Artistic Director James Brining, Director of Creative Engagement Alex Ferris and Associate Director Amy Leach.

Click here to book tickets

A vibrant and inspiring Refugee Week

To mark last week’s nationwide Refugee Week, West Yorkshire Playhouse hosted a programme of performance, discussion and celebration.

Monday saw the Theatre of Sanctuary Great Get Together for refugees and asylum seekers, as part of the nationwide Great Get Together inspired by the late Jo Cox. Attendees received a warm welcome sharing poetry, dance and song. Monday also saw the screening of two short films, Migration and Settlement, created with refugees and the University of Leeds.

Common Cause, a discussion and forum event for artists, charities, local government and outreach organisations working with refugees and asylum seekers in Leeds ran on Tuesday, sparking important conversations and fresh connections. Local artist Akeim Toussaint Buck was also welcomed back in to the building, performing solo show Windows of Displacement.

Wednesday saw Bradford based theatre company Displace Yourself Theatre perform Free To Stay, a production exploring belonging inspired by real accounts of statelessness in the UK and overseas. Following the second performance of Windows of Displacement, a rousing Movements Across Time discussion held by a panel of academics and local outreach organisations engaged audiences.

The Refugee Council lead a public Myth Busting discussion on Thursday, exploring refugees’ personal stories and journeys, plus the facts behind the media coverage. Tim Baker’s Scattered, dramatizing the meeting of two cultures bringing a complex topic to life for younger audiences enthralled the younger audience members.

The Refugee Week activity ran alongside our regular programme for refugees and asylum seekers. As a Theatre of Sanctuary, West Yorkshire Playhouse offers a range of activities, including a dedicated women’s choir, youth and drama groups and special ticket offers.

Click here to find out more about Theatre of Sanctuary

West Yorkshire Playhouse shortlisted for top tourism award

West Yorkshire Playhouse has been shortlisted for a top tourism award in the much coveted Arts & Culture category as part of the prestigious Welcome To Yorkshire White Rose Awards.

The awards, which are the biggest celebration of tourism in the UK, recognise the very best businesses in Yorkshire. The 17 categories cover everything from hotels to holiday parks, pubs to producers and arts to attractions where the standard this year has been higher than ever.

Robin Hawkes, Executive Director of West Yorkshire Playhouse, said:
“We are thrilled to be shortlisted for such a renowned award – which showcases what this great region has to offer. The Playhouse is proud to provide world class theatre, with productions including Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (which recently completed an award-winning national tour) and Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical. Alongside the work on our stages we also offer a comprehensive and diverse Creative Engagement programme, reaching out to marginalised or socially excluded people through creative activity. This has included attracting awards for staging the world’s first dementia friendly performance, and becoming the UK’s first Theatre of Sanctuary for refugees. We are also proud to support and develop actors, theatre makers and playwrights born, raised or living in Leeds and Yorkshire, investing in this region’s creative talent.”

Colin Mellors, chair of the White Rose Award judges, said:
“Yorkshire’s tourism businesses are truly exceptional – bringing large numbers of visitors and income to the region and enhancing our reputation at home and abroad. The sector goes from strength to strength and many of its established stars feature on this year’s White Rose shortlist alongside some welcome new additions. What they have in common is their firm commitment to ensuring guests enjoy unrivalled hospitality, produce, facilities and experiences. The fantastic scenery and heritage provide the icing on the cake.With so many strong entries, shortlisting was very difficult this year. Choosing the eventual winners is going to be really tough.”

Sir Gary Verity, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said:
“The quality of this year’s entries has been exceptional and makes me feel hugely proud of all the brilliant work going on in tourism in the county. It’s an honour to be part of these awards that recognise the many businesses and organisations that make Yorkshire such an amazing destination. I extend my thanks to everyone who took the time to enter and huge congratulations to those who have made the shortlist.”

Winners will be announced later this year.

Click here to find out what’s on

A Look Back at 2015/16

As we approach yet another exciting season at the Playhouse, here’s a look back at 2015/16 – and what a truly amazing year it was…

Barber Shop Chronicles in rehearsal: vibrant production travels to Leeds following a sell-out run at the National Theatre

The cast of Barber Shop Chronicles explore the intimate conversations which take place in the barber’s chair during rehearsal for Inua Ellams’ (Black T-Shirt Collection, the National Theatre, The 14th Tale, Fringe First winner) joyous new production.

Directed by National Theatre Associate Director Bijan Sheibani (A Taste of Honey, National Theatre, War Horse, US tour 2012-2014), this vibrant new production follows African men from London to Johannesburg, Harare, Kampala, Lagos and Accra, addressing identity and masculinity.

The show sees the return of Fisayo Akinade (Refugee Boy, West Yorkshire Playhouse) and Peter Bankole (The Caucasian Chalk Circle, West Yorkshire Playhouse) to the Playhouse, alongside a cast of television, film and stage stars, Hammed Animashaun, Maynard Eziashi, Simon Manyonda, Patrice Naiambana, Cyril Nri, Kwami Odoom, Sule Rimi, Abdul Salis, David Webber, and Anthony Welsh.

The production plays in Leeds from 12 – 29 July following a sell-out run in the National’s Dorfman theatre, and is co-produced by the Playhouse, the National Theatre and Fuel.

Click here to book tickets

Lyrics and beats hit Leeds streets ahead of new play opening

On Saturday 3 June the talented young cast of West Yorkshire Playhouse’s upcoming production of Ode to Leeds performed at Trinity Shopping Centre.

Catching the ears and eyes of Saturday afternoon shoppers, beat boxing and spoken word poems from the play were performed, tackling subjects from young masculinity to taking pride in your city.

Written by distinguished Leeds writer Zodwa Nyoni, Ode to Leeds is a new play inspired by the true story of Leeds Young Authors, a real group of Leeds poets who fought their own way to an international poetry slam competition in New York in 2011, making national news.

The event was compèred by Leeds Young Authors Artistic Director and Ode to Leeds Creative Associate Khadijah Ibrahiim.

Spoken word artist Dialect, member renowned poetry group Leeds Young Authors, also gave an exclusive performance, celebrating the spoken word movement in West Yorkshire ahead of Ode to Leeds’ opening night on Saturday 10 June.

Click here to book tickets

Playhouse’s first co-production with the National Theatre, Barber Shop Chronicles, to open in Leeds in July

A dynamic new play inspired by a real Leeds barber opens at West Yorkshire Playhouse on Wednesday July 12.

Barber Shop Chronicles, by rising literary star, Inua Ellams (Black T-Shirt Collection, the National Theatre, The 14th Tale, Fringe First winner), centres around the conversations African men have in barber shops, and the role they play in their lives; from newsroom to political platform, local hot-spot to confession box, and preacher-pulpit to football stadium.

The play journeys from a barber shop in London, to Johannesburg, Harare, Kampala, Lagos and Accra. These are places where the banter can be barbed and the truth is always telling.

Barber Shop Chronicles is a co-production with West Yorkshire Playhouse, the National Theatre and Fuel and is directed by Bijan Sheibani (A Taste of Honey, National Theatre, War Horse US tour 2012-2014).

Inua researched the project in Africa, London and Leeds, where he met a barber from Stylistics barber shop in Chapeltown who inspired one of the play’s central characters.

James Brining, Artistic Director of West Yorkshire Playhouse, said:
“It is significant that the Playhouse is creating work in partnership with the artistic beacon, the outstanding National Theatre, as well as cutting-edge theatre makers like Fuel. The characters in Barber Shop Chronicles are deftly connected across continents and narratives and the play brims with energy, wit and heart. It’s beautifully crafted by its exceptionally talented writer, Inua Ellams, who developed the show in Leeds and drew inspiration by the characters and culture of our city.”

The cast includes Fisayo Akinade (Refugee Boy, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Cucumber, Channel 4), Hammed Animashaun (Amadeus, National Theatre), Peter Bankole (Peaky Blinders, BBC), Maynard Eziashi (Mr Johnson, 20th Century Fox), Simon Manyonda (King Lear, The Old Vic), Patrice Naiambana (Spectre, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Columbia Pictures), Cyril Nri (Cucumber, Channel 4), Kwami Odoom (DNA, National Youth Theatre REP Company), Sule Rimi (The Suicide, National Theatre), Abdul Salis (Love, Actually, Universal Pictures), David Webber (Captain Phillips, Columbia Pictures), and Anthony Welsh (The Girl With All The Gifts, Warner Bros. Pictures).

The production is designed by Rae Smith (wonder.land, War Horse, National Theatre) with lighting design by Jack Knowles, movement direction by Aline David and sound design by Gareth Fry.

Barber Shop Chronicles plays at West Yorkshire Playhouse from 12 – 29 July.

Barber Shop Chronicles is co-commissioned by Fuel and National Theatre. Development funded by Arts Council England with the support of Fuel, National Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, The Binks Trust, British Council ZA, Òran Mór and A Play, a Pie and a Pint.

Click here to book tickets

Cast of new play, Ode to Leeds, to perform poetic war of words at Trinity Shopping Centre

On Saturday 3 June at 2.10pm, the talented young cast of West Yorkshire Playhouse’s upcoming production of Ode to Leeds will perform at Trinity Shopping Centre.

Rapper and Guinness World Record holding human beat boxer Testament will also give an exclusive performance at the event, which will celebrate the spoken word movement in West Yorkshire, ahead of Ode to Leeds’ opening night in one week’s time, on Saturday 10 June.

Ode to Leeds is a new play by Leeds writer Zodwa Nyoni, inspired by the true story of the spoken word group Leeds Young Authors, who fought their own way to an international poetry slam competition in New York in 2011, making national news.

Starting at 2.10pm on Saturday 3 June, the cast of Ode to Leeds, will perform poems from the play.

Sat 3 June, 2.10pm
Trinity Shopping Centre, Apple Store

Click here to book tickets for Ode to Leeds

Lifeboat sails into community venues across Leeds

Monday 15 – Saturday 27 May, Community Tour

The inspiring tale of courage and friendship, Lifeboat, has set sail on its community tour from the Barber Studio at West Yorkshire Playhouse, helping bring theatre to new audiences in the city.

The story of two teenage girls who survived an incredible ordeal during the Second World War enthralled children at St Bartholomew’s C of E Primary School, who saw the production as it played at St Bartholomew’s Church in Armley.

The show now goes on to visit venues in Hawksworth Wood, Chapeltown, and Rothwell in the tour’s final week.

Inspired by a true story, Lifeboat tells the tale of The City of Benares, a ship which set sail from Liverpool to Canada in 1940 carrying 90 evacuees. Four days into the crossing, the ship was torpedoed and sank, with only eleven evacuees surviving.

The production tells how Bess (played by Lois Mackie) and Beth (Amy McGregor) were kept alive by their courage, as they were stranded on an upturned lifeboat for 19 terrifying hours.

West Yorkshire Playhouse’s production of Lifeboat was created by Catherine Wheels Theatre Company, and tours community venues across Leeds until Saturday 27 May.

Click here for more information

Passion, protest and slam poetry: Ode to Leeds in rehearsal

The cast of Ode to Leeds explore the power and politics of finding your voice in rehearsal for Zodwa Nyoni’s (Boi Boi Is Dead, West Yorkshire Playhouse) urban new production.

Directed by West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining and using poetry, rap and beatboxing, Ode to Leeds is inspired by the real life renowned spoken word poetry group, Leeds Young Authors.

The play follows five young people from the city as they pursue their dream of reaching America’s “Brave New Voices” slam poetry competition in New York.

The production brings together Khadijah Ibrahiim, the Artistic Director of Leeds Young Authors as Creative Associate, and world-record breaking human beatboxer Testament as Music and Words Consultant.

The young cast include Archie Rush (Casualty, BBC), Aryana Ramkhalawon (Waterloo Road, BBC), Chance Perdomo (Hetty Feather, CBBC), Genesis Lynea (In The Heights, Kings Cross Theatre) and Leah Walker (Citizen Khan, BBC).

Design is by Lucy Sierra with Movement Direction by Natasha Harrison, Lighting Design by Katharine Williams and Composition and Sound Design by Harry Blake.

Click here to book tickets

Playhouse announces dedicated performances to celebrate Refugee Week

To mark Refugee Week (19 – 25 June) West Yorkshire Playhouse is exploring the reality of refugee experiences through a range of stimulating performances and insightful discussion events.

The Playhouse is nationally renowned for its pioneering work supporting refugees and asylum seekers, becoming the UK’s first ever Theatre of Sanctuary in 2014.

Its Refugee Week programme includes three plays about migration:

Windows of Displacement (Tues 20 – Wed 21 June), the premiere of the new solo show choreographed and performed by Yorkshire performer, Akeim Toussaint Buck;
Scattered (Thur 22 June) by Tim Baker, based on the original production by Theatr Clwyd, and directed by John Young, a story of friendship between two teenage boys from contrasting backgrounds;
Free to Stay (Wed 21 June) by Bradford-based Displace Yourself Theatre, a devised production inspired by real accounts of statelessness in the UK and overseas.

An insightful free talk for the public aimed at de-mystifying the reality of refugees’ experiences will take place on Thurs 22 June at 5.30pm.

The week begins with a social event ‘Theatre of Sanctuary Big Get Together,’ for refugees and asylum seekers (Monday 19 June) as part of the nationwide Great Get Together, inspired by the late Jo Cox. Attendees will receive a warm welcome, and are invited to share a traditional dish, music or dance from their culture.

Booking information and the full programme including free film screenings, discussion events and backstage tours is available here.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said:“West Yorkshire Playhouse is a theatre that tells incredible stories, and we’re a richer cultural organisation because of the diversity of the city. We embrace and celebrate Refugee Week with performances and conversations which speak to and about the real experiences of many people who now find themselves living here. Theatre has an incredible potential to connect people from all walks of life and we hope our programme sparks conversation and thinking between all sorts of audiences whether they have just arrived or lived here all their lives.”

As a Theatre of Sanctuary, West Yorkshire Playhouse offers a range of activities to support refugees and asylum seekers, such as a dedicated women’s choir, youth and drama groups and special ticket offers.

Click here for more information and to book tickets

Yorkshire community ensemble prepare to perform alongside professional company in The Grapes of Wrath

A 40 strong community chorus are in rehearsals in Leeds for the stage adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic The Grapes of Wrath, at West Yorkshire Playhouse from 24 May.

Involving performers from across Yorkshire, the community ensemble play homage to the play’s themes of community and migration, representing and reflecting the local community and playing a vital role supporting the professional actors in the production.

Recruited through open auditions held in March, the community chorus are from across Yorkshire including Leeds, Dewsbury, Wakefield and beyond, with some of the company already involved in Playhouse activity such as the Theatre of Sanctuary refugee programme, and our Youth Theatre and First Floor programmes for young people.

Following the run community ensemble participants will have the chance to create a brand new piece of work piece with a professional writer and director which will be performed as part of Open Season, West Yorkshire Playhouse’s annual festival of community performance.

West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Director of Creative Engagement Alex Ferris said:
“We are delighted to have found a group of 40 fantastic individuals to take part in this show, not to mention the 6 young people from our Youth Theatre. This story is so pertinent to now – it’s been thoroughly fascinating to hear everyone’s take on the themes in rehearsals and how much they’ve taken the story into their hearts. Brilliantly, the next phase of the project will see these same members of the community performing a newly commissioned play by Mark Catley, BAFTA nominated for his writing on BBC’s Casualty*, continuing our dialogue with people in West Yorkshire and beyond.”

Co-produced by Nuffield Southampton Theatres, Nottingham Playhouse, Royal & Derngate Northampton and West Yorkshire Playhouse, Steinbeck’s legendary The Grapes of Wrath is given a modern twist by director Abbey Wright.

Critiquing America’s Great Depression and brought into a contemporary light with a live band playing throughout, The Grapes of Wrath will play at West Yorkshire Playhouse from the 24 May -10 June 2017.

*Nominated for a BAFTA for Best Continuing Drama for Casualty in 2007, 2009 and 2010

Click here to book tickets