By Nicola McCartney
Directed by Gill Robertson
Tuesday 2 – Saturday 13 May, Barber Studio
Monday 15 – Saturday 27 May, Community Tour
Press Night Tuesday 2 May, 7pm
This May, West Yorkshire Playhouse presents Lifeboat, a true story about survival and friendship created by Catherine Wheels Theatre Company, which opens in the Barber Studio before touring to community venues across Leeds.
Set in World War II, Lifeboat tells of Bess Walder played by Lois Mackie, and Beth Cummings played by Amy McGregor – whose courage alone keeps them alive when they are stranded for 19 terrifying hours in the water on an upturned lifeboat.
Lifeboat is based on the true story of the ship, The City of Benares, which set sail on Friday 13 September 1940, from Liverpool for Canada. On board were 90 evacuees escaping the relentless bombing and dangers of war torn Britain. Four days into the crossing, the ship was torpedoed and sank. Only eleven of the evacuees survived.
Director Gill Robertson said: “I was amazed by this story and began to think about what a great show it would make for young people. It had all the right ingredients … an important friendship, the war-time background and the unbelievable story of the survival and courage of the two girls. It brings me great delight to bring Bess and Beth’s incredible journey to West Yorkshire Playhouse, a theatre committed to telling incredible stories.”
Following Lifeboat’s run in the Barber Studio, it tours to community venues in Middleton, Gipton, Armley, Burmantofts, Seacroft, Chapeltown, Hawksworth Wood and Rothwell.
West Yorkshire Playhouse Creative Engagement Director Alex Ferris said: “We are thrilled to be able to bring this moving and inspiring production to the Playhouse and to our Community Partner Areas in the city. Alongside our participatory work happening in those areas throughout the year, the tour represents another way that people can enjoy and be inspired by having a leading producing theatre based in the heart of the city.”
Lifeboat follows community tours of Kes and Little Sure Shot as part of the Playhouse’s ongoing commitment to community engagement. Alongside this production a Chapeltown companion piece will be created, made in partnership with young people from RJC Dance and West Yorkshire Playhouse Youth Theatre.