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

Rothwell great grandmother to see play based on true story of tragic WW2 ship, which she almost boarded as a child evacuee in 1940

84 year old Rothwell resident, Audrey Brown was in the audience for the opening night of Lifeboat at West Yorkshire Playhouse, a play inspired by the true story of The City of Benares boat, which tragically sank in 1940.

Audrey, who is now 84, was due to travel on the ship, which was torpedoed on its voyage from Liverpool to Canada, tragically claiming the lives of dozens of child evacuees.

Audrey was seven years old when she and her older sister were set to make the voyage, however, in a twist of fate, a case of measles prevented the girls from their journey, ultimately saving their lives.

Audrey marked the moment as the Playhouse’s special guest, joining them in the audience for opening night. She will also be attending a performance at Blackburn Hall in Rothwell with her family as part of the production’s community tour.

Lifeboat, a West Yorkshire Playhouse and Catherine Wheels Theatre Company production, is the true story of two teenage girls who survived the wrecking of The City of Benares, which tours to community venues around Leeds.

West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Artistic Director James Brining said:

“We’re the theatre for the people of Leeds and Audrey’s experience highlights one of the reasons why this is such an important story for us to tell.

Our commitment to local communities around the city is deep and longstanding. By taking this production into local communities we’re able to share the truly inspirational tale directly with the people of our city: speaking to older members of the community for whom the Second World War is an actual memory; whilst also inspiring new stories amongst young people from both the Playhouse’s Youth Theatre and RJC Dance, who will be creating a companion piece to the show.

We are delighted to highlight Audrey’s story, and want to share this incredible tale of survival, friendship and courage with the people of Leeds.”

Lifeboat is in the Barber Studio from 2 – 13 May before touring to community venues in Middleton, Gipton, Armley, Burmantofts, Seacroft, Chapeltown, Hawksworth Wood and Rothwell.

Suitable for ages 8+

Click here to book tickets

West Yorkshire Playhouse announces spectacular shows for Christmas 2017 – Including a thrilling new adaptation of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe

Christmas magic is stirring at West Yorkshire Playhouse with two enchanting new productions announced for Christmas 2017 – a major new adaptation in the Quarry Theatre of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe with one of British theatre’s leading directors, Olivier award nominee Sally Cookson, and a brand new show for younger children – Crumble’s Search for Christmas, by Robert Alan Evans, creator of the Playhouse’s Christmas 2015 smash hit The Night Before Christmas and the sold-out success, Kes.

With the Quarry transformed for the very first time into an epic theatre in the round, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe is a co-production between West Yorkshire Playhouse Elliott Harper Productions and Catherine Schreiber. Elliott Harper Productions is a nationally significant new theatre company led by Tony and Olivier Award winning director Marianne Elliott, an established director at the National Theatre whose credits include War Horse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and producer, Chris Harper.

This production, directed by the acclaimed Sally Cookson whose own hugely successful productions include Peter Pan (National Theatre, 2016), Hetty Feather, and Jane Eyre and La Strada which are both currently on tour, will be Elliott Harper’s first ever production outside London, with design by the renowned Rae Smith, who previously worked with Marianne Elliott on War Horse.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, based on the cherished novel by CS Lewis, is the spellbinding tale of four war time evacuees who discover the enchanted kingdom of Narnia, which can only be reached through a mystical wardrobe.

The Playhouse also presents a newly commissioned piece, Crumble’s Search for Christmas, by the creator of The Night Before Christmas, Robert Alan Evans.

This brand new production in the Courtyard Theatre stars the irresistible Crumble, a feathery, furry creature who – instead of hibernating at Christmas time – braves the great freeze to embark on an incredible wintry adventure, making unforgettable new friends along the way. This magical story of secret burrows and blustering blizzards is perfect for 2-6 year olds, and their grownups.

James Brining, Artistic Director of West Yorkshire Playhouse, said:
“We’re delighted to welcome Sally Cookson, who continually finds wonderful new ways to tell classic stories, and the highly imaginative and talented Robert Alan Evans, whose last Christmas Playhouse production absolutely enchanted our audiences.
We are proud to draw the UK’s most significant, leading theatre makers to collaborate with us, across both classic titles and specially devised new work, to create exceptional theatre throughout the year.
Following last Christmas’s triumphant productions of Strictly Ballroom The Musical, The Witches, and Rudolf, and presenting our very first Quarry Theatre production in the round, this promises to be our most magical festive programme yet.”

Creatives now confirmed for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe also include Ian Dickinson as Sound Designer, Adam Peck as Writer in the Room, Dan Canham as Movement Director and Bruno Poet as Lighting Designer, with music by Benji Bower and Jill Green as Casting Director.

The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, Quarry Theatre
29 November – 21 January
Click here to book tickets

Crumble’s Search for Christmas, Courtyard Theatre
25 November – 30 December
Click here to book tickets

A Pinball Wizard in post-war Britain: dazzling images of The Who’s rock opera Tommy released

A spectacular new production of The Who’s celebrated cult classic Tommy arrives at West Yorkshire Playhouse from Thursday 4 – Saturday 13 May.

Kerry Michael directs this energetic production which sees traumatised young Tommy cease to communicate with the outside world, before finding his salvation and becoming a national sensation through playing pinball.

This bold reinterpretation includes two new songs written exclusively by Pete Townshend who composed The Who’s original 1969 concept album, and is presented by New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich and Ramps on the Moon, a consortium of seven major theatre companies including West Yorkshire Playhouse, committed to putting Deaf and disabled artists and audiences at the centre of their work.

Pete Townshend expressed excitement about the inclusive cast, saying “This is a totally new adventure, and really does refer back to my original story in which a young man, disabled by extreme trauma, finds his way to some kind of spiritual place because he can FEEL music.”

A blue plaque at Leeds University’s Refectory building commemorates the recording of The Who’s Live at Leeds in 1970, widely regarded as one of the greatest ever live albums, which originally contained 6 tracks released on LP, but also included a live recording of Tommy, later released on CD in 2001.

One of the new numbers is a new song for the Acid Queen, played by Peter Straker (Tommy, The Rocky Horror Show, Hair).

Click here to book tickets

‘Ode to Leeds’ – a stirring new play inspired by the power of poetry and strength of local voices

Written by Zodwa Nyoni
Directed by James Brining

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Courtyard Theatre
Press Night Wednesday 14 June, 7.45pm
Sat 10 June – Sat 1 July 2017

Ode to Leeds is a powerful new play by Zodwa Nyoni (Boi Boi Is Dead, West Yorkshire Playhouse), inspired by the city’s renowned spoken word poetry group, Leeds Young Authors.

Spoken word, music and movement are celebrated as five young people find their voices and forge new friendships as they pursue their dream of reaching America’s “Brave New Voices” slam poetry competition in New York. But their route to success is undermined by personal rivalries and inner demons which threaten the team’s very foundations.

Powerful, passionate, angry and open-hearted, Ode to Leeds is an inspiring portrait of young people who care about their world and want to change it through art.

James Brining, Artistic Director, West Yorkshire Playhouse, said:
“When I heard about Leeds Young Authors’ annual trips to the US’s top slam poetry competition, I knew this was a story I wanted us to tell. Zodwa’s play takes the city we love in all of its diversity and finds in it the passion, anger and hope of youth. Its energy and vitality as well as the power of its language make this a poetic love letter to Leeds, where there are limitless stories and where its stories have no limits. Zodwa Nyoni is an exceptional talent whose rhythmic, lyrical writing makes this tale of the everyday into something epic. It inspires you to see the city anew; a moving portrayal of Leeds, language and love.”

Writer of Ode to Leeds, Zodwa Nyoni, said:
“Having a platform where you feel safe enough to express yourself is vital for young people. When I was 17, Leeds Young Authors was that platform for me.
From there, I moved into theatre, exploring writing in a different form. My first full length play, Boi Boi is Dead won the Channel 4 Playwright’s Scheme and I was made Writer in Residence at West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2014.
Ode to Leeds connects where I began [poetry] with where I am now [theatre]. It’s the story of a group of young people trying to make sense of the world, who find themselves and become the voice of their city.”

In January, West Yorkshire Playhouse held open auditions for poets, spoken word artists, performers, beatboxers and other exciting young artists, to appear in Ode to Leeds.

A range of creative activity in partnership with schools and local spoken word artists is being developed by the Playhouse to support, inspire and offer opportunities for people across Leeds to engage with spoken word poetry.

This includes workshops, activities and talks both for schools and young people across the City, Pop Up Poetry events in Leeds, and a mixture of open mic and professional slam poetry nights at the Playhouse with leading performance poets.

Ode to Leeds will be designed 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

Satire and seduction – The Graduate in rehearsals

The cast of The Graduate explore the values of suburban 1960’s America in new rehearsal images from the upcoming revival at the Playhouse.

Catherine McCormack, who starred opposite Mel Gibson in the 1995 multi-award winning film, Braveheart will play Mrs. Robinson while Jack Monaghan, who performed in the West End sensation, War Horse and TV series Black Mirror takes on the role of her deeply disillusioned paramour, Benjamin.

This sleek production is directed by the acclaimed Lucy Bailey, whose previous successes at the Playhouse include Great Expectations, Dial M for Murder and The Postman Always Rings Twice.

McCormack and Monaghan are joined by Emma Curtis playing Elaine, Tom Hodgkins as Mr Braddock, Rebecca Charles as Mrs Braddock and Richard Clothier playing Mr Robinson.

Design on the production is by Mike Britton, with Sound Design by Horsforth-based Mic Pool.

The Graduate is a coproduction between West Yorkshire Playhouse and Curve in association with Simon Friend and Gavin Kalin Productions.*1

The Graduate is adapted by Terry Johnson, based on the novel by Charles Webb and the motion picture screenplay by Calder Willingham & Buck Henry by special arrangement with StudioCanal.

*1 by special arrangement with StudioCanal. Originally produced on the London & Broadway Stage by John Reid & Sacha Brooks

Click here to book tickets


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.

Click here to book tickets

Northern Stage at Summerhall programme announced

Press preview day: 11:00, Thursday 3 August

Full details of Northern Stage’s 2017 Summerhall programme have been announced.

Northern Stage return to one of the Fringe’s most critically acclaimed venues to host an ambitious new programme of work this August. For 2017, the Newcastle based company has teamed up with three other major producing theatres – Hull Truck Theatre, Royal Exchange Theatre and West Yorkshire Playhouse – to bring some of the best new work from across the North of England to the Fringe. All four theatres are involved in the selection process, bringing with them a wealth of pro-gramming and producing experience to present work from a diverse range of both up-and-coming and more established theatre-makers.

As part of the programme, The Mayers Ensemble and West Yorkshire Playhouse present What If I Told You, directed by multi Fringe First winner Chris Goode. Fringe first-timer Pauline Mayers is used to people making assumptions about her based on her gender, background and skin colour; it’s been happening all of her life. She invites her audience to spend an hour playing together to challenge boundaries, personal histories, gender and skin colour, carefully balancing dance and theatre and dispensing with traditional barriers between performer and audiences.

Northern Stage Artistic Director, Lorne Campbell: “It is with great excitement that we return to Edinburgh this year, not just to deliver an amazing, diverse and passionate programme of vital new theatre from across the north of England, but to begin a new collaboration that will evolve, expand and enrich our Edinburgh project for years to come. Northern Stage is delighted to begin a partnership between major northern venues to support, present and empower the best of the flourishing independent theatre sector.”

West Yorkshire Playhouse New Work Producer, Gilly Roche: “We believe that the north of England is home to some of the most innovative, generous and provocative theatre makers in the world. We’re delighted to partner with such an illustrious group of theatres to deliver a programme that is diverse, excellent and, we hope, truly reflective of the outstanding quality of the work being made in Yorkshire, the North West and the North East.”

Previous year’s programmes have included Open Clasp’s Key Change – winner of the Carol Tambor Best of Edinburgh Award, and the Fringe First Award-winning Going Viral by Daniel Bye.

Click here for the full programme

John Steinbeck’s classic The Grapes of Wrath comes to West Yorkshire Playhouse

Based on the novel by John Steinbeck
Adapted by Frank Galati
Directed by Abbey Wright
Designed by Laura Hopkins
Lighting Design by Nigel Edwards
Music by Matt Regan

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Quarry Theatre
Press Night Wednesday 24 May, 7.30pm
Friday 24 May – Saturday 10 June 2017

John Steinbeck’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book The Grapes of Wrath, adapted by Frank Galati, comes to West Yorkshire Playhouse 24 May – 10 June. Directed by Nuffield Southampton Associate Abbey Wright (The Mountaintop, New Vic), this vital new production features a community company from Leeds with live music from Matt Regan (Greater Belfast, Traverse).

The American dust bowl. The height of the Great Depression. One family begins an epic journey, driven as much by fear as by hope. Route 66 to California, the Promised Land. In search of work. A new life.

The cast will include a 30-strong community company made of up local Leeds residents, alongside Ben Bland (Connie), Daniel Booroff (Noah), Brendan Charleson (Casy), Charlie Folorunsho (Pa), Shiv Jalota (Al), Jim Kitson (Uncle John), Pamela Merrick (Granma/Elizabeth Sandry), Amy Molloy (Rose of Sharon), Harry Napier (as cast), Alexander Newland (Muley, Narrator, Vocalist), Heronimo Sehmi (Grampa), André Squire (Tom Joad) and Julia Swift (Ma).

Abbey Wright said: “The Grapes of Wrath is uncannily relevant to the world we find ourselves in today; increasing mechanisation, displacement of people, economic and environmental crisis. Across the world we have seen fear and hatred entering political discourse on immigration and identity. At the heart of The Grapes of Wrath is the need for community and love. Steinbeck invites us to ask ourselves ‘Who is our family?’, ‘Who are our children?'”.

Running in tandem with The Grapes of Wrath is our regular activity in support of refugees and asylum seekers. This includes Asmarina Voices, a weekly singing group which includes a crèche with creative activities for children, HEARTS youth group, a weekly group which offers drama activities and supports members to develop skills in English, and tickets offers so refugee and asylum seekers can attend performances at the theatre. In June for Refugee Week, West Yorkshire Playhouse will be presenting and hosting a range of talks, activities and performances for the public and targeted for specific communities that explore key issues surrounding migration. Refugee Week is from 19 – 25 June.

Click here to book tickets

Spring / Summer 2017 Studio Season commences at West Yorkshire Playhouse

The Playhouse reinstates its temporary studio theatre for four weeks of unmissable work throughout March and April.

The Barber Studio Season features critically-acclaimed small scale shows including award-winning work from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and fresh new theatre developed at West Yorkshire Playhouse.

The Studio Season runs from Thursday 30 March to Sat 15 April.

West Yorkshire Playhouse New Work Producer Gilly Roche said:

“The work in our Barber Studio season is inventive, relevant and created by some of the very best artists living and working in the North. The artists in this season are blazing a trail towards 2019, when we’ll open our permanent studio theatre, creating a new home for small-scale new work in Leeds.

We’re particularly thrilled to welcome back Ali Pidsley, Lulu Raczka and their team for A Girl In School Uniform (Walks Into A Bar). Developed over the last twelve months, we’ve supported the project throughout its evolution and are delighted to share the finished production with audiences for the first time.”

The Studio Season 2017:

Unfolding Theatre in association with LittleMighty present
Putting The Band Back Together
Thur 30 – Fri 31 March, 8pm

Part riotous gig and part tender storytelling, Unfolding Theatre in association with LittleMighty’s Putting The Band Back Together sees The Futureheads’ Ross Millard lead a live house band in an emotive performance inviting audiences to dust off their old instruments and take to the stage.

Inspired by theatre-maker and pancreatic cancer sufferer Mark Lloyd’s wish to “put his old band back together”, this uplifting show looks at forgotten dreams and lost passions and asks why we stop playing and what makes us start again.

The performances will feature local ex-players picking their instruments back up to play live alongside the house band. Audiences are welcome to join the house band by attending a pre-show workshop from 5.30pm – 7.30pm, and learning the songs through a series of online videos.

Breach presents
Mon 3 April, 8pm

Fringe-first award winning Tank, Breach’s multimedia show about a 1960s experiment into teaching dolphins English, visits the Playhouse this April.

In 1965 American scientist Margaret Lovatt lived with a dolphin for ten weeks to try and teach him to speak English, part of a NASA-funded experiment into human-animal communication. Condemned by the wider scientific community as an elaborate circus trick, Margaret’s lessons and intimate contact with Peter the dolphin remain a controversial episode in the space race between the two Cold War superpowers.

Tank is a reflection on the politics that shape the stories we tell and the histories we know. Premiering at the 2016 Edinburgh Fringe, it was called “a funny, dark, and strangely dreamy work about the futility and fanaticism in humankind’s desire to colonise the other” (Time Out).

Showroom in association with Summerhall present
Jenna Watt: Faslane
Friday 7 – Saturday 8 April, 8pm

A Contact Flying Solo commission, developed with the support of West Yorkshire Playhouse, Creative Scotland and National Theatre of Scotland, the multi award-winning Faslane visits the Playhouse this April.

Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, or Faslane, situated 40 miles outside Glasgow, is home to the UK’s nuclear missile program: Trident. With family having worked in Faslane all her life, and with friends protesting at the gates, Jenna Watt (How You Gonna Live Your Dash, Flâneurs) explores what happens when the personal and political collide.

Drawing upon interviews with individuals at the front line of the nuclear debate and featuring an immersive sound design by Kim Moore (Blow Off, Tiger Tale), Jenna navigates her own journey through the politics, protests and peace camps in piece where personal meets fiercely political.

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Ali Pidsley and Lulu Raczka present
A Girl In School Uniform (Walks Into A Bar)
Wed 12 – Sat 15 April

A powerful story told in an innovative way, A Girl In School Uniform (Walks Into A Bar) is a new play written by Lulu Raczka, developed by the Playhouse, and directed by Yorkshire artist Ali Pidsley.

There are blackouts. Can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face blackouts. And they’re everywhere. No one knows what’s causing them, but that doesn’t stop people going missing in them. It’s the future. But only slightly.

Now Steph and Bell, a schoolgirl and barmaid, have to find a way to come together to search for their missing friends, until the outside world starts infecting the theatre that stands around them…

Lulu Raczka and Ali Pidsley, award-winning writer and director of the acclaimed NOTHING and Some People Talk About Violence, team up again for this bold new play about crisis, darkness, cities and hope.

A Girl In School Uniform (Walks Into A Bar) is the last show in the Barber Studio Season. Then, continuing the momentum of new work in Leeds, Transform begins.

The Playhouse is delighted to partner with Transform again in 2017, hosting two prescient European shows: the UK premiere of machina eX’s participatory adventure Lessons of Leaking and the English premiere of El Conde de Torrefiel’s dark comedy performed by local participants Guerrilla. We’re also delighted to support RashDash in the creation of their visceral new site-specific show, The Darkest Corners.

A festival of bold, local and international theatre, Transform 17 explores everything from activism, community collaboration, the digital age, gender politics, and the future of Europe.

Transform 17
Wednesday 19 – Sunday 22 April

Click here to book tickets

The Who’s Tommy Rehearsal Diary – Final Week

By Natasha Lewis, cast blogger

What’s that you say? We’ve hit Ipswich? That’s right, beautiful people, we have. !nd we’re extremely pleased to be here! So we’ve ditched the rehearsal room (we love you 3 Mills) and have migrated North East to the sunny plains of Suffolk ready to begin (duh duh duh) TECH WEEK!

Now, like with everything, the Tommy company arrived in style, many of whom convened on Sunday night at one of the local watering holes, The Greyhound, as it had been a mean 48 hours since we had seen each other last and we, of course, had to share our epic car journey stories. Steve (Bass Guitar) had the pleasure of transporting lovely ladies Shekinah (Voice of Mrs Walker) and Natasha J (Dancing Beauty) to ‘The Switch’ and got a cheeky little workout in there too – by the means of carrying their gigantic (but necessary) suitcases into their digs upon arrival. Thankfully, I (Hawker) drove Adam (Drummer) down, who came with only a backpack and a ham baguette and could carry his own bag…Winner! Steve’s work was not done there however, as about 3 hours later he received an exasperated phone call from Shekinah: “Babe, what number is my house?” FYI, they’re not even in the same digs. Meanwhile, Alim (Frank) and Julian (Voice of Tommy) were enjoying the ‘Crystal Maze’ Experience which, I hear they did pretty well at collecting their crystals and all, but did manage to miss out on us teasing the heck out of William (Tommy) about his impending leg waxing session!

Amy Trigg, Natasha Lewis and Shekinah McFarlane in costume in their dressing room!

So tech week had arrived and on Monday, as we launched our happy little selves into the theatre, we were absolutely stunned!  The set looked fantastic (thank you muchly Mr Designer Neil Irish) with many a colourful bulb and flashy (secret) prop for wonderful Arnim Freiss (Lighting Designer) to play with and make look spectacular! Although there was the small issue of a stage exit being blocked by a big old pillar which proved interesting for Amelia, one of our blind actors… but, no bother, we solved it because we are all super clever!  That aside, all looked to be in order and everybody seemed remarkably calm.  I always find it incredible when you see things you’ve so much about in rehearsals for the first time. Getting that perspective for me, is always a joy.

Sarah Holmes (Fabulous Chief Exec at the New Wolsey Theatre) kicked off proceedings with a lovely welcome speech where we saw the entire team’s smiley faces for the first time.  It was at this point that Julian (Voice of Tommy) noticed that he hadn’t yet located his French Horn.  “Do you think they hid it?” was my helpful quip to him (wicked…but fun!).  As Monday progressed it became apparent that all of the boys had been to the barbers and were all sporting very ‘1940’s’ smart facial art and hairdos…wow, now we know what you ACTUALLY look like…handsome buggers!  Donna (Mrs Walker) had also taken a trip to the hairdresser and, it turned out to be a particularly ‘chatty’ time… no rest for the wicked Donna!

Often the standard nightmare on a tech rehearsal will inevitably involve the dreaded quick change and this show consists of about a million of those (I never exaggerate) so it was time to figure those bad boys out.  It took time, a whole lot of precious time (thank you for the words George Harrison), it did take patience and time, and now we’re doing it right… that’s what rehearsals are for right?!  Thank goodness we had Danuta’s (Team New Wolsey Wardrobe) heavenly lemon drizzle cake and ever gorgeous Jeni Draper’s (BSL Wonder Woman) sensational chocolate brownies to get us through.  After a hectic day of ‘figuring stuff out’ we all descended upon the public house, St Jude’s for a cheeky Diet Coca Cola and a packet of Scampi Fries where Julian, Rose (BSL Interpreter), Adam and Max (Mr Walker) got involved in a very fierce and competitive game of ‘Pop Up Pirate’ and the winner was….ROSE!  Your prize is…you get to spend the next 2 weeks with us where, no doubt, you shall continue to defend your title!

Choreographer Mark Smith at St Jude’s Tavern

Tuesday was our second day of tech rehearsals where Lukus (Cousin Kevin) managed to acquire his very own personal ‘human fan’ in the form of our Company Manager, Patricia, who was using Draft 3 of the script to cool his moist brow. This act of kindness being slightly out of character for our wonderful CM, she pointedly yelled “WE’VE GOT A DEAL!”…intriguing! Later that day, with all the set flying about at a speedy pace, we saw Steve valiantly rescue a very valuable giant prop from a state of disaster as the golf buggy went rogue, running over Rob’s (Musical Director) foot…ouch! In other news, I walked into the very same pillar that I mentioned in ‘Chapter Monday’, and Amy (Sally Simpson) bowled up in a scene she didn’t belong to and fashioned the most spectacularly indiscreet exit to get out… cue: mass hysteria from Stacey (Mrs Simpson), so much love in the room! This was proved by Steve stating that “it’s rare when musicians and the Sound Department are on the same page”, Callum (Sound No 1) quickly responded with “we’re not on the same page, we all hate you!” followed by Max asking Patricia “Why can’t you smoke on stage until there’s a paying audience?” and her replying “Because….you can’t!” Glad we cleared that up then! And you’re not going to believe it but there was another cast birthday which equalled…more cake! Happy Birthday Oliver (Assistant Musical Director).

Wednesday saw the birth of the #TommyTour Cricket Team as more costumes arrived for Matthew, Julian and Lukus, with Nickie (Associate Director) remarking that it looked like a Freddie Mercury tribute concert! It also saw the return of Bret, our Fight Director, who rocked up to check we weren’t battering each other to pieces. Unfortunately he left before Garry (Uncle Ernie) had managed to drive the golf buggy into the wall. William was obliviously playing with his phone right next to said incident and didn’t notice as the buggy went rogue… again… this time running over Patricia…ouch! (She’s ok, no need to panic and FYI…#chairgate has now been trumped by #buggygate!). Later on, Anthony (Rev Simpson) had fun with his prop TV camera as he managed to film Tommy’s ‘boy bits’ instead of his pretty face and we had ANOTHER company birthday = even more cake!!! Happiest of Birthdays Hearns! We all celebrated in a coffee shop after an epic day where, upon his feeble attempt at an exit, Matthew (Voice of Tommy) managed to fall off his chair (real one not prop one) (#morechairgate!)

It was Thursday that we had all been waiting for – a full dress rehearsal followed by… yes… our very first performance. That’s right… Preview 1! And what an incredible team effort for both! Having said that, Max came off after the dress exclaiming “That was my fault…and I know that” while Julian entered the stage in a state of undress to do a scene change explaining that he “had a calamity”…it’s all part of the preview ‘joy of learning’ process lads. Either way, the audience were on their feet by the end and we all felt like we were at the beginning of something truly special.

We had to wait until Friday morning to see what our Director Kerry thought of it all and he seemed pretty chuffed! His notes session, however, was slightly upstaged momentarily by a man on a ladder behind his head in the window! This was followed by a valuable point from Shekinah…”My weave is sewn into my head, nothing else can be put into my head”… she was of course referring to #HatGate as opposed to general information! Kerry then helpfully asked “How are you getting on with that mask Amelia?” She responded with “I can’t see a thing, but what else is new?” Very good! Prior to our second preview I was reminded of just how hard our wondrous Stage Management crew work as I found lovely Emily (ASM) hurriedly eating her dinner on the ‘Xmas Dinner Prop Table’ whilst fixing stuff in the dark surrounded by an assortment of crackers and baubles. We LOVE you! It was all worth it though as we ploughed through preview number 2 and received another standing ovation. We love Ipswich!

The company enjoying a post show drink after the first preview

By Saturday we were all absolutely pooped but ready to go for one more show of the week. Even after Mark (choreographer) politely asked Hearns (Dancer) not to shake his legs during ‘Sensation’ as it looks like he needs the loo and Peter (Acid Queen) was advised to ‘close his legs…you’re a lady!’ But huge shout out and thank you award of the week goes to Rosie (ASM) for valiantly saving the kabuki (massive white sheet)!

It’s been an epic week folks hence the epic blog. After all our hard work, which hasn’t finished yet, I think we have a pretty remarkable show – well done Team Tommy! We shall be celebrating with a glass of warm milk with our favourite fans, Anthony’s wonderful parents, and getting lots of well deserved ‘beauty sleep’…lord knows I need it! Join me next week for….arrrrggghhh….PRESS NIGHT! Bye…Tash xx

The Who’s Tommy Rehearsal Diary – Week Five

By Natasha Lewis, cast blogger

“Extra, extra…read all about it…” (No Spoilers!) It’s our final week in the rehearsal space before we launch into ourselves into our monumental tech week. Before I forget, I must say a huge thank you to all at 3 Mills Studios for accommodating us so hospitably and providing a hungry company with copious amounts of bacon breakfast paninis and skinny cappuccinos, we are most grateful! That aside, we had a week full of runs (of the show 😉 ), a Sitzprobe of Act 2 (see Wikipedia note from last week), 2 company birthdays and super excitingly – DRUM ROLL PLEASE ADAM – the arrival of the Pinball Machine! That bad boy is immense! There was plenty of blood and sweat but no tears thankfully as the entire company worked themselves silly to make our almost final product a fantastic one.

The ladies on the brass, doing their thing

So on Monday we embarked on a Sitzprobe of Act 2 which was incredible for us to get a sense of what was REALLY to come musically. Donna (Mrs Walker), William (Tommy) and Natasha J (Dancing Demon!) even sat on the Bass Guitar Amp to get a feel for the rhythms so that they could feel the music in another way being three of our Deaf actors in the company. Post lunch the band boys had their costume fittings where Steve (Bass Guitar) announced that he “walked around Angels (Costumiers) for 2 hours in his pants trying to find a suit that would fit him. Kerry (Director) politely asked: “Were you wearing good pants though?” Steve’s candid response was “NO!” Good over sharing Mr Simmonds!! Meanwhile, the rest of the company embarked on a stagger through of Act 1 in the more than capable hands of DC (Dan de Cruz) on the piano who came to cover while all of the music boys were playing dress up! During said run, we established that playing a Top ‘B’ on the trumpet during the reprise of Pinball Wizard makes Stacey (Mrs Simpson) almost wee a bit. I totally understand Stacey; I have the exact same feeling for most of the score! This was all amidst Max (Mr Walker) attempting to base his character on Frank Spencer, Garry (Uncle Ernie) contemplating making a ‘Dirty Martini’ using Rob (MD’s) can of ‘Bumblebee Tuna’ water and Kerry giving himself the ‘Director of Chairs’ Award (and the Olivier goes to..!).This would all have been fine had William (Tommy) not shown his wicked streak by deliberately teaching me the wrong BSL signs for police, this is not the first time this behaviour has occurred, and I’m not going to disclose what he taught me being the consummate professional that I am, but let’s just say it wasn’t correct and not to be repeated in public!

Natasha Julien sits by the bass speaker

Tuesday opened with Shekinah (Voice of Mrs Walker) sporting a sensational new ‘experimental’ hairdo, Ali coining a new name for the two ‘Natashas’ when they’re together as ‘Natasha Squared’ (which I quite enjoy) and Steve (BSL Interpreter) admitting to falling asleep and missing his last stop on the train home hence returning to his house 1.5 hours later than expected – that’ll be the Canary Island jet lag!! We also learned that Tony (Guitarist) spent the previous evening trying out electric violins and admitted that he may be ‘going shopping’ later (funnily enough, this was the first that the creative team had heard of his ‘fiddling’ skills!) This info was sadly overshadowed by Kerry (Director) creating ‘Theatre Magic’ with the prop dining table and Alim (The Lover) asking the MD if he would prefer “a light flutter or a chest” – I know he meant vocally, but who else would?! Ultimately though, Tuesday was all about CHAIRGATE – as was the remainder of the week, and probably many weeks to come!

Wednesday saw our first of two Happy Birthdays to Amelia (Specialist’s Assistant), and I have it on good authority that the girl celebrated it in style, complete with Patricia (Company Stage Manager) delivering cake with the most perfect panache! She’d covered all bases – gluten free, vegan, meat – she was on it! Well done PD, Company Cake Lady! While PD was succeeding in the sugary snack department the ‘idiots in the lift’ that were William, Rose (BSL Interpreter), Oliver (Assistant MD), Peter (Acid Queen) and myself (Hawker) epically failed when we managed to have a ten minute conversation in the elevator not noticing that nobody had pressed the button and NOBODY was moving! Doh! We did manage to pass on the dopey vibe however when I convinced Matt (Officer No 2) that a trendy/scruffy looking gent in the foyer was Bob Geldof (it was not!!). Parish Notices with Kerry came late in the day on Wednesday where Peter (Acid Queen) announced that he was having trouble waking up that morning. Steve (Bass Guitar) quipped “I know, you woke me up!” That’s how rumours start Steven and the thought of this is probably what sent Peter reeling to the back of the room to eat his bag of radishes! (No offence Steve! Many would!)

Patricia brings in the cakes!

Thursday morning gave me glorious joy as I witnessed Alim asking the lady at the McDonald’s Drive Thru machine “What’s the lowest fat thing you have on the breakfast menu?” #glorious. As soon as we settled into our rehearsals we were almost immediately evacuated due to a cheeky fire alarm, however, some of us were delayed in our escape due to Donna (Mrs Walker) taking the time to tweet as she meandered through the fire exit! Its ok Donna, we’ll wait! (Good thing she’s so lovely!). Once we were reunited with the rehearsal room, it was time for a tea break (I love my job) and, unexpectedly, the beautiful Jeni Draper (BSL extraordinaire) had supplied us with yet another batch of her sensational baked goodies, this time in the fab form of chewy chocolate flapjacks. Seriously Jen, NEVER leave us again! This was another yummy addition to the tonnes of cake that had reappeared as we celebrated the second company birthday of the week, this time for gorgeous Amy (Sally Simpson). Many Many Happy Returns Girls!! This was all in the midst of a fabulous run of the show in the rehearsal room where we were joined by a bunch of familiar and friendly faces from Theatre Royal Stratford East to encourage, love and support. We thank you, and from what we heard, the feedback was great. Well Done Team Tommy!

Creative Assistant David Young in rehearsals

So this brings me to our Finale Friday at 3 Mills Studios which began again with gorgeous Alim back at the McDonald’s Drive Thru and being outraged by the fact that they didn’t have soya milk for his cappuccino #KnowYourAudience! This joyous comment was trumped however by Kerry asking “can any of the boys that play football in this scene actually play football?” Alim helpfully replied, “They didn’t go to football practice, they went to dance class!” Touché! So, prior to the run of the show, hunky Mark (choreographer) did a spectacular demonstration of how to look good while throwing yourself out of a plane, while Vickie (BSL Interpreter) secured herself three Caribbean patties for lunch (#TriplePattieVickie) I salute you – and will steal from you when you’re not looking! Anyway, let’s take the heat off me and focus on heavy handed William who managed to bump poor Lukus’s (Cousin Kevin) head during the run that afternoon and then continue to giggle about it until the end of the show, and in other news, Hearns (Dancer) went for his third haircut in a month -surely he must have got it right by now!! (Tony & Guy must LOVE him!)

The company in the pub enjoying a drink… or five.

With all this uber hard work commencing, of course there was only one way to celebrate 5 weeks in the rehearsal room – a well-deserved sesh in the pub. What a wonderful bunch! Wow, we’ve worked hard – bring on the monster tech week where all the fantabulous magic will inevitably come together!

Please join me for the ‘tech week’ mayhem where, no doubt, there will be tonnes of fun and frivolity to report from sunny Ipswich Town! We’re almost open people, and it’s going to be epic. Stay tuned!!! Bye….Tash xx

Writer of A Passionate Woman and Fat Friends Kay Mellor OBE pledges support for Playhouse redevelopment

Renowned Leeds script writer Kay Mellor OBE has become a patron of West Yorkshire Playhouse in support of its upcoming redevelopment.

Kay’s television hits include current BBC drama In the Club (2014, 2016), The Syndicate (2012, 2013, 2015) Fat Friends (2000-2005) and Band of Gold (1995). Her best-known play, A Passionate Woman is touring to West Yorkshire Playhouse this April, 25 years after its original world premiere there in 1992.

Kay Mellor OBE said:The Playhouse has been a very important part of the cultural life of Leeds for a very long time and I am delighted to support this new chapter in its history. This theatre fulfils a vital role in our diverse and extraordinarily talented city in providing world class opportunities to our home grown artists. As a centre of excellence the Playhouse offers young people access and experiences that are often life changing. The refurbishment will ensure that the theatre can continue to produce this wonderful work for many generations to come and help to deliver a voice for Leeds on the international stage.”

Proposals to transform and modernise West Yorkshire Playhouse through a landmark refurbishment project went before Leeds City Council’s senior planning officials earlier in March.

Playhouse 21st Century

The plans set out changes including improved access to the theatre, a new city-facing entrance and the addition of a new studio theatre space in the Rock Void.

Award-winning Page \ Park Architects are leading on designs, having previously designed improvements for The Centre for Contemporary Arts and the Theatre Royal in Glasgow and Eden Court Theatre in Inverness.

Kay Mellor OBE lives and works in Leeds and started her career by forming the Yorkshire Theatre Company, with two friends from Bretton Hall College. The Company began touring plays which Kay had written. Since her first play for theatre, PAUL, which was entered for the N.S.D.F. and won Best New Play, Kay has written continuously for theatre and television.  Her shows over the years have won and been nominated for numerous awards, and Kay herself was awarded the BAFTA Dennis Potter award in 1997 for Outstanding Writing for Television.

Directed by Paul Milton, A Passionate Woman will be at West Yorkshire Playhouse in the Quarry Theatre from Tuesday 4 – Sat 8 April.

The Graduate to open at West Yorkshire Playhouse in first major revival since West End Premiere

By Charles Webb
Adapted by Terry Johnson
Director Lucy Bailey
Designer Mike Britton
Sound Designer Mic Pool
Lighting Designer Chris Davey

Friday 28 April – Sat 27 May 2017, Courtyard Theatre
Press Night Wednesday 3 May 2017, 7.45pm

50 years since the release of the iconic hit film, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Curve in association with Simon Friend and Gavin Kalin Productions*1 present The Graduate.

With acclaimed director Lucy Bailey, (Great Expectations, Dial M for Murder, West Yorkshire Playhouse) whose work spans classics at the Globe and RSC to West End productions, The Graduate stars Catherine McCormack (Braveheart, Spy Game) as Mrs. Robinson and Jack Monaghan (War Horse, Black Mirror) as Benjamin.

Pictured in character for the first time, Catherine McCormack and Jack Monaghan take up their roles 50 years since the runaway success of Mike Nichols’ hit film starring Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft.

Director Lucy Bailey said: “The Graduate is a satire on the values and lifestyle of middle class suburban America. The world seen through Benjamin’s eyes is a heightened surreal version of reality, at times grotesques and absurd. It’s a coming of age play – painfully funny and deeply human.”

Artistic Director of West Yorkshire Playhouse James Brining said: “Our productions this season return to the journey for voice and identity. Benjamin, the Graduate’s central character, is completely disaffected and alienated until he begins to break with convention and take his own path. In the hands of the talented Lucy Bailey, whose celebrated production of Great Expectations at the Playhouse thrilled audiences, this promises to be a smart and stylish telling, rich in wry humour.”

Based on Charles Webb’s novel, The Graduate sees an educated young man swept into an illicit encounter with an older married woman, setting them both on a thrillingly destructive course.

The cast is completed by Emma Curtis playing Elaine, Tom Hodgkins as Mr Braddock, Rebecca Charles as Mrs Braddock and Richard Clothier playing Mr Robinson.

The Graduate is adapted by Terry Johnson, based on the novel by Charles Webb and the motion picture screenplay by Calder Willingham & Buck Henry by special arrangement with StudioCanal.

*1 by special arrangement with StudioCanal. Originally produced on the London & Broadway Stage by John Reid & Sacha Brooks

Click here to book tickets

£25k grant for theatre’s programme of support for refugees

West Yorkshire Playhouse, the UK’s first official Theatre Of Sanctuary, has been award £25,000 to support refugee and asylum seekers over the next year.

The programme of support will be delivered in partnership with City of Sanctuary, a Leeds-based charity which works with refugees in the region, and was awarded by the Asda Foundation as part of a £380,000 grant for projects support innovative mental health projects.

Leeds Community Foundation (LCF) identified the organisations which received grants, setting up The Leeds Fund to distribute them across the city’s greatest areas of need.

James Brining said: “As well as producing theatre, the Playhouse also works behind the scenes providing a range of creative, supportive activities for people who otherwise face real isolation.

As well as groups for older people and young carers, our work with refugees is nationally acclaimed, which is why we were recognised as the UK’s first ever Theatre of Sanctuary.

This fantastic and generous grant from the Asda Foundation will see us extend our support groups for refugees and offer new projects such as befriending and volunteering, which people across the city can get involved with.

We’re a theatre for everyone in West Yorkshire and we embrace our duty to support community cohesion, both through the work we show on our stages and across activities in our building.”

Mary Brandon, City of Sanctuary said: “Refugees and asylum seekers often arrive in the UK having experienced traumas such as violence, persecution, bereavement and separation from their loved ones. Once here, many find themselves dealing with the stresses and anxieties of resettlement alone.

The financial pressure on front-line services means that too often there is little scope for holistic support to address the mental well-being of this vulnerable group.

We are delighted to work with West Yorkshire Playhouse whose creative expertise can uniquely address these needs.”

One of the activities which West Yorkshire Playhouse offers for asylum-seeking and refugee women is a choir, Asmarina Voices.

Zenvy, who has been a member of Asmarina Voices for two years said: “It can be lonely not having places to go and people to meet with – but this is my opportunity to have time for myself. When I come to the choir, I can forget the things that stress me – even just for an hour. I feel welcome. When people are warm to you that is very important.”

The grant will enable West Yorkshire Playhouse to continue Asmarina Voices, its weekly singing group which includes a crèche with creative activities for children; HEARTS youth group, a weekly group which offers drama activities and supports members to develop skills in English; Tickets offers so refugee and asylum seekers can attend performances at the theatre; Develop a men’s group; creative writing/poetry workshops; a conversation café offering companionship and English-speaking development; training and support to deliver awareness raising talks in schools; volunteering opportunities; Photographic exhibitions and special events which promote understanding and celebrate cultural diversity.

Click here for more information

The Who’s Tommy Rehearsal Diary – Week Three

By Natasha Lewis, cast blogger

It’s Week 3 people! Time is a-flying as we reach the half way point of our rehearsal process. Even without TFL on our side, everybody gathered together in super high spirits. Why? Because we’re all super nice, fun people that’s why!

It was a particularly exciting and busy one this week with six jam-packed days of Act Two action, and it (obviously) didn’t go without its fair share of giggles along the way! We had a full day of choreography on Monday to kick start proceedings which was not dissimilar to a week’s worth of ‘Insanity’ work out videos – looking great though team so it was all well worth it for sure. We were also visited this week by ‘Team New Wolsey Theatre’ (Sarah, Jeni, Giles, Pete & Lorna) where a whole bunch of company interviews took place (nobody was trying to ‘video-bomb’ any of those…honest!). Although they did arrive with some rather incriminating footage of me spectacularly falling on my face last week… Pete, I shall ply you with Monster Munch for a month if you keep that badger under wraps!

However, the incredible news of the week came in the beautiful form of an Olivier Award nomination for the first Ramps on the Moon project from last year The Government Inspector produced by the wonderful Birmingham Rep. It also featured a couple of our Tommy Team; the fantastic Becky (Newspaper Vendor) and Daryl (one half of our BSL magic) – huge congratulations to all involved. #GovernmentInspector for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre Olivier 2017… spread the word! With this information delivered to us we were in high spirits as the creative team put us through our paces, but not without our share of funnies to fuel us through!

The cast of Tommy at Theatre Royal Stratford East

Monday was happily welcomed by a batch of freshly baked chilli chocolate cookies donated by one of our lovely BSL interpreters, Jess… I hear they were delicious, I did not eat five of them, I promise (fingers totally crossed)! Ironically, Monday morning also saw the birth of the ‘T25’ Exercise Clan founded by Steve (Bass Guitar) & Adam (Drums) and joined by Stacey (Mrs Simpson) and Lukus (Cousin Kevin) who gathered, pre warm up, to do their daily 25 minutes of physical gruel. I’ll join you guys from next week, honest (fingers totally still crossed)! Later in the day Amy (Sally Simpson) was spied sitting solo practicing her ‘cracker pulling’ while we discovered that Matt (Officer 2) needs a masterclass in being mean if he wants to be in Cousin Kevin’s number! (He’s just so nice!)

Tuesday found us back in our circle of chairs ready to read the second act of the show. This was where Kerry (Director) asked Becky: “What did you do last night?” And she innocently replied “Do you really want to know?!” Intriguing as that sounded, it turned out that she was reading her script like a true pro. This was also the first time that the brass section had a practice session with the core band which sounded nothing short of awesome and was incredible fun. It also involved Becky with her alto sax (wow, she’s popular in here this week!) announcing that “I’m going to skip a few low notes until I figure out how to play them…I never go that end!” and Stacey on trumpet playing the ‘Acid Queen’ in a random key, creating the ‘atonal’ version and giggling her way through it! In food related news, Hearns (Dancer) took 15 minutes of our lunch ‘HOUR’ hogging the sole microwave to heat his frozen lasagne. Needless to say, when he approached the kitchen the following day with his bolognese he was shunned to the back of the queue after being comically berated by Patricia (Company Manager) and Donna (Mrs Walker) respectively! Soz Hearns! Maybe stick to naked chicken and salad next week eh?!

Wednesday found us putting the choreography to the Overture with the band and it was brilliant! This really boosted everybody to another level and prompted Mr Director to say: “I love my job and it’s because of you… and my sexy direction!” Wed was also a sassy one for William (Tommy) who described (Officer 1) as Posh Spice to Matt’s (Officer 2) Becks…you’ll have to book a cheeky little ticket to figure out what he means! And William didn’t stop there when later in the day I told him “I love you!” to which he candidly replied…”I love me too!” Good to know! That afternoon we also saw Lukus sporting some sensational ‘sub table’ acting while Matt declared that he attended the International School of ‘Screen’ Acting and when you see his astounding work with the foldable screens on wheels I’m sure you will agree that it was money well spent! (I am aware that that joke was about as funny as limp Xmas tree but snaps for effort right?)

Lukus Alexander’s table acting in rehearsals

On Thursday the phrase ‘Chair Guitar’ was born, NO SPOILERS, but it was inspired. However, William managed to fall off his but assured me that his bum is fine! Nickie (Assistant Director) got to play Tommy for the afternoon while many of the cast were out at costume fittings and Stacey got herself a lovely new trumpet mouthpiece from the lovely Phil Parker Ltd – happy brass lady! Also, the cast finally realised why the animal study module at drama school could come in handy when we did our spontaneous dog acting in the afternoon – don’t get excited – we were rubbish and it got cut! (A Pikachu could have done it more convincingly!) ‘A’ for enthusiasm though to all! In other news, Natasha Julien (Dancer) tried her hand at the trombone for the first time, and she was pretty darn good (uh oh… I think I’ve got competition!)

Cast member Natasha Julien on the trombone, giving Natasha Lewis a run for her money!

Friday began with Alim (The Lover) kindly buying the rehearsal space security guards breakfast muffins, and my favourite Kerry quote to date was coined: “You’re all like a sweet dessert – apple strudel to be exact” (but it did make me hungry. If only I hadn’t scoffed all of those cookies on Monday). The tube situation was particularly dire on Friday evening resulting in Steve (Bass) HAVING to stick around and have a curry while Patricia wound up sitting down to dinner with the owner of the kebab house she was in for some nosh and a cheeky dram of firewater!! We also discovered that uber talented Max (Mr Walker) has been creating ‘one night tunes’ every evening and they can be found on Soundcloud. Where does he find the energy, fab lad! While Amelia (The Assistant) performed some of her own material at the Women of the World festival at the Southbank Centre, to a packed house. All of those creative souls – it’s amazing!

The ladies of the Tommy cast pose for International Women’s Day

Saturday saw us enjoying Alim’s glee at his new yoga mat for warm up (which seemed to be covered in his belly button fluff!) and amidst all of the excitement of that we still found time to sing a ‘tuneful’ Happy Birthday to our gorgeous Garry (Uncle Ernie) who turned 21 again on Sunday… oh how I love a birthday! I hope he enjoyed his celebrations at the Arsenal v Lincoln match to mark the occasion! Company statement of the week occurred today and goes to Lukus who boldly admitted: “Sorry Kerry, can you repeat that, I wasn’t listening because I was too busy watching the interpreter!” At least he’s honest!

Cast member Garry Robson celebrates his birthday with cake! Image by cast blogger Natasha Lewis

So please tune in next week guys to see how much more Lukus/Cousin Kevin’s part has grown and to catch up on some more cheekiness from the #TommyTour rehearsal room. Bye…Tash x

The Who’s Tommy Rehearsal Diary – Week Two

By Natasha Lewis, cast blogger

So we’ve flown into Week 2 and what a week it’s been. (Not that I would have expected anything less on a show with about a million different elements to it like this one). Come Monday morning we all excitedly reconvened to appreciate lovely Matthew’s (Officer 2) sassy new haircut and to welcome Rosie (Assistant Stage Manager) and Patricia (Company Stage Manager) to the room following their fabulous run of The House or Bernarda Alba. Let the fun commence!

It was exciting times as we began the week with a few group exercises with some researching the historical events of the 1950’s, some doing in depth character work and our team cultivating a timeline of the show spanning from 1939-2017. I don’t think that Kerry (Director) envisaged just how obsessed we would become with our little project and come 5 days, 2 HP printer cartridges, a bucket load of Google images and a few cheeky cast head shots later – we had a pretty epic TIMELINE!

The timeline of Tommy from 1939 to 2017 by the cast. Image by cast blogger Natasha Lewis

Once our project session was over it was time to start at the beginning (sans Overture – we’ll do that bad boy later) and put Act 1 on its feet. This involved us firstly revisiting some cheeky harmonies from Week 1 where Rob (Musical Director) asked Stacey (Mrs Simpson) whether she would mind taking the lower line, to which she eloquently replied “I’ve been happy to be bottom since 1985”…couldn’t have put it better myself! This was followed by us blocking the show from the top and that is where the company realised just how busy we are all going to be. Kerry was not wrong; there is a job for everyone, everywhere! I must give particular credit to Julian & Matthew (Officers 1 & 2) for their beautiful masterclass in ‘Military Marching’ and Alim & Donna (The Lover & Mrs Walker) for their ‘Mills & Boon’ moment in the first scene – steamy stuff!

Wednesday was always going to be an exciting day with the first session of costume fittings taking place in a warehouse in Hendon. No spoilers but there are some pretty funky outfits in the offing and some pretty snazzy footwear entering the rehearsal room. I was already particularly exhilarated after watching Hearns’s (dancer extraordinaire) raunchy BSL interpretation of ‘Red Lorry, Yellow Lorry’ during the vocal warm up, and then came our Fight Director, Bret Yount, who bowled up to choreograph a couple of physical moments in the show. I can tell you, it looks blooming great! We were also joined on Wed by our new rehearsal pianist Dan de Cruz (known as DC to most) so that Rob doesn’t need to be win a zillion places at once. And that guy sight read his way through Act 1 like a gem – thank you DC!

On Thursday our gorgeous choreographer Mark put our dancers through their paces as he worked through ‘Cousin Kevin’ and I have to say that those guys are looking incredible already. Lukus (Cousin Kevin) seems to have that ‘school bully’ thing nailed, unbelievable considering how angelic he is in real life…! Following this, our fantabulous Alim was appointed as our Company Dance Captain. I personally can’t believe that, with my uber talented two left feet, they didn’t pick me but whatever…great choice…that boy will make everything sparkle! Meanwhile, sweet and lovely Rosie (ASM) was left to Google risqué sites on the interweb. “Prop shopping” she says….sure Rosie! We were also joined in the room today by our delightful band with Tony (guitar), Steve (bass guitar) and Adam (work experience……..just kidding, he’s on drums!) so that we could feel a bit more of the vibe close up. You guys sound AWESOME!

Then we had Friday, which began in the best way possible with a mystery benefactor supplying us with a table full of cake, sweets and biscuits. Whoever you are, you can come again, you are welcome anytime and, if you’re reading this, I am particularly partial to a milk chocolate HobNob…or a KFC! We were again joined by a newbie, Pete from the New Wolsey, who came to document rehearsals for some video footage, and managed to catch me falling flat on my face as a result of me falling over my own feet. Seriously…why aren’t I Dance Captain?!

We then embarked on a run of Act 1. It was busy, sweaty and pretty darn brilliant considering that were only in Week 2 – FYI, this is going to be amazing! Friday was topped off by a beautiful gesture from Peter (Acid Queen) who supplied us with ‘End of Week 2 Goodies’ with plenty of bubbles and a wonderful night was had by all!

End of Week Two treats from Peter Straker – bottles of champagne. Image by cast blogger Natasha Lewis

In other news, sensational cast member Shekinah recorded a music video to her single ‘Beautiful to You’ – EP to be released at the end of year so look out for that. Handsome but clumsy Julian managed to break the French Horn for the second time in 2 days… a dramatic method to get out of practicing methinks! Oh, and Alim… its Pinball Wizard, NOT Pimple Wizard….hehehe!

The cast of Tommy at the end of Week Two. Image by cast blogger Natasha Lewis

So I shall leave you with the immortal quote for this week from our glorious leader, Kerry…”You’re all lovely people…I don’t care what other people think, I think you’re great!” – We thank you! LOL! Catch you next week! Tash x

The Who’s Tommy Rehearsal Diary – Week One

By Natasha Lewis, cast blogger

We’re already one week through rehearsals of Tommy, and are pleased to reveal that we’ll be hearing from the rehearsal room every week from cast member and overall blogging extraordinaire Natasha Lewis throughout the entire tour! Read her first entry into her Tommy diary below:

The cast of Tommy in rehearsals, image captured by cast blogger Natasha Lewis

The date…

Monday 20th February 2017.

You’ll have to forgive me as I’m still dusting off the old quill and parchment in order to document the exciting months to come.

The time…
09:48 GMT…

The rehearsal room seems deserted but that could be a Blackwall Tunnel/Hammersmith & City standard disaster.

Plan of Action! Hasten towards the 3 Mills penthouse – our rehearsal space for the next 4 weeks, find some caffeine and potentially a sweet snack of some description to tide us through until tea break.

I reach my destination, eagerly tug at the door and am bowled over by what I am seeing before me. A room FULL of people (69 to be exact, which must be must be some kind of record for a Day One Meet & Greet) and an exhilarating energy of a great ‘first day’ is already in full swing!

Of course with The Who’s Tommy being the second of the Ramps On The Moon productions (following the sensation that was The Government Inspector), we were joined by representatives from each of the consortium venues (New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, Birmingham Rep, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Nottingham Playhouse, Theatre Royal Stratford East and Sheffield Theatres) plus our wonderfully extensive Creative Team, Stage Management, Technical Gurus…oh and a cast of 22 (including one Peter Straker who also appeared in the original West End production of the show in 1979). All in all, that was one gloriously busy room!

The vibe is an electric one, the model box of the set looks epic. Kerry Michael (Director) is particularly excited about the ‘prop furniture’ to come (*NO SPOILERS* but it’s apparently set to be pretty damn fine ‘prop furniture’). Together we discuss the logistics of how to embark on such a project and all agree that whatever direction the journey takes, we’re all going to love being on that train!

So week 1 we got stuck in! Piles of singing was done (with Pinball Wizard sounding particularly awesome), piles of instruments were played, piles of choreography was danced and, for me, the most fascinating side to all of this was watching Jeni Draper and Daryl Jackson (the British Sign Language dream team) demonstrate how the BSL was going to be integrated into all of the above. Seeing as we were all approaching BSL from different levels we found common ground by learning to sign along to our tongue-twisters in our daily vocal warm ups. I challenge you to work out the BSL for ‘Great Greek’s Sheep’s Cheese’ and do it at speed with words. Find me, show me and prizes shall be awarded! (Although I have a feeling that Steve, our handsome bass player, shall still be perfecting the ‘www’ of ‘World Wide Web’ by the time we reach Sheffield – our final venue!).

Week 1 is also inevitably about getting to know your compadres and with so many fabulous characters in the room I have no doubt that the next 5 months are set to be filled with much joy and mayhem! On Day 3 we had already learned that our beautiful Donna (Mrs Walker) likes a wild night of ‘ping pong’ to chillax while Max (Mr Walker) prefers an evening in with Alan Partridge… opposites attract I guess! With his Musical Director hands very full at the moment, our MD Rob Hyman had been powering through harmonies at the rate of knots but did hasten to add that “Dropbox is not my first language” so, guys, maybe record stuff just in case!

My moment of the week so far goes to the wonderful Lukus (Cousin Kevin) who boldly announced on Thursday (a good day to announce stuff I think) that “the music for this show was written by the same guy that wrote the music for Snoopy – The Musical”.
Sadly for him he said this to your resident blogger who wryly replied “What, The Who?!”
Lucas: “That’s not right is it?!”
No babe…but close!
(I look forward to hearing more from Cousin Kevin in the coming months!).

Even though we’d only been going for a few days the festivities had already begun with our first Company Birthday for the super lovely Julian – 22 years young! Inevitably the nearest watering hole was found and celebrations were had! In other news, Kerry showed how much he loves us by buying us a Company Coffee Machine #thankyoumrdirector

So hopefully you’ve had a flavour of what we’ve been up to in order to whet your cheeky appetites and will stay tuned for what is in store for the #TommyTour in Week 2.

‘Til next week you Pinball Wizards… Bye!

Open auditions for Community Chorus in The Grapes of Wrath

West Yorkshire Playhouse is holding Open Audition workshops on Saturday 25 March and Sunday 26 March for the Community Chorus of its upcoming production, The Grapes of Wrath.

The auditions are open to volunteer community performers and no previous experience of professional theatre is required.

The Community Ensemble of The Grapes of Wrath will total up to 40 people, whose role in the play is to help portray the play’s themes of poverty, community and migration whilst reflecting and representing the local community of West Yorkshire.

The Grapes of Wrath is the legendary novel by John Steinbeck critiquing America’s Great Depression. The production is directed by Abbey Wright and explores the story’s meaning in a contemporary light.

Participants will have the opportunity to work alongside world-class theatre professionals and play a vital role, both in developing and performing in the production.

The Community Chorus will rehearse once a week from 18 April and perform each night from 24 May to 10 June 2017 including matinee performances in May on Thursday 25, Saturday 27 and Tuesday 30, and in June on Thursday 1, Saturday 3, Tuesday 6, Thursday 8 and Saturday 10.

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

Participants must be over 18 years of age. In order to find out more email or call West Yorkshire Playhouse on 0113 213 7700.

Additional Information: Selected participants will volunteer as a Community Chorus in the professional stage production of The Grapes of Wrath before working on a piece of their own to present at the Playhouse in the summer.

In order to take part participants must sign up for an Open Audition workshop. This informal, fun workshop will be a great way for you to get a sense of the project and to meet some new people including the team from the Playhouse. The workshop will be delivered by the award-winning Creative Engagement department. The Community chorus will be directed by West Yorkshire Playhouse’s newly appointed Director, Creative Engagement, Alex Ferris, who has previously won a national award for creating and directing large-scale community plays.

Open Audition Workshops, 25 and 26 March

Rehearsal Room 3
6 St Peter’s Building
St Peter’s Square

Click here to book an audition slot and download an application form

Pete Townshend writes exclusive new songs for production of The Who’s Tommy

Music and Lyrics by Pete Townshend
Book by Pete Townshend and Des McAnuff
Additional music and lyrics by John Entwistle and Keith Moon

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Quarry Theatre
Press Night Thursday 4 May, 7.30pm
Thursday 4 – Saturday 13 May

Lead songwriter of The Who Pete Townshend has written two new songs exclusively for the touring production of Tommy, produced by the New Wolsey Theatre in co-production with Ramps on the Moon and directed by Kerry Michael. A new version of ‘Amazing Journey’ will open the show, and after her iconic Act One song Acid Queen, played by original cast member Peter Straker, will make a return in Act Two with a new torch song.

Tommy is part of Ramps On The Moon, a ground-breaking project which signals a change in the UK’s disability arts provision, and Peter Straker will be joined on stage by an inclusive cast of Deaf and disabled and non-disabled actors including Lukus Alexander, Alim Jayda, Donna Mullings, Garry Robson, Max Runham, Amy Trigg, and William Grint in the title role. Ramps on the Moon’s previous show, The Government Inspector, has just been nominated for an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre.

Tommy plays in Leeds at West Yorkshire Playhouse 4 – 13 May. There will be a Relaxed performance on 11th May 1.30pm.
In the Ramps on the Moon production, young Tommy witnesses the murder of his father by his mother’s lover, and is so traumatised that he chooses to stop communicating with the outside world. He grows up in post WWII England where he suffers abuse from relatives and others in the wider community. As an adolescent, Tommy’s life begins to change when he finds salvation in playing pinball…

Pete Townshend said, “When I heard the there was a new planned production of Tommy, I was pleased of course. But when I heard they planned to do a production featuring actors with disabilities of various kinds, that will actually throw new light on the original story, I became very excited. This is a totally new adventure, and really does refer back to my original story in which a young man, disabled by extreme trauma, finds his way to some kind of spiritual place because he can FEEL music. I can’t wait to see it.”

The Who’s Tommy is an iconic rock opera which has entertained and intrigued audiences for more than 40 years. The original concept album composed by Pete Townshend was the fourth album released by the band in 1969. The rock opera was then resurrected through various media including an orchestral version by Lou Reizner in 1972, a film in 1975 with a star studded cast including the likes of Tina Turner, Elton John and the band members themselves, before coming to the stage at the Queen’s Theatre in 1979. The Broadway revival in 1992 won various awards including five Tony awards and a Grammy for Best Musical Show Album.

Ramps On The Moon is a consortium of seven major theatre companies committed to putting Deaf and disabled artists and audiences at the centre of their work; to accelerate positive change, explore opportunities and stimulate awareness of disability issues within arts and culture. The project is supported by public funding through the Arts Council’s Strategic Touring programme – the largest award of its kind. The consortium venues are New Wolsey Theatre, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Nottingham Playhouse, Sheffield Theatres, Theatre Royal Stratford East and Graeae Theatre Company.

After playing the Narrator in the original West End production in 1979, Peter Straker returns to the iconic rock opera as the Acid Queen. Peter Straker is known across TV, theatre and music, starting his career as Hud in the original London production of Hair and notably working with Freddie Mercury on two solo albums. His hit solo show Peter Straker Sings Brel played the Famous Spiegeltent at last year’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Garry Robson takes on the controversial role of Uncle Ernie. One of the most respected names in disability arts with more than thirty years in the industry, Garry Robson is an actor, writer, director, one half of the singing duo Blind Gurl and the Cripz, and is currently Artistic Director at Birds of Paradise. Tommy’s mother, Mrs Walker, will be played by Magic Hands presenter Donna Mullings, and Max Runham (A Pacifist’s Guide to the War on Cancer) takes on the role of Captain Walker. The role of Tommy is taken by William Grint, whose most recent role was as Imogen’s long-lost brother Arviragus in the Globe’s Cymbeline. They’re joined by Amy Trigg as Sally Simpson, Lukus Alexander as Cousin Kevin, Alim Jayda as the Lover, and an ensemble of fourteen performers and musicians.

Click here for more information and to book tickets

Activism & the future of Europe spark a creative response as Transform gets set to present major citywide, international festival

Transform 17
Wed 19 – Sat 22 April 2017

Transform 17, a bold and adventurous programme that celebrates and explores new theatre, comes to Leeds from Wed 19- Sat 22 April. This citywide, international edition is Transform’s most ambitious festival to date.

Mixing pop-culture and performance art, interactive adventures, outdoor activist theatre and large-scale visceral shows created with local people, the programme presents ground-breaking international companies and cutting-edge artists from across the North of England. Bold new works have been inspired by a diverse range of current themes and ideas including activism, community collaboration, the digital age, gender politics, and the future of Europe.

Commissioned and produced by Transform, in association with West Yorkshire Playhouse, lead production The Darkest Corners is a world premiere created by acclaimed physical theatre duo RashDash. Three-time winners of the Fringe First Award in Edinburgh, RashDash – artists Abbi Greenland and Helen Goalen – confront violence against women in their most ambitious work to date. Performed outdoors at a secret Holbeck location, this cabaret rally is inspired by Leeds’s radical activist history and its role as the birthplace of the Reclaim the Night movement 40 years ago, and celebrates stories of resistance from around the world. Featuring live music, vivid physicality and inter-generational community companies, this powerful performance encourages audiences to reclaim the night once again.

At a moment of uncertainty for the UK and its relationship to the European Union, Transform 17 pauses to reflect on Europe itself and its future. During the festival, works by two forward-thinking international companies will be presented at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. machina Ex, a group of Berlin-based media and theatre artists renowned for merging computer gaming, theatre and interactive installation, make their UK debut in Leeds with Lessons of Leaking. Set in 2021, days before the people of Germany vote on leaving an estranged European Union, Lessons of Leaking is an interactive show which asks the audience to make choices between the conflicting priorities of democracy, transparency, freedom of speech and manipulation.

El Conde de Torrefiel, one of the most exciting and provocative theatre companies to emerge from Spain in recent years, brings internationally acclaimed show Guerrilla, to England for the first time. A dark comedy about the awakening of awareness, Guerrilla examines the current generation’s thoughts about Europe and how their underlying anxieties about the future preoccupy their daily lives. This epic, visceral performance will feature over 50 local people on stage, as the action unfolds in a dystopian future in three different cities including Leeds.

The diverse programme also includes the world premiere of The Believers are but Brothers from Bradford-based writer and theatre-maker Javaad Alipoor, ambitious new work The Missy Elliott Project by artist and performer Selina Thompson, Mother Load performed by Yorkshire-based Grace Surman with her daughter at Yorkshire Dance, plus introducing new Leeds-based artists Sasha Foyster & Grace Hargreaves, winners of last year’s Lift Off and Transform Award.

Transform 17 is produced by Transform, in partnership with West Yorkshire Playhouse and citywide organisations. The programme is supported using public funding from the National Lottery through Arts Council England. The festival is also supported by Leeds 2023, the city’s bid for the European Capital of Culture.

The official Box Office provider is West Yorkshire Playhouse.

For more information on Transform 17 click below to download the brochure


Click here to book tickets

Landmark Playhouse proposals to go before planning chiefs

Proposals to transform and modernise the West Yorkshire Playhouse through a landmark refurbishment project will go before the city’s senior planning officials.

Members of Leeds City Council’s city plans panel will consider initial proposals for a multi-million pound revamp of the popular Leeds theatre at a meeting next week.

The plans, submitted by Leeds City Council with support from the Playhouse, will deliver improved access to the theatre, a new city-facing entrance and the addition of a new studio theatre space in the Rock Void.

Next week’s meeting will see members receive a pre-application report, providing further details on how the final designs and plans will look ahead of a full planning application being considered later this year.

Last year the council appointed award-winning Page \ Park Architects to lead on the designs for the theatre revamp.

The architects have previously designed improvements for The Centre for Contemporary Arts and the Theatre Royal in Glasgow and Eden Court Theatre in Inverness.

West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Executive Director Robin Hawkes added:

“These plans mark the next step in the Playhouse’s evolution towards becoming the 21st Century theatre that Leeds deserves.
We have a vision for an inspiring and fully accessible building which stands proudly in the City’s prestigious Quarry Hill cultural quarter and complements and enhances the experience of seeing work here.

Leeds has never been richer and more diverse in the scale and nature of its theatre and dance scene and the Playhouse is committed to supporting and showcasing the best the City has to offer towards 2023 and beyond.”

This latest step follows the council’s successful initial application to Arts Council England (ACE) which was followed by an invitation to now make a further application for a grant of £6.3m towards the cost of the project.

If the stage two application is successful, construction work will begin on site in 2018.

The project is expected to see the council commit £3.5m towards the cost of the refurbishment of the theatre building when the proposals are presented to the council’s Executive Board in June 2017.

Click here for our Redevelopment page


West Yorkshire Playhouse awarded £99,950 grant to develop Festival of Theatre and Dementia

West Yorkshire Playhouse, the UK’s foremost dementia friendly theatre having introduced the world’s first dementia friendly performance, has been awarded £99,950 from Arts Council England National Lottery funding to produce a Festival of Theatre and Dementia.

Exploring the experience of living with dementia through creative activity, the Festival will create new opportunities for older people living with dementia, collaborating with them as curators and performers.

People living with dementia will play integral roles in the shaping of the Festival, including its events and performances and how it reaches different communities in and around Leeds, and West Yorkshire and beyond.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director, James Brining, said:

We’re incredibly proud to develop our Festival of Theatre and Dementia, which will support people living with dementia to contribute creatively at every level of planning, curating and hosting, ensuring that it is relevant and respectful to people living with the condition.

This award builds on our reputation as the UK’s foremost dementia friendly theatre having introduced the world’s first dementia friendly performance in 2014, and producing our dementia friendly performance Best Practice guide in 2016, sharing our expertise on staging dementia friendly performances and regular creative support activities.

The creative arts are a fantastic way of supporting people to express themselves and connect with others, and we are delighted to open up our theatre to people affected by this condition.

West Yorkshire Playhouse Community Development Manager, Nicky Taylor, said:

Through our ongoing creative programme with people living with dementia I have repeatedly been struck by the depth of their contributions which consistently influence and enrich the Playhouse’s creative programme.

We anticipate that the Festival will bring opportunities for discussion and debate about dementia, to challenge stereotypes, and to provide a creative and fun opportunity for people with dementia to explore making and enjoying theatre.

While people with dementia face huge challenges, feeling connected and valued by their community can have an enormous impact on feelings of confidence and self-worth.

West Yorkshire Playhouse will be working in partnership with non-arts partners and collaborating with visiting arts companies to deliver the Festival. This will include joining forces with education organisations on research and practice as well as dementia care programmes, consultancies and steering groups.

The Festival will address many perspectives on dementia; from care providers to families, children and young people, academics and most importantly people living with dementia.

Bob Fulcher, who participates in West Yorkshire Playhouse’s programme of activities said:

When I was diagnosed with dementia I thought my life was over, but taking part in all the creative activities at the Playhouse has been brilliant. My life is actually better now than before I had dementia, because I’m taking opportunities and meeting people. My life is good.

The Festival programme itself will offer a range of opportunities to engage, discuss and learn about what dementia means to us in today’s society, as well as a range of theatre productions. It will include workshops to engage care staff, families affected by dementia and artists making work about dementia; participatory sessions to engage people living with dementia creatively; panel events and discussions focussing on specific aspects of dementia; exhibitions documenting the creation of the festival; and dementia friendly training opportunities for care staff and families to support the creativity of people with dementia.

The Festival will also include a new commission of a full length play, as well as three short plays created by people with dementia, which will be performed at the Playhouse before touring to care homes.

West Yorkshire Playhouse pioneered dementia friendly performances, staging the world’s first dementia friendly performance in 2014. The Playhouse’s innovative approach has been recognised with national awards from the Alzheimer’s Society and National Dementia Care Awards. Most recently, the Playhouse presented the Strictly Ballroom The Musical dementia friendly performance in January to over 450 attendees, as well as sharing its model with other UK theatres to encourage the development of a national movement of dementia friendly performances.

The grant will enable the Playhouse to continue to develop its work with people living with dementia, as well as develop new partnerships with both arts and non-arts organisations and relationships within the community.

Click here for more information

Casting announced for The Graduate

Catherine McCormack and Jack Monaghan will lead the cast of The Graduate, opening on Friday 28 April at West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Directed by Lucy Bailey (Great ExpectationsThe Postman Always Rings Twice, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Taming of the Shrew, RSC, Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare’s Globe) The Graduate is a co-production by West Yorkshire Playhouse and Curve in association with Simon Friend and Gavin Kalin Productions.*1

In 1960’s suburban California, an educated young man finds himself disillusioned by the world of aspiration and money that his parents have prepared him for. An illicit encounter with a married woman twice his age plunges him into a world of sensual hedonistic delight and sets them both on a thrillingly destructive course.

Lucy Bailey said: “The Graduate is a satire on the values and life style of middle class suburban America. The world seen through Benjamin’s eyes is a heightened surreal version of reality, at times grotesques and absurd. It’s a coming of age play – painfully funny and deeply human.”

Catherine McCormack, playing Mrs Robinson, has worked extensively in film, television and theatre. She is best known for her starring roles in the multiple Academy Award-winning film Braveheart with Mel Gibson, and Spy Game with Brad Pitt, as well as receiving an Olivier Award nomination for her role in All My Sons at the National Theatre, alongside Julie Walters.

Starring opposite her is Jack Monaghan as Benjamin, who has played the lead role in the record-breaking West End production of War Horse, as well as featuring in Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror and Richard Curtis’ film About Time.

The Graduate is adapted by Terry Johnson, based on the novel by Charles Webb and the motion picture screenplay by Calder Willingham & Buck Henry by special arrangement with StudioCanal.

*1 by special arrangement with StudioCanal. Originally Produced on the London & Broadway Stage by John Reid & Sacha Brooks

Click here for more information and to book tickets

Amy Leach appointed as new Associate Director of West Yorkshire Playhouse

Amy Leach will join West Yorkshire Playhouse as its new Associate Director from March 2017.

Amy has a long standing relationship with the Playhouse and directed Kes in the Courtyard Theatre in 2016, which then went on a community tour of the city to non-theatre venues, as well as The Night Before Christmas and Little Sure Shot in 2015.

Amy is currently directing a major production of Romeo and Juliet in the Quarry Theatre at the Playhouse which opens on Friday 3 March, running until Saturday 25 March.

West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Artistic Director James Brining said: “Amy Leach has already created a series of brilliant shows for audiences in Leeds both at the Playhouse and on tour.
She has an excellent track record of creating acclaimed and accessible, powerful productions and she will be a huge asset to the Playhouse as we enter the next chapter of our exciting history.

Amy Leach said: “I am absolutely delighted to be joining the Playhouse – a theatre which I have loved for over 20 years. It is a fantastic organisation with wonderful audiences, and I look forward to joining James Brining and Robin Hawkes and their brilliant team to tell incredible stories, with and for the communities of Leeds and Yorkshire in the coming years.

Amy grew up in Darwen, Lancashire and studied English at Durham University. Amy co-founded the award winning theatre company for young people, en masse, and her recent directing credits include: The Borrowers for the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff; Wonderman for National Theatre Wales, Wales Millennium Centre & Gagglebabble; The Caucasian Chalk Circle for The Unicorn, London.

Click here to book tickets for Romeo & Juliet

Playhouse Writer In Residence shortlisted for prestigious international award

Charley Miles
is currently Writer In Residence at West Yorkshire Playhouse after she was awarded a Channel 4 Playwrights’ Scheme Bursary and Blackthorn was developed by the Playhouse and performed in its Autumn/Winter season 2016.

Charley Miles from Kilburn, North Yorkshire, has been nominated for major international playwriting award, the US’s Susan Smith Blackburn prize, for her debut play, Blackthorn.

The Susan Smith Blackburn prize was set up in the US in 1978 to recognize outstanding work by female playwrights; notable previous winners include Caryl Churchill and Timberlake Wertenbaker.

James Brining, Artistic Director at West Yorkshire Playhouse said: “We are thrilled that Charley’s extraordinary talent and unique voice from the North of England has been recognised on a now international level.

As a major producing theatre in Yorkshire, the Playhouse has an urgent role to play in supporting the emerging generation of local talent– which is precisely why we offer and invest in writing and directing development schemes, such as the scriptwriting scheme that drew Charley to us in 2015.

Susan Smith Blackburn prize nominee Charley Miles said: “It’s such an honour to join the ranks of so many incredible female playwrights as a finalist for this prestigious prize.

Writing Blackthorn was very much a meditation on home and belonging, but my hope was always that the script would resonate far beyond. It brings me such pride to see it featured among plays by women across the English speaking world and for my play about a tiny Yorkshire farming village to reach so far beyond itself.

Recent nominees for the Susan Smith Blackburn prize include Lucy Kirkwood for Chimerica, Phoebe Waller-Bridge for Fleabag and former Writer In Residence at West Yorkshire Playhouse, Zodwa Nyoni for Boi Boi Is Dead.

Charley Miles first submitted a script to the Playhouse in 2015 before taking part in Playwrights 1, an 8 week introductory course to explore the craft of writing for live performance in 2016. Her debut play, Blackthorn was developed by the Playhouse and performed in its Autumn/Winter season 2016.

To find out more about Playwrights and New Writing click here

This Theatre has the support of the Channel 4 Playwrights’ Scheme sponsored by Channel 4 Television.

Pygmalion Rehearsal Diary – Final Week

By Natasha Hyman, Assistant Director

Tech week! On Saturday we ended our fourth week with a run, and various producers and artistic directors from Headlong, Nuffield and West Yorkshire Playhouse attended. This was the first time we had shared the entirety of the piece with an audience. It was daunting but also exciting to share the work and get some feedback.

We then spent the first two days of this week in the rehearsal room, working on sections before getting into the theatre. There were a few changes that Sam Pritchard (Director) wanted to make following the Saturday run, including some changes to Acts One and Two. One of these changes included taking our sonic experiment to the next level in Act One – we found some more opportunities where we could alter voices to challenge the audience further.

While we were doing this, the set was being put together in the space by the technical staff at the Playhouse, and our sound, lighting and audiovisuals were being set up – rigging and tweaking gear in preparation to begin tech on Wednesday morning.

Our technical rehearsal has taken a general shape of putting a draft version on each Act and then going back over it with a finer brush to find the detail in moments. As I write we are going back over Act One, fine-tuning how the lighting clarifies the concept, and solidifying the actors’ physical blocking.

Much of this stage of the process involves making sure that the concept takes the audience on a clear journey. We need to make sure that every part of the production (the design, lighting, sound and AV) contributes to this structure and are all working to together to deliver a clear idea.

Alex Lowde has been making tweaks to costume and dressing the set to find the right choices for the world. We’ve got a fair number of costume changes in this show –I counted six changes for Eliza alone. Everyone is looking pretty stylish; Alex has chosen a language of branding and trend to translate class differences and aspiration to the modern-day.

We’ve also been enjoying having our glass box. It’s pretty spectacular, and involves a team of highly efficient stage managers to move it on and off-stage in the transitions. Both our glass box and our sound booth are relatively soundproof which can make communicating with actors during tech a slight challenge…! Working on our set makes it clear that the stage environment supports the sonic journey at the heart of our production.

I’m looking forward to our first dress rehearsal this evening, and seeing how an audience will respond to this robust modern take on Pygmalion.

Introducing Transform 17 – A festival of bold, local and international theatre

Introducing Transform 17
A festival of bold, local and international theatre

Transform is back with their most ambitious festival yet, and very first citywide, international edition.
Coursing through theatres, arts venues and outdoor spaces, Transform 17 explores everything from activism, community collaboration, the digital age, gender politics, and the future of Europe.

Between 19 – 22 April, bold performance by local and international artists, conversations and parties will unfold across 8 locations in Leeds, from West Yorkshire Playhouse and Yorkshire Dance to the West Indian Centre, a secret location in Holbeck and more.

All ticked shows can be booked from West Yorkshire Playhouse, the official box office provider. Head to to find out more about Transform 17 including free events and ways to get involved.

For more information on Transform 17 click below to download the brochure.

Pygmalion Rehearsal Diary Week 4

By Natasha Hyman, Assistant Director

We began this week with a move up North for our final full week of rehearsals before we go into tech and then open at West Yorkshire Playhouse. The show has come together in its entirety this week, and director Sam Pritchard has been focusing on the heightened physical language of the piece and the technical journey.

We have had video designer Will Duke, lighting designer Jack Knowles and sound designer Max Ringham in the room with us at points throughout the week to ensure a consistent language across all aspects of the production. We are now able to see the filmed sequences from our shoot last week, and we are projecting these onto the wall of the rehearsal room, which allows us to fully understand how the video works in relation with the stage action. It’s imperative that we practice this to make sure that both the actors and stage management are familiar with the way this interaction works.

We have been perfecting our Act 1 sound experiment, which involves tight choreography and very specific notes, as well as a number of re-records of the voices of cast and non-cast to ensure consistency in the sound quality. Max and sound operator Matt Russell have been working on the sound desk that Higgins and Pickering manipulate onstage in Act 2. These sounds are created from cast recordings (see the trailer for a sense of this),which can then be modulated using the desk. We’ve been practicing this to make sure that the onstage queues work effectively and in time with offstage sound queues.

We have been speaking about the different flavour of each act, and this is clarifying as rehearsals progress. We’ve been pushing the heightened language of the piece, as well as the contemporary references. The first act is almost like a cartoon, and as the play moves forward the heightened language strips away to make space for the dissection of the issues in the play.

Next week we are doing our last piece of filming and we start tech on Wednesday!

Click here for more info and to book tickets

Casting Call for ODE TO LEEDS


West Yorkshire Playhouse is looking for you for its new show
By Zodwa Nyoni
Directed by James Brining, Artistic Director of West Yorkshire Playhouse

West Yorkshire Playhouse is running open auditions to meet exciting young artists from West Yorkshire, to act in its new production Ode to Leeds.

The show tells the story of five young poets from Leeds, who are selected to compete at the world’s most prestigious international poetry slam competition in New York City. Fuelled by love, pride and passionate protest their words light fires to show the world who they are and what they can be.

We’re keen to hear from people from all backgrounds and experiences; both from those with acting experience and those without. Whether you’re taking part in open mic nights, competing in hip hop battles, busking on corners or just writing poetry in your bedroom, we want to hear from you.

If you’re interested and have left school, have a look at the characters we’re looking to find below.

All the characters are between 14 and 18 years old; you need to look like you could be in that age bracket. All characters speak with a Leeds accent. If you think that sounds like you, then get in touch.

  • DARCY: Black Caribbean descent (Jamaican), poet and singer.
  • QUEENIE: Nigerian descent, poet and beatboxer.
  • THEO: Mixed-race (St. Kitts and English), poet.
  • DEVIKA: Bangladeshi descent, poet.
  • MACK: White-British, poet and MC.

If you were successful it would be a big commitment and a paid opportunity. You would need to be available to rehearse during the day between the 8 May and 10 June, and to perform between the 10 June and 1 July 2017. All rehearsals and performances will take place at West Yorkshire Playhouse.


  • Saturday 4 February: 10am – 6pm, West Yorkshire Playhouse
  • Monday 6 February: 6pm – 9pm, West Yorkshire Playhouse

If selected for an audition, we’d like you to perform one of your own pieces or choose another piece of poetry to perform, and read a few pages from the play sent to you in advance.

To apply please send a photograph of yourself and a completed application form to

Click here to download the application form

To book tickets for Ode To Leeds click here

Pygmalion Rehearsal Diary Week 3

Pygmalion’s Assistant Director, Natasha Hyman, gives us an insight into week 3 of rehearsals.

This week in ‘Pygmalion-land’ we have been looking at the filmed sequences in the show. Bernard Shaw wrote a number of these extra scenes, which were incorporated into the 1939 film version. For example, we see Eliza in a taxi, in her bedroom, and later, at a ball. Shaw writes that ‘a complete representation of the play as printed for the first time in this edition is technically possible only on the cinema screen or on stages furnished with exceptionally elaborate machinery.’ Sam’s vision, working alongside video designer Will Duke and film director Geej Ower, is for us to see these scenes via a series of filmed interludes between acts, projected onto the set.

To create this material for the show, we spent a day filming with Greatcoat productions in different locations around London. This included a bedsit in Earls Court, which was turned into Eliza’s bedroom at the start of the play, and location near Pall Mall to provide the outside of Henry Higgins’ house and the ball that Pickering and Higgins take Eliza to before Act 4. It was refreshing to spend a day out of the rehearsal room in a completely different environment. Geej worked closely alongside Sam to craft these interludes, navigating the audience’s relationship between the filmed material and the stage action.

Usually, costumes wouldn’t need to be signed off sometimes until as late as press night. A challenge that arose from filming is that this process had to be significantly speeded up for the characters involved. While it added some pressure, it was also great for the actors concerned to have a sense of their costumes at this early stage, as it helps them to build a picture of their character. Alex Lowde, our designer, has been in conversation with the actors in one-on-one sessions in the past weeks, giving them space to input their ideas; the result is that the costumes feel that they have grown out of the conversations happening in the rehearsal room.

Another feature of this week has been the arrival of some crucial bits of technology into the room. We now have the ability for the actors to manipulate each other’s voices onstage. Particularly, we’ve been looking at how Higgins manipulates Eliza’s voice in Act 2. The technology allows us to be really playful with the human voice, to surprise the audience and (hopefully) to provide some comedy.

Each of the five acts has a very different colour and texture, providing different angles on the conversation around voice, language and class. For example, Act 3 hones in on language as a social tool, and sits in contrast to Act 4, which illustrates how language carries emotion. It’s interesting to see how the play morphs in this way, and can hold the changing ways in which the audience is asked to engage with the action.

This weekend we move to Leeds for our final week of rehearsals before tech, where we open the show and where our set is being built … Goodbye Jerwood Space and hello West Yorkshire Playhouse!

For more information and to book click here

The Playhouse’s pioneering Dementia Friendly performances on BBC news

The story of a Rothwell couple who attend dementia friendly performances at West Yorkshire Playhouse has been told on BBC1’s Look North programme.

Tuesday 17 January saw the dementia friendly performance of Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom The Musical, welcoming people living with dementia and their friends and family to experience an adapted performance where audience members are sensitively supported.

Throughout the day, BBC Look North followed the journey of Peter, who lives with dementia, and his wife Nancy. The camera followed the pair as they left home, arrived at the Playhouse and attended a pre-show singing session with some of the Strictly Ballroom The Musical cast members.

For people living with dementia, singing sessions can enhance their experience by encouraging them to engage with the music of a performance. The camera caught Nancy and Peter singing recognisable songs from the show including Love Is in the Air, Happy Feet, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps and Time After Time before following them into the auditorium to share the buzz of anticipation with other audience members as they waited for the show to start.

Dementia friendly performances were innovated by West Yorkshire Playhouse, with White Christmas being the first performance adapted to meet the needs of people living with dementia in 2014.

The Strictly Ballroom The Musical dementia friendly performance adaptions included rebalancing sound and lighting levels in consultation with people living with dementia, and the cast paying particular attention to the pace and clarity of storytelling. A meet and greet with cast and audience members after to the show enabled people to share their own experiences of music, dance and theatre.

Nicky Taylor, the Playhouse’s Community Development Manager, said “Many people with dementia have spent a lifetime attending theatre, concerts and music halls. A diagnosis of dementia can reduce confidence and increase isolation, leaving people with dementia and their supporters less likely to attempt such trips. Our aspiration is to increase opportunities for people living with dementia to access life-enhancing shows, reconnecting them to their local cultural venues and their communities.

Talking about the positives of living with dementia, Peter and Nancy said “We have lots of lovely friends and get out so much. Our life is different – but it’s a full life and a rich life.

Another audience member explained why this was an important day for her family: “Things have been difficult and so the opportunity to spend an afternoon at the theatre brought us so much joy. My husband loved the show – meeting the fabulous cast after was the cherry on the cake. I really appreciate them doing that for all of us, it made it so special. Having a dementia friendly performance took so much anxiety and pressure off me, and we all were able to relax and enjoy the performance.


Our access partner Irwin Mitchell sponsor accessible performances. Elinor Gilles of Irwin Mitchell joined us for our Strictly Ballroom the Musical dementia friendly performance and pre-show singing session.

Click here for more information

Star-crossed lovers awaken in contemporary, urban Verona for epic Northern production of Romeo & Juliet

By William Shakespeare
Director Amy Leach
Designer Hayley Grindle

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Quarry Theatre
Press Night Wed 8 March, 7.30pm
Friday 3 March – Saturday 25 March 2017

West Yorkshire Playhouse transports Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy to a modern-day city for its first major production of 2017 in the Quarry Theatre.

Directed by Amy Leach (Kes, The Night Before Christmas, Little Sure Shot, West Yorkshire Playhouse) this fresh new staging captures the impact of raging intergenerational conflict and social unrest in a sharply resonant present-day setting.

West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Artistic Director James Brining said:
Our Romeo and Juliet is a love story for 2017 – set in a pulsating, contemporary city where two communities live side-by-side, divided by hatred.

Our staging of this 400-year old play asks the audience to reflect on how we live together in the present moment; particularly as the UK goes about exiting the European Union.

Our productions are created in close partnership with our community work. Alongside the professional cast of the show, we’ve recruited a large community chorus from the theatre’s programme of activities for young people, including First Floor and Youth Theatre. This Young Company are integral to the production. There will also be a programme of school workshops around West Yorkshire run by our Creative Engagement team.

We want to inspire the next generation to fall in love with Shakespeare and to create a resonant and arresting re-telling for those already familiar with this classic work.”

Director of Romeo & Juliet, Amy Leach said:
My first visit to the West Yorkshire Playhouse was over twenty years ago to see Romeo and Juliet as a young teenager, and it’s a story I’ve loved ever since. No play captures the headiness of young love, passion and fury better than this, and I want to create a production that’s rooted in Leeds, inspired by the people and places I’ve known both as a young person growing up in the North and as a professional Director.

Over the last year, I’ve had the pleasure to direct the Community Tour of Kes for the Playhouse as well as working with the brilliant young people who attend the Youth Theatre and First Floor. Our production of Romeo and Juliet is inspired by these young people and by the communities of Leeds, and I’m delighted that our Young Company will play such a significant role at the heart of this production.

Romeo and Juliet is a play about the division between two families and asks us all how we define and divide ourselves both in this city, the country and the world. I am thrilled to be creating a fresh, visceral and emotional Romeo and Juliet for this time and place.

The role of Romeo will be played by Dan Parr. Dan’s theatre credits include The Kitchen Sink, New Vic Theatre, and Hamlet, Barbican. Dan also starred as Billy in West Yorkshire Playhouse’s 2016 production of Kes.

Tessa Parr will star as Juliet. Her most recent theatre credits include Unlimited Theatre’s Playdough and Live Theatre’s The Soaking of Vera Shrimp. Tessa also starred as Dorothy in Northern Stage’s 2015 production of Wizard of Oz.

Starring alongside them is TV star Natalie Anderson as Lady Capulet. Natalie is best known for her role as Alicia in Emmerdale, and has also starred in Wicked on the West End.

Joining them are Jack Lord as Lord Capulet (The Mist in the Mirror, Oldham Coliseum and Rock of Ages, ATG Productions), Keiran Flynn as Montague (War Horse, National Theatre), Jeff Alexander as Prince (Words, Bristol Old Vic), Ciaran Kellgren as Paris (Kicking and Screaming, Tangled Feet), Susan Cookson as Nurse (Big Talk for ITV’s Cold Feet), Tachia Newall as Tybalt/Apothecary (Come Closer: Speak What You Feel, Royal Exchange Theatre), Elexi Walker as Mercutio (Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles, York Theatre Royal), Olwen May as Friar (Richard III, West Yorkshire Playhouse) and Lawrence Walker as Benvolio (My Mother Medea, Unicorn Theatre, and the BBC’s Our Girl).

Click here for more information and to book tickets

Pygmalion Rehearsal Diary Week 2

Pygmalion’s Assistant Director, Natasha Hyman, gives us an insight into week 2 of rehearsals.

“We started week two of Pygmalion rehearsals with a much-anticipated visit from Bronwen Evans, an academic expert in phonetics (or a modern day Henry Higgins, if you like…) Bronwen spoke to us about her research into how accents change over a lifetime. She explained that our voices often contain ‘features’ of the accents we encounter so they are rarely ‘pure’ accents, and that our life choices and ambitions can shape the way we speak. We discussed the feasibility of the Eliza experiment; she thought it would be difficult for someone’s voice to be altered so drastically in the time frame, but that an incredibly controlled environment would aid that process. It was valuable to gain insight from someone with an academic and scientific relationship to the voice.

For the rest of the week we spent most of our time putting a general shape onto each act, and we now have a rough blocking for nearly the whole play. Sam Pritchard (Director) uses a technique whereby we record the actors speaking their lines for each act, and we then play out a version of the scene with the cast listening to their recorded lines on the speaker. This gives the actors the freedom to move in the space without being hampered by their scripts. It enables us to play games to help unlock the structure of the scene and to crack the relationships between characters. The result is that we see the overall shape of each act more quickly, so that I feel like I have a growing sense of how the production works as a whole.

The most challenging and unusual part of this week has been introducing sonic experimentation into the room, and in particular, the mediation of voice in the first act. We are creating a tightly choreographed sequence, which involves us working with sound designer, Max Ringham, and sound operator, Matt Russell, in the rehearsal room to map a range of different voices from around the UK. The discoveries we have been making around this section have thrown issues around class and voice into sharp relief. I’m looking forward to seeing how all this work beds in and fits with the rest of the production.

We’ve been creating some improvisations to continue to explore character relationships, through looking at scenes that might have happened outside of the play’s action. In particular, we’re increasingly finding that the practice of changing someone’s speech is an incredibly intimate process, as our voices are closely tied up with our personalities. We have discovered that Higgins’ experimentation can be incredibly invasive and uncomfortable both for the person concerned and for an audience.

Next week we will continue to go into detail with each act, and to exploit the possibilities that the environment gives us. We are also spending some of next week filming the interludes, which will be projected onto the set in between the acts. Over and out.”

For more information and to book click here

Pygmalion Rehearsal Diary Week 1

Pygmalion’s Assistant Director, Natasha Hyman, gives us an exclusive first look at rehearsals for the eagerly awaited production.

“There’s something equally exciting and daunting about a first day. This is amplified when you have staff from three companies in the same room; Pygmalion is being co-produced by Headlong, West Yorkshire Playhouse and Nuffield Southampton Theatres – where we end the tour in May. This meant we had a pretty crowded room for our first meet-and-greet. There was a buzz in the air – a general sense of expectation and belief in this radical interpretation of a classic text.

The Pygmalion story has had many incarnations, ranging from the well-known My Fair Lady to a Simpsons episode (I kid you not). It’s a classic transformation tale whose name stems from a Greek myth, but it’s also an ideas play that asks pertinent and uncomfortable questions about class and accent. Though originally written in 1913, our version is set in ‘Pygmalion-land’ – a hybrid of our world, Shaw’s world, and a heightened theatrical space. The most striking aspect of this is the modern technology that will be used to shift and upend the way in which we receive the voices of the actors.

This week we have been spending time collecting research and sharing personal experiences. On our first day we created an ‘accent map’ of our own voices, to navigate how the places we have lived and the voices we have been surrounded by has shaped the way we speak. Our far-ranging conversations painted a picture of a country not dissimilar to that which Shaw depicts at the turn of the 20th Century. In the UK today there is still a perceived hierarchy of voices, reflecting our ingrained class system. A particularly relevant quote for us is Richard Hoggart’s “Each decade we shiftily declare we have buried class; each decade the coffin stays empty”. 

As part of the manipulation of voices in the play, the associate director Caitriona Shoobridge and I have been spending time gathering a diverse range of voices from across the UK. We have been approaching community groups of non-performers, and recorded them reading lines from the play. It has already been really interesting for us to see the words of the play spoken in so many different ways, lending new interpretations to the text that we hadn’t thought of. I write this on a train to Leeds to gather more recordings from members of community groups at the Playhouse, as well as Leeds University students, and next week we will be playing with some of these gathered sounds in the room.

As is often the case, our first week has focused around working out what the text gives us for free, identifying the questions we need to find answers to, and making some informed working theories. Doing this has made us aware that there are a fair amount of blanks in the play that need to be filled, particularly character and relationship choices. After reading each act we set up some hypothetical situations between different characters in the play. For example, we spent most of a morning improvising scenes where different imagined patients arrived at Higgins’ laboratory to receive his phonetics expertise. We explored the various techniques that Higgins, Pickering and Mrs. Pearce might employ on these patients to alter the way they speak.

Next week I imagine we will continue to explore the production in this playful and inquisitive way, and we will introduce technology into the room. I’m particularly excited to see (hear) how the sound design is going to work.

More anon. ”

For more information and to book click here

Due to popular demand – extra performance of Strictly Ballroom The Musical in Leeds added next Tuesday 10 January

Due to popular demand, West Yorkshire Playhouse is now adding an extra performance of STRICTLY BALLROOM THE MUSICAL on Tuesday 10 January, 7:30pm.

This will also be a Relaxed Performance, which means that there will be a slight reduction in sound levels. Relaxed Performances also offer a relaxed attitude to audience members who may need to make some movements about the auditorium and involuntary noises.

West Yorkshire Playhouse pioneered Relaxed Performances in the UK and now has a committed staff team who work on each show to make the experience as enjoyable and relaxed as possible for all who attend.

The Playhouse’s production of STRICTLY BALLROOM THE MUSICAL is celebrating 25 years since the release of Baz Luhrmann’s original 1992 cult smash film.

A quarter of a century on since the film inspired the world to dance, the stage musical has audiences dancing in the aisles.

The film Strictly Ballroom is the inspiring story of a championship ballroom dancer who defies the rules to follow his heart.

It was discovered at the Cannes Film Festival, where it was the winner of the Prix de Jeunnesse and runner up for the Palme D’Or. Released in the UK in 1992, it won three 1993 BAFTA awards, alongside eight more nominations.

Upon release in Australia, the movie swept the field at the 1992 Australian Film Institute (AFI) Awards, gaining 13 nominations and winning in eight major categories. It also received a 1994 Golden Globe nomination for Best Picture, and eventually went on to become one of the most successful Australian films of all time, earning more than $80 million at the box office.

The stage production STRICTLY BALLROOM THE MUSICAL has never been produced in the UK before and runs at West Yorkshire Playhouse until Saturday 21 Jan, giving audiences one last chance to experience it before it heads across the pond to Toronto.

For those who are missing the weekly glamour of the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing, STRICTLY BALLROOM THE MUSICAL sizzles with rhumba, flamenco and ballroom waltzes, finished with spectacular costumes.

With 208,000 hand crafted diamantes and 745 metres of coloured ostrich feathers – more than double the height of Yorkshire (and the UK’s) tallest building, the Emley Moor Transmitting Station – the costumes are certainly show-stopping.

Designed by Catherine Martin, whose costume designs for the Baz Luhrmann blockbusters The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge! earned her a total of four Academy Awards, the production is in-keeping with Baz Luhrmann’s trademark touch for the opulent.

Directed and choreographed by Drew McOnie (whose brilliant choreography for In The Heights has just earned him the 2016 Olivier Award), STRICTLY BALLROOM THE MUSICAL features break-into-song numbers such as Love is in the Air, Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps and Time After Time, as well as several wonderful new songs by internationally acclaimed artists including Sia, David Foster and Eddie Perfect.

Click here to book tickets

Click here for more information on Relaxed Performances

Pygmalion Cast Announcement


By Bernard Shaw
Directed by Sam Pritchard
Designed by Alex Lowde
Sound Design by Ben and Max Ringham
Lighting by Jack Knowles
Projection designs by Will Duke

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Courtyard Theatre
Press Night Wed 8 February, 7.45pm
Saturday 4 – Saturday 25 February 2017

‘The science of speech. That’s my profession. I can place any man within six miles. I can place him within two miles in London. Sometimes within two streets.’

How far do accents define us? Is status still dictated by our mother tongue?

Sam Pritchard directs a radical new staging of Bernard Shaw’s acute comedy Pygmalion, a hilarious and poignant tale of two opposites, Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle, trying to find a common language.

Pygmalion is a co-production between West Yorkshire Playhouse, Headlong and Nuffield Southampton Theatres. It will open to press in Leeds before travelling to Warwick, Liverpool, Leicester, Cheltenham, Bath, Oxford, and finishing at the Nuffield Southampton Theatres.

The full cast is Alex Beckett (Henry Higgins), Ian Burfield (Alfred Doolittle), Gavi Singh Chera (Freddy Eynsford Hill), Flaminia Cinque (Mrs Pearce/Mrs Eynsford-Hill), Natalie Gavin (Eliza Doolittle), Racheal Ofori (Clara Eynsford-Hill), Liza Sadovy (Mrs Higgins), Raphael Sowole (Colonel Pickering).

Natalie Gavin who plays Eliza trained in Drama at Huddersfield University, while Ian Burfield who plays Alfred Doolittle performed as Magwitch in Great Expectations at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2016.

Shaw’s celebrated play was first staged over 100 years ago and is recognised as one of the most enduring and perceptive of comedies. In this audacious new staging, Sam Pritchard playfully carves a contemporary world on stage using sound and video technology which examines class identity and questions how far accents and speech can define us in Britain today.

Sam Pritchard is the Associate Director (International) at the Royal Court and was winner of the JMK Award for Directors in 2012.  His credits include Anna (Aix Opera Festival/ENOA Workshop), There Has Possibly Been An Incident (Royal Exchange and Edinburgh St Stephens/Soho Theatre/Berlin Theatertreffen), Buy Nothing Day (Company of Angels), Fireface (Young Vic) and Galka Motalka (Royal Exchange).  He will be directing Guillermo Calderon’s play B  for the Royal Court in September 2017.

Pygmalion continues Headlong’s progressive work with emerging directors, giving a director in the early stages of their career the opportunity to present work on main stages across the country. This programme has previously supported work from Simon Godwin, Natalie Abrahami, Robert Icke, Blanche McIntyre, Ben Kidd and Ellen McDougall. This is the third year that West Yorkshire Playhouse has partnered with Headlong, following their acclaimed co-productions of Spring Awakening in 2014 and The Glass Menagerie in 2015.

Natalie Gavin plays Eliza.  Natalie is a well-known actress from stage and screen.  Her theatre credits include Mermaid (Shared Experience/Tour), Bracken Moor (Tricycle), The Crucible (Old Vic) and Shirley (Hope Mill Theatre).  Her many television roles include Jericho (ITV), The Syndicate (BBC), Prisoners Wives (BBC), The Chase (BBC) and Shameless (Channel 4). Film credits include Hector, Jasmine and The Arbor.

Alex Beckett plays Henry Higgins.  Alex’s stage credits include Edward II (National Theatre), Praxis Makes Perfect (National Theatre of Wales), The Changeling (Young Vic), Life for Beginners (Theatre 503), Here (Rose Theatre Kingston) and Much Ado About Nothing (Wyndhams Theatre). Television credits include Love Nina (BBC), Cuffs (BBC), WIA (BBC), I Live With Models (Comedy Central) and Twenty Twelve (BBC).  Radio credits includes Tracks on BBC Radio 4.

Liza Sadovy plays Mrs Higgins. Liza’s stage credits include Wicked (Apollo Theatre), Oliver (Sheffield Theatre), And Then The Dark (New Wolsey), A Separate Reality (Royal Court), Alice in Wonderland (Theatre Royal Northampton), La Bete (Comedy Theatre & Music Box Theatre NY), Annie Get Your Gun (Young Vic), The Good Soul of Szechuan (Young Vic) and Sunday In the Park with George (Wyndham’s Theatre).  Television credits include Babylon, The Honourable Woman, Extras, The Sarah Jane Adventures and Midsomer Murders.

Ian Burfield plays Alfred Doolittle.  Ian’s stage credits include Floyd Collins (Wilton Music Hall), Great Expectations (West Yorkshire Playhouse), All My Sons (Theatre Clwyd) Dealer’s Choice (Royal & Derngate/Oxford Playhouse), One Man Two Guvnors (National Theatre), A Comedy of Errors (National Theatre), The Kitchen (NT) and Major Barbara (NT). Television credits include Holby City (BBC), Humans (Channel 4), Tennison (ITV) and Call the Midwife (BBC). Film credits include The Selfish Giant, V is For Vendetta, The Confession and The Krays.

Flaminia Cinque plays Mrs Pearce/Mrs Eynsford-Hill. Her stage credits include Martyr (Unicorn/ATC), The Winslow Boy (Octagon), Measure for Measure (Almeida), Portrait of a Lady (Peter Hall Company), Push Up (Royal Court) and More Grimm Tales (Young Vic).  Television credits include The Moonstone (BBC), New Tricks (BBC) and Ashes to Ashes (BBC).

Raphael Sowole plays Colonel Pickering. His stage credits include the title role in Hamlet for Black Theatre Live. Measure for Measure (Young Vic), The Calm (RSC), They Drink it in the Congo (Almeida), The Merchant of Venice (Almeida) and Tis Pity She’s A Whore (Cheek by Jowl).  Television credits include Black Mirror Special, Edge of Heaven and Youngers. Film credits include Bastille Day and Starred Up.

Gavi Singh Chera plays Freddy Eynsford Hill. His stage credits include Behind the Beautiful Forevers (National Theatre) and We Are Here (NT).

Racheal Ofori plays Clara Eynsford-Hill. Her stage credits include Romeo and Juliet (Kenneth Brannagh Company), This is Private Property (Camden People’s Theatre), The Merchant of Venice (Shakespeare’s Globe) and Portrait (Camden People’s Theatre and Tour).

Click here for more information and to book tickets