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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to book tickets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to book tickets

Furnace Festival 2017: A kaleidoscopic celebration of new theatre

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

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

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

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

The best new theatre:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Work in development:

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

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

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

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

Workshops and events:

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

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

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

Click here to book tickets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to book tickets

West Yorkshire Playhouse to march hand in hand with Leeds Pride

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

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

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

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

Leeds Pride
Sunday 6 August

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

Summer Sublets 2017

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

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


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

Summer_Sublets_Feature 1

What we offer residents:

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

What we ask for in return:

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

Summer Sublets_Feature3

What we’re looking for:

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

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

How to apply:

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

Find out more about Artist Development at the Playhouse

A far-reaching season comprised exclusively of newly written productions

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

West Yorkshire Playhouse productions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visiting productions

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

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

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

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

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

Furnace Festival (11 – 23 Sept)

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

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

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

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

Furnace Festival full listings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to book tickets

A vibrant and inspiring Refugee Week

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to find out more about Theatre of Sanctuary

West Yorkshire Playhouse shortlisted for top tourism award

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

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

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

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

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

Winners will be announced later this year.

Click here to find out what’s on

A Look Back at 2015/16

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to book tickets

Lyrics and beats hit Leeds streets ahead of new play opening

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to book tickets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to book tickets

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to book tickets for Ode to Leeds

Lifeboat sails into community venues across Leeds

Monday 15 – Saturday 27 May, Community Tour

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for more information

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to book tickets

Playhouse announces dedicated performances to celebrate Refugee Week

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

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

Its Refugee Week programme includes three plays about migration:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here for more information and to book tickets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to book tickets

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 engagement@wyp.org.uk 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