Slam poetry to Shakespeare – incredible stories rooted in the present moment
• Amy Leach (Kes, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Little Sure Shot, West Yorkshire Playhouse, The Caucasian Chalk Circle, The Unicorn) directs Shakespeare’s tragic masterpiece Romeo and Juliet – an extraordinary first love ignites amid a vicious turf war on a modern-day Northern estate
• The Playhouse’s Artistic Director James Brining blends music and spoken word in Ode to Leeds, an uplifting and poignant new play by Zodwa Nyoni (Boi Boi Is Dead, West Yorkshire Playhouse) inspired by the incredible story of the city’s renowned spoken word poetry group, Leeds Young Authors
• A radical new staging of Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion by acclaimed director Sam Pritchard (Fireface, Young Vic, There Has Possibly Been An Incident, Royal Exchange) scrutinises class identity in a digital era
• The world première of Barber Shop Chronicles by rising star Inua Ellams (Black T-Shirt Collection, the National Theatre, The 14th Tale, Fringe First winner) brings the heart and incisive humour of barber shops from Africa and the UK to the Courtyard Theatre in a co-production with the National Theatre and Fuel
• In The Graduate two young people fight against the crushing expectations of their parents in celebrated director Lucy Bailey’s (Great Expectations, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Dial M for Murder, West Yorkshire Playhouse) stylish and darkly comic production
• The Grapes of Wrath is a powerfully contemporary staging of John Steinbeck’s classic American novel adapted by Frank Galati. Director Abbey Wright (The Mentalists, Wyndham’s Theatre, Dublin Carol, Trafalgar Studios) drives urgent questions about justice and equality in the present day
• Lifeboat is the true story of two 15-year-old evacuees shipwrecked at sea and fighting for survival. Directed by Gill Robertson, Catherine Wheels Theatre Company’s production of Lifeboat will also tour to communities across Leeds, continuing the Playhouse’s commitment to reaching audiences city-wide
West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Spring/Summer season brings together the city’s urgent and intimate stories, creating collaborations with exciting and emerging creative talent from across the UK.
Staging fresh new work alongside celebrated classics, each production asks distinct and important questions about the current cultural landscape, as well as the identities and place of the audience in the city and the world.
Next season’s highlights include Quarry Theatre opener, Amy Leach’s Romeo and Juliet. This major new production captures the impact of raging intergenerational conflict and social unrest in a sharply resonant present-day setting.
The season culminates with two pieces of work inspired by young people from the city – Barber Shop Chronicles which is co-produced with the National Theatre and Fuel, and Ode to Leeds, by local playwright, Zodwa Nyoni. Both pieces are colourfully and lyrically told, reflecting both writers’ experience in Leeds.
Artistic Director James Brining said:
“This season is an artistic reflection and response to the narratives, debates and events which are shaping this city, our nation and the world.
We’re exploring moments of discovery of identity, place and voice; moments as proudly distinctive and diverse in their telling as our audiences.
West Yorkshire Playhouse is championing visionary female directors such as Amy Leach, Abbey Wright and Lucy Bailey, we’re co-creating with leading national companies including Headlong and the National Theatre, and most importantly we’re creating a platform for stories from our own streets.
Shakespeare’s classic tale of youthful defiance is transported to contemporary Leeds. A young woman finds her voice in a digitally-charged Pygmalion under the incisive direction of Sam Pritchard, an Associate Director (International) at the Royal Court.
We have stories of self-expression and hope, disempowerment and overcoming. I am thrilled to be directing Zodwa Nyoni’s Ode to Leeds which draws on her formative experiences as a member of Leeds Young Authors. Zodwa is a former Playhouse writer in residence, an emerging local artist with an incredible story and an international talent. Ode to Leeds epitomises our commitment to finding stories from our communities and the artistic journey we take with theatre makers living in Yorkshire.
In parallel with this, the art that we make happens for and with the people of Leeds – through poetry writing workshops for schools, with the involvement of young people in Romeo and Juliet and by performing our work in community venues around the city.
As the redevelopment of the theatre builds momentum, I invite you not just as a member of the audience, but as our partner on a journey to develop and contribute to the future of West Yorkshire Playhouse.”
The Spring/Summer season takes place at a pivotal moment as design plans for the theatre’s redevelopment emerge.
Executive Director Robin Hawkes said:
“Standing proudly opposite the iconic new Victoria Gate, and rooted in the heart of Leeds’ cultural quarter, the Playhouse’s position in the city has never been stronger.
Together with our architects Page\Park and with the support of Leeds City Council, we’re working up designs to create a 21st Century theatre for all our audiences. Having pioneered Relaxed Performances and Dementia Friendly Performances, we now need a building which is both visually inspiring, and helps us realise our ambition to be accessible to all our communities.
We’re passionate about creating world-class theatre in a setting which feels welcoming and exciting. Leeds is poised for significant growth, particularly in relation to culture – and the Playhouse is proud to be an integral part of that.”
West Yorkshire Playhouse productions
Pygmalion (4 – 25 Feb) is a radical new co-production by West Yorkshire Playhouse, Headlong and Nuffield Southampton Theatres exploring one of the most celebrated comedies of the 20th century, Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. In a world where we can be digitally altered within seconds director Sam Pritchard’s fearless new staging interrogates class identity and social mobility in Britain today to ask how much our voices still define who we are.
Romeo and Juliet (3 – 25 March) is transformed in a vibrant new production set against an epic Northern landscape. The hatred within a divided community builds to brutal violence – but in eye of the storm and across the conflict, an all-consuming first love is born. Sworn enemies and sworn troths converge in Amy Leach’s arresting and agonising production.
Barber Studio Programme (30 March – 15 April) The Playhouse is reinstating its temporary studio theatre and packing it full of unmissable new work, looking ahead to the creation of a permanent studio space through our Capital Redevelopment project. Spanning over a fortnight in April, our Barber Studio programme is small in scale and big in ambition, including award-winning shows by leading northern artists and brand new vital theatre, developed right here at the Playhouse.
Transform (19 – 22 April) festival is back and bolder than ever. Across four days in April, Leeds comes alive with extraordinary shows and ideas by adventurous artists from around the world who are investigating what the future holds and reinventing it. Transform 17, takes place at the Playhouse and venues across the city.
The Graduate (28 April – 27 May) is the story of two young people with their lives ahead of them – but their ‘bright futures’ ring utterly hollow. An illicit encounter with an infamous older woman sets all three on a thrillingly destructive course in Lucy Bailey’s moving and hilarious coming-of-age production. Terry Johnson’s adaptation is based on the novel by Charles Webb and the motion picture screenplay by Calder Willingham & Buck Henry. The Graduate is a co-production by West Yorkshire Playhouse and Curve Leicester in association with Simon Friend and Gavin Kalin Productions.*1
Lifeboat (2 – 13 May) is the gripping true story of two 15-year-old evacuees left clinging to the remains of an upturned lifeboat. Their courage and friendship is tested to the limit in this resonant and compelling production directed by Gill Robertson. Presented by West Yorkshire Playhouse, Catherine Wheels Theatre Company’s Lifeboat will also tour to community settings across Leeds as part of the Playhouse’s commitment to reaching diverse audiences.
The Grapes of Wrath (24 May – 10 June) captures an American family in a moment of crisis as their farm crops turn to dust before their eyes. Along with thousands of others, the Joad’s embark on an epic journey to California, the Promised Land, in hope of survival and prosperity. Based on John Steinbeck’s classic novel this urgent new production speaks fiercely to the current moment. The Grapes of Wrath is a co-production by West Yorkshire Playhouse, Nuffield Southampton Theatres, Nottingham Playhouse and Royal & Derngate Northampton.
Ode to Leeds (10 June – 1 July) celebrates the lyrical journey of five young poets from Leeds to New York City where they compete in the world’s most prestigious poetry slam. Fuelled by pride and passionate protest, their spoken words light fires and change the perception of the city forever. But as the competition draws nearer, mounting personal pressures and bitter in-fighting threatens to pull the team apart. Artistic Director, James Brining, directs this poignant portrayal of Leeds, language and love by Zodwa Nyoni, an ode to the art that changed her own life as part of the acclaimed spoken word group Leeds Young Authors. This impressive return to West Yorkshire Playhouse follows Zodwa’s debut play, Boi Boi is Dead.
Barber Shop Chronicles (12 – 29 July) invites audiences into the chair of barber shops across Africa and the UK. Part confession boxes, part soap boxes, Inua Ellams’ new play is a humorous and insightful portrayal of a unique environment where black men come to be together. Directed by Bijan Sheibani, Barber Shop Chronicles is a fresh co-production with the National Theatre and Fuel, inspired in part by the story of a Leeds barber; intimate, colourful and full of heart.
In celebration of Phoenix Dance Theatre’s 35th anniversary Mixed Programme 2017 (8 – 11 Feb) brings together three performances spanning Jazz, Soul, and Reggae from the dance halls of 1940s America to contemporary choreography exploring conceptual themes.
Babe the Sheep Pig (15 – 18 Feb) is a heart-warming tale of friendship and adventure about a loveable pig with a talent for herding sheep. The novel which inspired the Oscar-winning film is adapted by Olivier Award winner David Wood (Goodnight Mister Tom, James and the Giant Peach, The BFG) in a show brimming with laughter, stunning puppetry and original live music.
Northern Broadsides transport us to 17th century Paris for Cyrano (28 Feb – 4 March). A brilliant poet and swordsman, Cyrano is prevented from confessing his adoration for his beloved Roxanne because of his enormous nose! Northern Broadsides’ acclaimed charisma and exuberant performance style come together for this swashbuckling tale of unrequited love, presented in partnership with New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-Under-Lyme.
Groundbreaking learning-disability theatre company Mind the Gap presents Contained: True Stories From The Heart (10 – 11 March). Directed by Alan Lyddiard (Anniversary, West Yorkshire Playhouse) this vibrant and deeply personal production weaves together nine true stories through performance, film, photography, music and dance.
Inspired by 30 interviews with real returned servicemen, Pink Mist (28 Mar – 1 April) is the story of three young men deployed to Afghanistan. This ‘beautifully performed’ (The Guardian) production pairs haunting verse with dynamic movement to explore Arthur, Hads and Taff’s greatest battle of all – their journey home. Pink Mist is a Bristol Old Vic’s production presented by Nick Williams.
Leeds writer Kay Mellor’s (In the Club, Band of Gold) romantic comedy A Passionate Woman (4 – 8 April) is an Everyman Theatre production centring around the Betty – one woman torn between three men. Retreating to her attic on her son’s wedding day, she contemplates the husband she never loved and the man she shared an unforgettable affair with.
No. 1 bestselling children’s author David Walliams’ explosive space adventure, First Hippo on the Moon (5 – 8 April) is presented by Les Petits Theatre Company. Two big hippos. One enormous dream. Who can make it to the moon first?
Exquisite jungle beasts arrive in Running Wild, Samuel Adamson’s adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s celebrated novel (11 – 15 April). With puppetry from the creatives behind War Horse, this spectacular production tells of one little girl’s unforgettable elephant ride in tsunami-hit Indonesia. Originally produced by Regent’s Park Theatre and Chichester Festival Theatre, and directed by Dale Rooks and Timothy Sheader.
A new musical adaptation of Frederico Fellini’s Oscar-winning La Strada (24 – 29 April) is a deeply impassioned tale of love and loss set in post-WW2 Italy. The innocent Gelsomina finds herself torn between a travelling street performer and a daredevil tight-rope walker, in Olivier Award nominee Sally Cookson’s (Jane Eyre, Hetty Feather) production which boasts a beautiful new score by Benjy Bower.
Based on one of the greatest Rock Operas of all time, The Who’s Tommy (4 – 13 May) is the multi-award winning musical written by Pete Townshend. Featuring hits including I’m Free, Sparks, Amazing Journey and, of course, the legendary Pinball Wizard, Tommy, a cast of 22 performers and musicians recreate the story that turned The Who into one of the biggest bands of all time. Presented by The New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich in co-production with Ramps on the Moon, Tommy is part of the Playhouse’s role as partner in Ramps on the Moon, which aims to put more people who are Deaf and disabled on stage, in audiences and in the work place.
Scamp Theatre’s heartwarming adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s bestselling book The Scarecrows’ Wedding (30 May – 3 June) arrives direct from the West End. Will Harry and Betty’s wedding be thrown into turmoil by the devilishly smooth Reginald Rake? This joyful production is bursting at the seams with wit, live music, and all the animals from the farm.
From the company who brought you Laila The Musical comes the dazzling new Miss Meena & The Masala Queens (13 – 17 June). The once famous and fabulous drag queen Miss Meena has well and truly lost his sparkle. A new arrival brings a glittery rainbow of hope – but just as things are starting to look up, a visitor from the past makes Miss Meena question everything he ever stood for. Miss Meena & The Masala Queens by Harvey Virdi is directed by Pravesh Kumar, presented by celebrated British Asian Theatre Company Rifco and Watford Palace Theatre in association with Warwick Arts Centre.
The Gruffalo (25 – 30 July) is Tall Stories’ magical, musical adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s award winning picture book. Join Mouse on a daring adventure through the deep, dark wood for songs, laughs and scary fun for little ones.