West Yorkshire Playhouse (1990 – now)

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After 20 years in its ‘temporary home’ the new Playhouse was established on Quarry Hill. In November 1987 Sir Donald Sinden turned the first sod as building work commenced and in March 1989 Dame Judi Dench laid the foundation stone. The topping-out ceremony was performed by Albert Finney the following September.

Designed by architect Ian Appleton, the current theatre officially opened its doors in March 1990 under Artistic Director Jude Kelly, and was Britain’s largest new purpose built theatre since The National Theatre in 1976.

Following funding from the now defunct West Yorkshire regional authority, the name of West Yorkshire Playhouse was adopted. The Arts Council deemed the newly opened venue to have ‘a fully conceived and implemented policy of imaginative, vivid and progressive work on stage, inextricably related to and complementing a practical commitment to ensuring that theatre is a vital part of the community it serves’.

From the beginning it was clear that the new West Yorkshire Playhouse was going to be more than just a performing space. The primary objective stated in the initial business plan was;

“to change significantly the nature and extent of repertory programming by enlarging the repertoire to provide a significant producing theatre with a fully integrated community programme acting as a resource for the city and region.”

See how The Playhouse has changed over the yearsDownload the latest redevelopment PDF

Ian Brown succeeded Jude Kelly as Artistic Director in 2002 and brought with him a commitment to continue the vital and established role that the Playhouse was playing in the community. Under his leadership the Playhouse maintained its pioneering community engagement work and gained a reputation for the quality and mix of its work.

Following Ian’s departure in 2012 he was succeeded by James Brining. Although Leeds-born, James arrived via Richmond and Dundee (being described as a ‘Scottish Theatre Sensation’ by The Telegraph at the time of his appointment). With new-found vigour the Playhouse continues to develop and expand on the vision of Vital Theatre.

The Playhouse is led by Joint Chief Executives James Brining (Artistic Director) and Robin Hawkes (Executive Director) who joined the organisation in 2015 from The National Theatre. The Playhouse has two theatres, the Quarry with 750 seats and the Courtyard with 350 seats and produces between 10-20 shows each year.

However its reach goes far beyond those two spaces; in 2016 over half a million people saw the Playhouse’s production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang on its UK tour – while at the other end of the scale, its production of Kes played to 100 capacity community centres around the city.

53 years on from Doreen Newlyn’s notice to the Arts Council and 27 years on from the opening of the new building, the Playhouse remains as strong as ever, producing great theatre for, and by, its communities in the heart of the city of Leeds, West Yorkshire and the UK.

Our Productions

Click on the show titles below to see an image from that production