Leeds Playhouse announces year-long season of bold, powerful and resonant productions
Leeds Playhouse have announced a year-long programme of work, in a Pop-Up theatre on the Playhouse's current site, and across partner venues in the city and Leeds City Region, whilst the Capital Redevelopment project transforms the existing theatre building.
· Leeds Playhouse to present an ambitious season of bold work in a Pop-Up theatre and across partner venues in the Leeds City Region for 2018/19
· Pop-Up theatre to host modern classics, contemporary revivals, popular well-loved titles and new commissions performed by the Playhouse's new Ensemble Company of Northern actors
· Playhouse to collaborate with Leeds organisations commemorating historic moments, including co-productions with Opera North, The Leeds Library, BBC Radio Leeds and Leeds College of Music
· Playhouse productions on the road nationally and internationally: Barber Shop Chronicles embarking on an international tour of the USA and Canada; Strictly Ballroom The Musical continuing in London’s West End; Playhouse supported productions Trojan Horse and Blackthorn at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe; Playhouse co-produced production of Woke at Latitude; and major UK tour of Still Alice
Opening the Pop-Up season is Jim Cartwright’s brutally poetic study of everyday lives, Road (5 – 29 Sept). Set on a forgotten Northern street on a raucous night, Cartwright’s play, directed by Leeds Playhouse Associate Director Amy Leach (Romeo & Juliet, Leeds Playhouse), explores the spirit of a working-class community through a series of powerful monologues and duologues. All performances of Road will be audio described.
Celebrating new work and audacious artists, Furnace Festival returns in October with award-winning artist Selina Thompson and her critically acclaimed salt. (2 – 3 Oct), and finalist for the prestigious 2017 Susan Smith Blackburn prize Blackthorn (4 – 6 Oct) by Yorkshire born Charley Miles. salt. and Blackthorn will be joined by play readings, workshops and sharings as part of the festival.
Artistic Director James Brining (Sunshine on Leith, Leeds Playhouse and UK tour, (the fall of) The Master Builder, Leeds Playhouse) directs Europe, David Greig’s 1994 exploration of changing identities in a contemporary society (12 Oct – 3 Nov). Set in and around a small-town railway station, Europe follows the plight of two economic refugees as they arrive in an unnamed town near an unnamed European border.
In a celebration of the 70th anniversary of the SS Empire Windrush, Leeds Playhouse with BBC Radio Leeds, in association with Leeds College of Music present, Airplays (23 – 27 Oct). Four 15-minute radio dramas exploring migration by Yorkshire-based writers, performed at Leeds College of Music and broadcast live on BBC Radio Leeds, directed by Bradford-based Kash Arshad.
Commemorating the 250th anniversary of The Leeds Library, West Yorkshire writer Emma Adams examines the role of libraries in the age of the internet search engine with The Things We Wouldn’t Otherwise Find (6 – 17 Nov). Directed by Hull-based Tess Seddon, this gloriously funny and playfully provocative production will be performed in The Leeds Library itself ahead of a citywide tour of Leeds libraries.
Nick Ahad's Partition (6 – 10 Nov), directed by Stefan Escreet returns to the Playhouse, following its premiere in 2017, commemorating the 70th anniversary of India’s partition and the creation of Pakistan. As well as performances in the Pop-Up theatre, the radio play will tour to Leeds schools and Bradford Alhambra.
Inspired by the lives, art and testimonies of female ambulance drivers, Leeds Playhouse and Opera North join forces to present Not Such Quiet Girls (29 Nov – 1 Dec). Marking the centenary of the end of WW1 this brand new production explores female resilience from the front line. Written by Jess Walker and directed by Leeds Playhouse Literary Associate Jacqui Honess-Martin.
Charles Dickens’ classic, A Christmas Carol (20 Nov – 13 Jan), which follows the adventure of cold-hearted Ebenezer Scrooge on Christmas Eve in Victorian Leeds, is brought to life by director Amy Leach. Adapted by Deborah McAndrew and presented in association with Hull Truck Theatre.
Following a sell-out run in 2016, the much-loved Barry Hines story of young Billy and his kestrel, Kes (25 Jan – 16 Feb) returns to the Playhouse in the same year that Ken Loach’s seminal film reaches its 50thanniversary. Exploring the true nature of friendship, this production is remounted by former Playhouse Trainee Director Martin Leonard, and will embark on a national tour following its Playhouse performances.
A bewildered family find themselves caught up in catastrophe in the vivid, detailed and brilliantly observed play random (4 – 16 Feb), by award-winning playwright and screen-writer debbie tucker green. This remarkable play, performed by one actor, is an urgent and resonant tour de force.
Two generations make time to share a meal and a conversation in Dinner 18.55 (22 – 23 Feb). This intergenerational performance led by members of our Older People and Youth programmes explores their own similarities and differences, directed by Playhouse Older People's Programme Manager Maggie De Ruyck and Young People's Manager Fiona McCulloch-Exley.
As young Hamlet returns from university to attend her Father's funeral, she finds her world has been turned upside down. Played by Tessa Parr, following her acclaimed performance as Juliet in the Playhouse's 2017 production Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare's Hamlet (1 – 30 March) confronts us with the mirror of our own mortality in an imperfect world. Directed by Amy Leach.
Leeds Playhouse Director of Creative Engagement Alexander Ferris directs Around the World in 80 Days (9 – 28 April), a madcap Easter treat for all the family following the adventures of the mysterious and fabulously wealthy Phileas Fogg as he attempts to circumnavigate the world in 80 days. This production will then tour to community venues around the city, as well as visiting venues in the wider Leeds City Region.
Be My Baby (11 May – 1 June), Amanda Whittington’s exploration of teenage sexual liberation in the 1960's, closes the Pop-Up season. Accompanied by the songs of The Ronnettes, this joyful, moving production explores shame, teenage pregnancy and the power of female friendship.
Playhouse productions continue to be seen Nationally and Internationally. Inua Ellams’ Barber Shop Chronicles, a Leeds Playhouse, National Theatre and Fuel co-production embarks on a tour of the USA and Canada from October; the spectacular Strictly Ballroom the Musical starring Will Young continues to thrill in London’s West End; Leeds Playhouse supported productions Trojan Horse by Sheffield based theatre company LUNG and Charley Miles’ Blackthorn will play in the Summerhall at Edinburgh Festival Fringe this August; Leeds Playhouse co-produced production of WOKE by Testament will play at Latitude this July; and a major UK tour of Leeds Playhouse’s Still Alice in association with Michael Park begins in September.
For the first time since 1998, Leeds Playhouse will have an ensemble company for the Pop-up season. The company of ten actors, split 5 female and 5 male, will play in rep with productions for the full programme of work
The ensemble company include: Tessa Parr, Robert Pickavance, Jo Mousley, Elexi Walker, Susan Twist, Joseph Alessi, Darren Kuppan, Lladel Bryant, Simona Bitmate and Dan Parr. Throughout the year artists from Bradford theatre company Mind the Gap alongside a collective of other creatives and actors will also join the company.
Leeds Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “At this exciting moment of change I am delighted that we have put together such a wide range of diverse work for audiences to experience in both the Pop-Up theatre and across the city region. The specially designed new space in our workshop will provide a unique environment for these extraordinary plays whilst the redevelopment of the building takes place, and the work around the region will build on our desire to reach out and engage with diverse audiences across the North.
It’s fantastic to be able to continue our relationships with organisations like Opera North and BBC Radio Leeds, as well as commission new plays, stage much-loved adaptations and re-interrogate classic texts with contemporary relevance. The added pleasure of working with an ensemble company, which is, in my experience, an incredibly exciting way to create work, will make the year all the more special.
For all our audiences we remain the same theatre, in the same location. Our name change enables us to clarify where we are to the outside world and help spread the name of this great city further afield.
I’m so excited for audiences to experience the Pop-Up theatre and of course, our newly refreshed building in Autumn 2019”.
Leeds Playhouse Associate Director Amy Leach said: “We are thrilled with our forthcoming season: it’s ambitious in scope, broad in range, and featuring diverse stories that we feel will deeply resonate with our audiences in Leeds and the wider North.
It’s a dream come true to have recruited an incredible ensemble company of Northern actors who will join us for the redevelopment year – the first time the Playhouse has hosted an ensemble company since Sir Ian McKellen led one in 1998. Our ensemble are superb actors who have a rich affinity with the Playhouse, the city and the North. They’ll also be joined by artists from Bradford-based theatre company Mind the Gap and a variety of other actors who will deliver our off-site and touring work.
It’s very exciting to be creating a bespoke theatre space in our workshops, inviting audiences to explore a backstage area that is normally off limits. The productions we present in the Pop-Up have been specially chosen to compliment the unique aesthetics of this space and to demonstrate the versatility of our ensemble company. We look forward to sharing the many vital stories of our new season with our audiences."
Tickets for the Pop-Up theatre go on general sale from Monday 25 June.