The theatregoers of Leeds will no doubt be happy to help celebrate the Playhouse’s 50th anniversary this year, as audiences are safely welcomed back from May onwards.
The theatre has announced an enticing season ahead, including: Six specially commissioned monologues by northern writers; a new family show; an exhibition of photographs and stories from the past 50 years; and a collaboration with the City’s storytellers about what Leeds means to us.
DECADES: STORIES FROM THE CITYThe monologue writers – Simon Armitage, Leanna Benjamin, Kamal Kaan, Alice Nutter, Maxine Peake, and Stan Owens – have each taken a particular decade from across the Playhouse’s lifespan covering the 1970s to the 2020s as their inspiration, creating a diverse collection of stories firmly rooted in the North.
Leeds Playhouse’s Artistic Director James Brining, Associate Director Amy Leach and RTYDS Resident Assistant Director Sameena Hussain will be joined by Evie Manning of Common Wealth Theatre, Theatre State’s Tess Seddon and Theatre Director Amanda Huxtable to direct these powerful and witty monologues. The productions will be staged in the Courtyard Theatre and available online via Playhouse: At Home. All performances will include creative audio description.
FAIRY POPPINS AND THE NAUGHTY WINTER GHOST
A family show by Robert Alan Evans, commissioned by Leeds Playhouse to mark its 50th anniversary, which will open in Playhouse Square in late spring before embarking on a community tour. The production, directed by Leeds Playhouse Associate Director Creative Engagement Alexander Ferris, will visit neighbourhoods and non-traditional venues throughout Leeds, bringing the joy and excitement of live theatre on the back of a truck. Families will be able to enjoy this magical adventure in their own neighbourhood as a trio of rambunctious players transport them to the deep dark woods to meet an 800-year-old forgotten fairy. The show is sponsored by local insurance brokers J M Glendinning as part of their longstanding support for the Playhouse.
50 Years of Leeds Playhouse
Reopening next month, the theatre will mark its season of celebrations with this exciting exhibition, curated by Independent Curator Courtney Spencer. Also available to view online, the exhibition will turn the spotlight on the theatre’s history, highlighting its pioneering, industry-leading work, such as becoming the first ever Theatre of Sanctuary for Refugees and People Seeking Asylum, and creating the first ever Dementia Friendly productions – now adopted all over the world.
As part of the exhibition, the Playhouse will unveil newly commissioned artworks on 21 May by Leeds based illustrator Cait McEniff which capture people’s memories from the last 50 years. Our Creative Engagement team are collaborating with community storytellers from across our City to capture and celebrate what Leeds means to us for HALF A CENTURY STORIES. The stories will be hand posted through the letterboxes of communities throughout Leeds, inviting others to share their memories and create new connections.
James Brining: “Our 50th anniversary celebrations are a welcome back gift for us to share with the City. Whether we’re live in the theatre, across neighbourhoods or in people’s home, this is our time to celebrate together; to look back on what we’ve achieved and to look forward to all the wonderful adventures to come. After everything we’ve been through in the last year, it feels more important than ever to take a moment to reflect on what has made – and continues to make – our City and our theatre so special.
Our reopening season of work, which we will announce more details of in the next few weeks and will include exciting details of our 2021 Christmas production, aims to engage with as many people as possible; whether that’s digitally in their living room, on a truck in their neighbourhood or live here in the theatre. Many of the people we are working with this year have been supported through our Furnace programme, which enables local artists to their practice as well as new projects. We want the work we are creating to embody what makes us all so proud; to celebrate the vision and artistic ambition we have here in the North; to express the breadth of stories that are experienced by our diverse communities; and, most importantly, to show how this 50 year old theatre has become the life blood of the community it serves – championing new work, celebrating locally-rooted artists and engaging with people across communities.”
Robin Hawkes Executive Director of Leeds Playhouse: “During the last unprecedented year, we have continued to push forward with our redevelopment plans – taking advantage of the time when we were forced to remain closed by the pandemic to ensure our theatre meets the practical and aesthetic aspirations of everyone who uses it daily. To that end, we’ve been working with Designer Hayley Grindle on some innovative and exciting new ideas for our front-of-house spaces, which we can’t wait to share with everyone when they walk back through that beautiful tiled entrance next month.”
Tickets are on sale from 20 April.
Photographs provided by Leeds Playhouse.Feature photograph left to right: Simon Armitage, Alice Nutter, Maxine Peake, Leanna Benjamin, Maria Spadafora, Stan Owens.