Leeds Playhouse announces re-opening season and everyone is invited
Leeds Playhouse will re-open its doors this October following a £15.8million capital redevelopment that will enable the city’s pioneering theatre to be fully accessible to everyone for the first time.
A full season of productions will take place across two rejuvenated and one new performance space, just 15 months since redevelopment work started. Entirely transformed, Leeds Playhouse will be a cultural landmark, providing the city with a new home for audiences, participants and artists to experience and create world class theatre.
- An Open Weekend will invite visitors to explore and rediscover the newly transformed theatre at the heart of Quarry Hill through a series of free events.
- The first produced show in Leeds Playhouse will be staged in the brand new studio space, the Bramall Rock Void. There are No Beginnings by Yorkshire writer Charley Miles signals a significant commitment to showcasing new local work – intimate in scale and epic in ambition. This new space is named in recognition of The Liz and Terry Bramall Foundation’s continued support.
- Building on its commitment to making theatre accessible for everyone, Leeds Playhouse’s long-standing club-night for adults with learning disabilities, Beautiful Octopus Club, will be hosted within the new building for the first time.
- In another first, Leeds Playhouse will stage the inaugural production at new neighbour Leeds City College’s Quarry Hill Campus. A new play by Andy McGregor, Influence, will be performed by Leeds Playhouse Youth Theatre. This marks a new partnership via the Playhouse’s Creative Engagement programme, delivering the highest quality arts education for the region.
- Originally developed through Furnace, Leeds Playhouse’s Artistic Development programme, Yorkshire-based company LUNG Theatre present their award-winning production Trojan Horse, launching a national tour from the production’s home at Leeds Playhouse.
- Leeds Playhouse is renowned for creating spectacular shows full of magic at Christmas and in 2019 the Quarry, Courtyard and new Bramall Rock Void present the widest range of entertainment ever, for audiences of all ages, including the Playhouse’s first ever festive offering for babies.
- Along with Inua Ellams’s Barber Shop Chronicles, which returns to Leeds after a triumphant world tour, Hanif Kureishi’s My Beautiful Laundrette celebrates the power of human connection in ordinary lives.
- In October 2019 Leeds Playhouse will reopen, inviting visitors to rediscover the transformed building. During an Open Weekend (11 – 13 October) the Playhouse will throw open its doors, providing a rare opportunity for everyone to explore the magic of the theatre’s auditoria and rehearsal spaces, to discover its new foyers, restaurants and bars and take part in events, pop-up performances and fun-filled activities for all the family.
Staging the first ever performances in the newly refurbished Courtyard theatre, Yorkshire-based company LUNG Theatre kick off the national tour of their multi-award-winning Trojan Horse (3 – 5 October), originally developed through Furnace, Leeds Playhouse’s Artistic Development programme. A prescient story of a community torn apart by racial division, taken from real life testimonies of people in Bradford, Birmingham and London. In 2018 the production won an Amnesty International Freedom of Expression award and Fringe First award.
The first ever production in the Bramall Rock Void is There are No Beginnings (11 October – 2 November), a new play by Yorkshire writer Charley Miles. Directed by Amy Leach, this empowering story follows four women living in Leeds across the five years when Peter Sutcliffe dominated news headlines. Their strength and survival is a landmark moment in history when women stood shoulder to shoulder in solidarity, to ‘reclaim the night’. Charley’s first play, Blackthorn, premiered at the Playhouse in 2017 following her participation in a Furnace scheme seeking to connect with new local artists, and her subsequent tenure at the Playhouse as Channel 4 writer in residence. This production will include integrated audio description for all performances.
For the last 17 years Leeds Playhouse’s Creative Engagement programme has supported adults with learning disabilities in hosting Beautiful Octopus Club (14 October), a creative club night that originated at Heart n Soul in London. For the first time since the event began in Leeds in 2002, the over 18s party night which includes live DJs, open mic sessions and live performance, will take place in Leeds Playhouse’s building. The event, previously hosted at Leeds University Student Union, will make full use of the new entrances and improved access around the building.
Leeds Playhouse Youth Theatre presents Influence (31 October – 2 November), a national co-commission (Leeds Playhouse, Derby Theatre, Dundee Rep, Northern Stage, Royal & Derngate and Theatre Royal Plymouth) written by Andy McGregor and directed by Gemma Woffinden. The performance will open Leeds City College’s School of Creative Arts Theatre, and marks the start of a new partnership between two of Leeds’ key cultural institutions demonstrating a clear commitment to arts education for young people in the region.
Poet and broadcaster Lemn Sissay returns to the Playhouse to share and reflect on his new book, Lemn Sissay: My Name Is Why, giving Leeds an exclusive insight into the world in which he grew up (7 October). Lemn’s adaptation of Benjamin Zephaniah’s Refugee Boy was a hit in the Courtyard Theatre in 2014 and led to the recognition of Leeds Playhouse as the world’s first Theatre of Sanctuary.
The first ever live broadcast from Leeds Playhouse to cinemas around the world will take place on Halloween with Northern Ballet’s acclaimed version of Dracula (29 October – 2 November). During this season, the theatre also welcomes back other brilliant partners including Graeae, Curve, Rifco, Fuel and the National Theatre.
Artists continue to develop new work at every stage of their career with Leeds Playhouse as Furnace Festival returns in 2019 (13 – 16 November). Supported by the Playhouse’s Artistic Development programme, the weekend offers audiences a first look at two major projects in development: Leeds based Tess Seddon’s funny, timely and hyper-local Amateur Politician; and multi award-winning writer Jim Cartwright’s resonant and entertaining new play Northern Soul.
The Wizard of Oz, directed by Artistic Director James Brining (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Into The Woods, Sunshine on Leith), reminds audiences that “there’s no place like home” (20 November – 25 January). The Quarry theatre, the Playhouse’s largest performance space is now fully accessible, offering new level access and central bays for wheelchair users. Within the run, the theatre proudly celebrates 10 years of Relaxed Performances, pioneered at Leeds Playhouse and now replicated in theatres worldwide.
The Night Before Christmas by Robert Alan Evans returns to the Courtyard Theatre (30 November – 28 December) following a sell-out run in 2015. Directed by Amy Leach, this delightful children’s story follows Carol and Elf as they discover the true meaning of Christmas. This production will include integrated sign language for all performances.
For 0-3 year olds at Christmas, the Playhouse will host The Egg and Travelling Light’s production Snow Mouse in the Bramall Rock Void (10 – 21 December). Filled with play, puppetry and music this enchanting winter’s tale is set to delight children and grown-ups alike.
Leeds Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining said: “The transformed Leeds Playhouse marks the most exciting new chapter in our history for decades and we can’t wait to welcome everyone to enjoy and explore. The new building will allow us to offer the magic of theatre to everyone, all under one roof. I’m so excited for all three of our venues to function together and it’s our hope that the Autumn/Winter programme will give a taste of what we’re about: a theatre that is rooted in its local community, producing work of national and international significance and supporting and developing artists at all stages of their career.
“Opening the Bramall Rock Void with There Are No Beginnings is a brilliant example of this. Charley Miles’ relationship with the Playhouse started many years ago. As a local writer she found a home here and by telling a story set during one of the darkest periods in our city’s history, we’re making a powerful statement about female resilience and solidarity. I’m so excited to see this new Leeds play, so deeply rooted in the narrative of the city, in our brand new theatre and I know it will be an impactful and challenging experience which launches this unique new space.
“By designing a re-opening programme which is a rich mix of varied productions and activities, we hope to encourage both existing and new audiences to discover this incredible building. Whether that be through a workshop at the Open Weekend, a cup of tea and a cake in the new café or a family trip to The Wizard of Oz, we look forward to seeing the theatre alive and thriving again at the heart of the community with a theatre experience open to all
“There is a tangible buzz around culture in Leeds right now – with the relocation of Channel 4 and the upcoming plans for Leeds 2023, this really is the most fantastic time to be re-opening a theatre that the whole city can be proud of.”
Writer Charley Miles said: “I’m so honoured that There Are No Beginnings will be the first show to rise from the rocks of the Bramall Rock Void. This space feels proper – like an unearthed heartbeat that was hidden under our theatre all along – and it feels equally proper to be christening it with a story born from our city.
“It’s been a long journey to get this story to the stage, and Leeds Playhouse is exactly the theatre that should be birthing it. I began my own career at the Playhouse three years ago with Blackthorn; had my own first glance behind the curtain a decade earlier still, as a pupil on work experience. I started writing There Are No Beginnings during my Channel 4 residency in 2017 and was able to speak to dozens of incredible women as part of that process. I have loved writing for, and with, my home theatre in Leeds; I hope that audiences will come together in their new theatre space to reclaim this narrative with us, and I hope above all else that it will make them feel proud.”
Leeds Playhouse’s £15.8m redevelopment project is managed by Leeds City Council. The transformation has been made possible by the generous support of many organisations and individuals, including significant financial commitment from Arts Council England and Leeds City Council, alongside major grants from The Liz & Terry Bramall Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation and The Foyle Foundation; Principal Capital Partnerships with Irwin Mitchell, SOYO Leeds and Moda, and some major donations, led by Sir Rodney Brooke and Dr Lady Clare Brooke. A public fundraising campaign, Play Your Part, is now underway to support the project.