Leeds Playhouse stages three powerful stories dissecting the lives of modern men in the run-up to the Northern Man Festival

I don’t know about you but I am delighted that the Leeds Playhouse is back in full working order, bigger and better than ever. There have been productions, of course, even when the main auditorium was being refurbished but we now have one of the city’s main cultural hubs fully functioning once more. The Autumn/Winter 2019 season is also getting into its stride with a very important November in prospect.

The theme for the month is men’s health and features the Northern Man Festival on Saturday, 16th November. It offers a lively, interactive space to talk about men’s health and wellbeing. There will be pop-up performances, arts activities and a ‘booted and suited’ area offering men free clothes and haircuts while being entertained by a barber shop quartet. It is a co-production between Leeds Playhouse and the Orion Partnership comprising Space2, Zest – Health for Life, Feel Good Factor and Shantona Women’s Centre. The Creative Director of Space2, Emma Tregidden, said, “We are raising awareness around both mental and physical health – and encouraging people to talk. We see this as just the beginning. If it’s successful, we will look at running a Northern Man Festival either every year or biannually. We also hope to do something similar for women in the future.”Intertwining around the Northern Man Festival are three plays covering men’s issues which are described as being powerful and evocative.

Reece Pantry & Clare-Louise English, One Under, photo Patrick Baldwin

The first is One Under  by Winsome Pinnock which explores human relationships investigating mental health and wellbeing and the questions often raised when someone takes their own life. It is a Graeae (pronounced grey eye) and Theatre Royal Plymouth production presented in association with Curve. It was commissioned by Ramps on the Moon, a Leeds Playhouse partnership project that puts D/deaf and disabled actors at the heart of major stage productions.

Phil Cheadle and Mike Noble in Reasons to Stay Alive. Photo by Johan Persson.

The next play is Reasons to Stay Alive which is the first theatrical adaptation of the frank and funny best selling book by Matt Haig. Jonathan Watkins, the Director, has added elements of music and movement to this ultimately uplifting true story of the writer’s battle with depression and a celebration of what it means to be alive. The final performance of this play is on Saturday, 16th November which, if you have been paying attention, you will realise is the date of the Northern Man Festival. To mark this there will be a post-show discussion on the issues raised by the production.


The third play is one of the best things I have ever seen at the West Yorkshire Playhouse (that is probably the last time I will write that name), Barber Shop Chronicles by Inua Ellams. It was inspired by Stylistics, a real barber shop on Chapeltown Road and is by turn, touching and hilarious. It focuses on the banter in barbers’ in Johannesburg, Harare, Kampala, Lagos, Accra and Peckham during the course of a single day. This play has sold out at the National Theatre and been on a world tour but has now come home to Leeds. It will be interesting to see how the journey has affected it.   
I hope that you are able to make it to at least one of the above events, especially if you are of the male persuasion as I am sure that there will be a lot of food for thought for we chaps, as well as laughs and general entertainment. 

All the plays are staged at Courtyard and begin at 7.45pm
One Under – 5th to 9th November
Reasons To Stay Alive – 12th to 16th November
Barber Shop Chronicles – 20th to 23rd November

For full details and booking please go to leedsplayhouse.org.uk

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