It is not only nature which bursts into life in Spring but also the various entertainment establishments, especially the theatres. Now that the long running Christmas shows have ended it is time to see what is on offer as – hopefully – the evenings become a little more clement when it comes to venturing forth. According to the weather forecasters Spring begins on 1st March but I have anticipated things a little.
Leeds Playhouse is absolutely packed with performances and events between now and the end of May, which is when summer is supposed to start so here is a run-down of some of them. Please follow the link at the end for the full list.
Over the half-term holidays there is The Bear, which I previewed a couple of weeks ago so please check on my main site for that. It is aimed at young children so should do perfectly if this wind and rain continues making outdoor amusement more difficult.
For the adults we begin with Seeds, written by Mel Pennant, which focuses on two mothers united in sorrow, unable to escape the tragedy of knife crime. This is a subject of the times illustrating how it is not just those who are stabbed who are the victims, they also have families who suffer. All of the Spring season’s offerings are co-productions and this one is presented by taita fahodzi and Wrested Veil in association with Leeds Playhouse, Soho Theatre and Tara Finney Productions
A little more upbeat is Pride and Prejudice* (*Sort of), an irreverent all-female adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic. Six young women have stories to tell with men, money and microphones being fought over. By the way, I am available for the wet shirt scene, which might be very effective when it comes to getting rid of the audience at the end of the performance. This is a show with more production credits than cast, so here goes…Leeds Playhouse, The Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh, The Tron Theatre Company and Blood of the Young’s Pride and Prejudice*(*Sort of) with co-producers Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, Northern Stage, Nuffield Southampton Theatres and Oxford Playhouse. With all that lot sticking in their two-pennyworth it had better be good.
Another classic given a Playhouse makeover, in a co-production with Ramps on the Moon, is Oliver Twist. This is more faithful to the original than Pride and Prejudice*(*Sort of) and has been adapted by Bryony Lavery. In addition to the lead character, there is another twist – pause for groans – in that every performance will feature the use of integrated creative sign language, audio description and captioning.
If the weather at the beginning of March is still awful, or even if it isn’t, you might want to pop down and spend an evening in Smile Club. It is the story of Lisa who is a member of said association and is set in a dystopian world in which a government drive exists to tame and prune unruly women deemed unable to fit into society. Andrea Heaton performs this one-woman show which is presented by The Red Ladder Theatre Company.
Next up is A Little Space, a Gecko and Mind The Gap co-production. Set in an apartment block it follows the lives of five people exploring what happens when they connect and disconnect with others. It is described as being physical theatre using movement, imagery, sound and lighting to portray the needs, desires and fears of the characters.
Something completely different is Missing People written by Brad Birch and co-produced by Kani Public Arts Centre. It is a bi-lingual show in English and Japanese with surtitles, a kind of Leeds version of Giri/Haji, hopefully without the same body count. The scene is a family home in Kani, Japan when Sakiko takes her fiancé home to break the news to her parents that they will be getting married in London rather than at home. There are other forces which turn the play into a thriller. On 19th and 20th March there is a pre-show companion piece performed by Playhouse Youth members who took part in a UK/Japan exchange in 2019.
Now here’s another twist but this time nothing to do with Oliver of that ilk. It is a gender switching version of Faustus, appropriately called Faustus: That Damned Woman. It will be interesting to find out what a woman would sell her soul to the Devil in order to obtain. Can Joanna Faust, born 400 years ago – I think I used to go out with her mother – escape eternal damnation? If she can’t it could be a very long play. This is a Headlong and Lyric Hammersmith Theatre co-production in association with Birmingham Repertory Theatre.
A musical! This is not just an ordinary musical, this is a Yorkshire musical. Say Yes To Tess. The eponymous heroine has moved back to Leeds after a break up and becomes involved with the Yorkshire Party and is inspired to stand in the 2017 General Election. As polling day gets closer she has second thoughts, is she doing the right thing? This is a TheatreState production in association with Leeds Playhouse.
Maggie May tells the story of a Leeds couple who met in 1971 dancing to the music of Rod Stewart but now have to balance leading a normal life with its various demands whilst at the same time dealing with dementia. Walking the walk, as well as talking the talk Leeds Playhouse has made all performances dementia friendly with additional dementia aware staff being utilised for the run. There will also be quiet spaces, and other enhancements to make the experience open to all. Brilliant. This co-production is with Curve and Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch. The cast comprises familiar faces from Brookside in Eithne Browne and John McArdle.
Back to Asia, but this time Afghanistan, for The Kite Runner based on Khaled Hosseini’s bestselling novel. It is a tale of friendship spanning cultures and continents beginning at a kite flying contest in Kabul but the peace is about to be broken and lives shattered forever. The Kite Runner was originally produced by Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company and Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse.
Holes is an off-beat comedy about Stanley, who, if it wasn’t for bad luck would have no luck at all. It must go with the name! He is accused of a crime he didn’t commit and is sent to a labour camp where he has to dig one hole measuring five-foot wide and five-foot deep every day. This is a presentation by The Children’s Theatre Partnership and Royal & Derngate Northampton of a Nottingham Playhouse production.
Remember when I said that the Christmas shows were over, well, now we have The Not So Ugly Sisters, a new musical re-telling the story of Cinderella from the perspective of the ’Not So’ Ugly Sisters. It is suitable for the over fives and is set on the day of the wedding between Cindy and Prince Smarming. It is a Leeds Playhouse, Red Ladder and Wrongsemble co-production.
If we are talking Christmas again then we must have Quality Street. Don’t worry, there are no calories involved and you won’t be fighting over the last purple one. It does seem though, that it was JM Barrie’s farce, written before Peter Pan, which gave its name to the Halifax produced assortment of goodies. The show is set in a quaint northern town where Phoebe lives on Quality Street and runs a school for unruly children. An old flame returns from the Napoleonic Wars and their romance is rekindled. As in all farces confusion ensues, but unlike others of this genre, director Laurie Sansom also features commentary from factory workers who worked at Mackintosh’s. This is a co-production with Northern Broadsides.
Well, that brings us to the end of May so when you finally emerge from Leeds Playhouse blinking in the bright sunlight, it will be time to turn round and go back to the box office to buy your tickets for the Summer batch of productions. How time flies.
The Bear 19th-22nd February
Seeds. 21st-29th February
Pride and Prejudice*(*Sort of) 25th-29th February
Oliver Twist 28th February – 21st March
Smile Club 5th-7th March
A Little Space. 6th-7th March
Missing People 12th-21st March
Faustus: That Damned Woman 24th-28th March
Say Yes To Tess – A Musical. 26th March-4th April
Maggie May 31st March-18th April
The Kite Runner. 31st March-4th April
Holes 7th-11th April
The Not So Ugly Sisters. 8th-18th April
Quality Street. 21st-25th April
For more details and tickets please go to
All photographs supplied by Leeds Playhouse