Sinfonia is the centrepiece of a project between The Performance Ensemble, Leeds Playhouse, Leeds Museums and Galleries and Leeds Older People’s Forum for LEEDS 2023, under the umbrella title of 1001 Stories. Leeds Playhouse has surrendered their premises from 24th April – 6th May to the above to facilitate a series of productions from those of advancing years. It made a refreshing change to be in the audience watching a cast, the members of which were all about the same age as me, with some even a little older.

Those involved in Sinfonia were a mixture of professional performers and amateurs, the philosophy being that ‘everyone has a right to participate in and to contribute to cultural activities.’ The piece was created, as all The Performance Ensembe’s works are, by the participants and devised in the rehearsal room. The production itself comprised, song, dance, music and storytelling. As you would expect, some of the components were more successful than others.

The band comprised three core musicians; two pianists and a drummer who were excellent, although they played continually throughout the performance and drowned out a few of the storytellers. Other members of the ensemble added their musical contributions at various points with everyone being given an instrument near the end, resulting in a cacophonous crescendo to a song.

There were several dancing interludes which accentuated the age of the cast. I am a walking illustration of how the body can deteriorate as time goes by, and this was mirrored, although to a lesser extent, by those who indulged in terpsichorean activities. When performed by more than one participant the moves were invariably out of sync and I thought it sad that the solo dancer who was obviously a professional, a fact confirmed in her story, was obviously restricted in her ability to execute some of the moves which would have been a breeze when in her pomp.

The stories, which were related by all 27 cast members, some telling more than one, varied in content from slick scripted monologues to heartfelt accounts of personal tragedies and medical conditions. There were a couple of chaps who were hilarious and, for me, the stars of the show. Once again the years had caught up with the performers, some of whom were struggling to remember the words.

The direction by Alan Lyddiard was very imaginative with the cast constantly moving, often taking their chairs with them, giving the piece a flow which, remaining static except for their contributions, would have made the piece too formal and regimented.

Leeds Playhouse deserves a large amount of credit for facilitating the takeover of the premises for this 1001 Stories season and allowing my generation to have access to express themselves, but I do wonder whether the prices for this particular event could have been drastically reduced, or even waived. The reason is that, as I get older, 73 now, I find I am constantly being ‘made allowance for’, especially at the Shop and Scan Checkout which is not necessary as I am more than comfortable with technology, but is a passive type of ageism, or, at best, patronising, therefore, not wishing to be hypocritical, I don’t think that the standard of some of the contributions was worthy of a full price ticket. I can agree that ‘everyone has a right to participate in and to contribute to cultural activities’ but our generation is just about the last one to practise the theory that with rights come responsibilities so, if you want to charge money to perform, you should do it to a professional level and not ‘be made allowance for.’

Sinfonia runs at Leeds Playhouse until 6th May

For details of this and the other shows and events in the 1001 Stories take-over of Leeds Playhouse and to buy tickets, please go to

To see details of all forthcoming shows at Leeds Playhouse go to

Photographs by David Lindsay

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s