Centre stage at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

YOUNG LOVE: Romeo and Juliet is one of the highlights of the new season.
YOUNG LOVE: Romeo and Juliet is one of the highlights of the new season.
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The West Yorkshire Playhouse has announced its new season – and it promises a spring and summer of great theatre in Leeds. Yvette Huddleston reports.

Earlier this month the West Yorkshire Playhouse announced its spring/summer season – and the good news is that there’s plenty of great theatre to look forward to in Leeds in 2017.

The season opens in February with a radical new staging of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion – one of the most celebrated comedies of 
the 20th century. The production, with acclaimed director Sam Pritchard at the helm, will be looking at class identity and social mobility in the digital era, and asking the question – in modern Britain, how much do our voices still define who we are?

In the Quarry Theatre in March there will be a new production of Shakespeare’s classic story of star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet, directed by Amy Leach, in which an intense first love is born while 
a brutal turf war rages on a 
modern-day estate in the North of England.

The world premiere of Barber Shop Chronicles by rising star Inua Ellams, in a co-production with the National Theatre and Fuel, brings the soul and trenchant humour of barber shops from Africa and the UK to the Courtyard Theatre. This new play – which was partly inspired by the story of a Leeds barber – is a humorous and perceptive portrait of a unique environment for male bonding where personal stories are shared – and politics, current events and sport are discussed .

Other highlights include The Graduate, familiar to many as an iconic 1960s movie starring a young Dustin Hoffman in his breakthrough role.

When Benjamin Braddock 
arrives home after college, his middle-class parents are expecting great things of him. However, he feels less excited about his future and when he meets a similiarly lost and disillusioned soul, one of his parents’ closest friends Mrs Robinson, he starts down a potentially destructive path.

This moving and very funny coming-of-age story is directed by Lucy Bailey whose previous work at the Playhouse includes acclaimed productions of Great Expectations, Dial M for Murder and The Postman Always Rings Twice.

Lifeboat is the gripping true story of two 15-year-old evacuees left clinging to the remains of an upturned lifeboat. Their courage and friendship is tested to the 
limit in this resonant and compelling production which will also tour to community settings across Leeds.

A new production of The Grapes of Wrath, based on John Steinbeck’s classic novel, captures an American family in a moment of crisis but speaks forcefully to the current moment.

And Ode to Leeds by Zodwa Nyoni, a young Leeds writer whose career has been nurtured by the Playhouse over the past few years, celebrates the lyrical journey of five young poets from Leeds to New York City where they compete in the world’s most prestigious poetry slam.

Anticipating the time when there will be a permanent studio space at the Playhouse through its redevelopment project, there will be a programme of new work for two weeks in April in the Barber studio. It will include award-winning shows by nothern artists and new work that has been developed at the Playhouse.

The Transform festival, which also takes place in April, over four days, will be bringing exciting shows and ideas from theatre practitioners and artists from all over the world presenting their work at the Playhouse and at venues across Leeds.

“This season is an artistic reflection and response to the narratives, debates and events which are shaping this city, our nation and the world,” says artistic director James Brining.

“We’re exploring moments of discovery of identity, place and voice; moments as proudly distinctive and diverse in their telling as our audiences.”

* For full programme details and to book visit www.wyp.org.uk

Callum Douglas

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