Leeds City Varieties is the country’s oldest music hall, has oceans worth of history and is one of the most loved venues in the region.
Following a multi-million pound buff and polish and a several year lay off from action, the theatre has already hit its straps and belies its old age with a season coming up of some of the freshest comedy on the circuit, along with theatrical treats that are perhaps best described as ‘one offs’. Oh, and let’s not forget The Good Old Days – as if anyone with an interest in British theatre could.
This season the grand old venue, tucked away in an unpreposessing alleyway off Briggate, has some seriously good comedy. Thanks to Michael McIntyre and his roadshow, there are vast swathes of people suddenly interested in the art form of standing on a stage and telling jokes, but, as anyone with an actual interest in comedy will tell you – it is only live, when you are in the room with the comedian (and not watching it on a box in the corner of the living room) that stand up really comes alive.
The season opens at City Varieties with a comedian you are unlikely to see appearing on stage alongside McIntyre any time soon.
Why? Jim Jeffries, who has cracked America in the last few years with a couple of HBO specials now under his belt, is, to put it mildly, a little bit offensive. He is also absolutely brilliant. The fact that he wears with pride the accolade one newspaper bestowed upon him – Britain’s Most Offensive Comedian – should be enough to warn off those with a delicate nature. Hopefully it will also encourage those who like coruscating, no let up, comedy.
At the far gentler edge of the comedy fringes is Canadian Stewart Francis, whose word play makes him seem like Milton Jones with a foreign accent. Shappi Khorsandi is the British Iranian firecracker whose sweet smile hides a razor sharp wit. Laying in between the two extremes are comedians like Mark Watson, Paul Chowdhry, Julian Clary, Marcus Brigstocke and the genius that is David O’Doherty, who has won a Perrier with the help of his keyboard and lyrical, hilarious songs.
Singers of a more serious bent appearing this coming season include Benjamin Frances Leftwich, a York born singer-songwriter who has been making waves all year. He is joined on the music bill of the theatre by an event that afficionados will love – Andy McKee, Preston Reed and John Gomm will play on the same bill with a show titled simply, and appropriately, Guitar Masters.
The Good Old Days are also back, which will be music to the ears of many.The legendary music hall experience that really is a throwback to times when variety was all the rage, when entertainers peddled their wares at similar theatres around the world, is a piece of our theatrical history, but above all, it is a huge amount of fun. No longer televised, it still manages to fire the enthusiasm of many and will be at the venue on a number of dates ever weekend throughout October.
The other shows that complete an eclectic season include Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, touring to the venue from Hull Truck Theatre and a show called Piff the Magic Dragon, which is a story told by a magician, incorporating the skills of storyteller and magic.
Full details on 0113 2430808.