Nick Ahad: My must-see shows this autumn

West Yorkshire Playhouse's Strictly Ballroom.
West Yorkshire Playhouse's Strictly Ballroom.
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As the theatres in the region prepare for the opening of their new seasons, Theatre Correspondent Nick Ahad shares his must-see shows this autumn.

We’re so blessed in Yorkshire when it comes to theatre. If you’re going to choose to see just one theatre show in the coming months at Yorkshire theatres, well, maybe you’ll choose one of my top five.

In no particular order:

Strictly Ballroom The Musical, West Yorkshire Playhouse, November 30 to January 21.

There’s lots at the Playhouse (a debut play called Blackthorn, the whole Brontë season) that I think will be great and lots of choice at our theatres over Christmas (Leeds City Varieties’ rock ‘n’ roll panto is just one recommendation), but this is going to be special. I just know it.

Why? Well, there are a couple of elements that virtually guarantee it. First, Baz Luhrmann, the creator, made this at the start of a career that quickly revealed to the world an artist of rare quality. Moulin Rouge and his movie of Romeo + Juliet were works of untouchable brilliance. Before those, Strictly Ballroom was the first of Luhrmann’s Red Curtain Trilogy. It’s been staged in Australia, but this is the first time it has been seen in the UK. Director Drew McOnie is a serious talent and once we see it in Yorkshire – and you can mark these words – it will transfer to the West End.

Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, September 27 and 28.

The Alhambra Theatre has bagged some impressive shows for the coming months – Mary Poppins flies into town in November, its panto is always a delight, and next year I can’t wait for Matthew Bourne’s The Red Shoes. I’ll also be going back to Leeds Grand Theatre, a similar venue, to watch Chicago again in November, but if I could only recommend one show, it would be Alvin Ailey Dance Theater.

It was at the Alhambra in Bradford where I first discovered the beauty of contemporary dance. This New York-based company are as special as you can imagine and then some. Their signature dance, Revelations, created in 1960 by the man who gives the company its name, is a virtually spiritual experience. It will close the collection of dances performed in Bradford. If you go see it, you’ll see what I mean.

The Collector, York Theatre Royal, September 21-24.

At York Theatre Royal the studio plays host to writer Henry Naylor’s award- winning show about the invasion of Iraq, The Collector.

Set in Mazrat Prison, Iraq, in 2003, it is based on Naylor’s own experiences. It tells the story of a translator working for the Americans and explores torture that was carried out on both sides of the Iraq war. When it was premiered two years ago it won a Fringe First at Edinburgh, has had sell-out runs at the Arcola Theatre in London and is now coming to Yorkshire. What makes this a show not to be missed is that, post-Chlicot, I suspect this will resonate even more than when it was first performed.

The Gaul, Hull Truck Theatre, October 6 to 29.

Hull Truck has always had a special ability to connect with its audiences when it tells stories about its audiences. And now playwright Janet Plater is bringing to the stage the story of the Gaul, the Hull trawler which sunk in 1974 with 36 souls on board.

In case you’re wondering – that is Janet as in daughter of Alan Plater. Her much-missed Hull-raised father was a brilliant writer for stage and screen. If his daughter is half as talented, this will be a real treat.

No Knowing, Stephen Joseph Theatre, December 1 to 24.

A Christmas comedy by Alan Ayckbourn. There is real darkness in his work and it feels like Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without an Ayckbourn play. It’s about an anniversary party for a boring couple. The fact that it appears to be so mundane makes it precisely the kind of setting that brings out Ayckbourn’s subversive best.

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