At this stage, of the year, as summer draws to a close, thoughts now turn to how we will entertain ourselves through the long Autumn months.
It is no coincidence that the theatres of the region are gearing up for their most important part of the year. At West Yorkshire Playhouse all eyes are turned on what new man James Brining’s first season will look like.
There are other theatres that don’t always feature in-depth interviews about how the ship is being artistically steered and that is because they run a different course
The Bradford Alhambra, Leeds Grand Theatre, City Varieties, York Grand Opera House – these are different beasts because they are what is known in the trade as receiving houses. They don’t actually make work in house – just present what is being offered out of the road by other companies.
That doesn’t mean, however, that there is no artistic leadership in these buildings.
Take Bradford Alhambra, for example. The man at the helm is Adam Renton. While many people running the buildings where work is produced are actors and directors, Renton comes from a background in hospitality. His strengths lie in knowing what the people want and making his venues – he has charge of St George’s Hall too – welcoming.
He has also been on a mission over the past decade to convince the theatre-going public of West Yorkshire that contemporary dance is not scary. Back in the early 1990s a contemporary dance company came to Bradford and for a series of reasons, the performance at the Alhambra, being entirely underwhelmingly received, caused financial difficulties for the theatre. When Renton took charge he was determined to bring contemporary dance back to the theatre. It was a marker, a stamp of quality that the best dance companies in the world – and the very best from around the globe have visited Bradford in recent years – would come to Bradford.
Renton understands that he still needs to crowd-please on occasion, hence X Factor failure Chico turning up in this year’s pantomime, but his commitment to quality is in evidence in his booking of Cedar Lake, a contemporary ballet company who will bring to the theatre, in October, a piece of work choreographed by one of the greatest choroegraphers of the modern age, Jiri Kylian. Will Young will be on the Alhambra’s stage with Cabaret next month and a new stage version of To Sir With Love, starring the highly respected Matthew Kelly comes to the theatre in November.
Work that will please the crowds include the 40th anniversary tour of The Rocky Horror Show, Priscilla Queen of the Dessert and an internationally acclaimed piece of theatre called Slava’s Snowshow which is a little difficult to describe, but has clowning at its heart and a raft of awards at its back as it arrives in October.
In Leeds, at the city’s Grand Theatre, the building can call on two of the city’s major producers to offer constant quality. With Opera North literally across the road (the internationally renowned theatre company is essentially the in-house company of the Grand) and Northern Ballet just down the road, there is plenty on the doorstep for this beautiful old theatre to stage.
Not that that means it doesn’t go looking for other good work and in November the theatre will play host to the National Theatre production, no less, of local boy Alan Bennett’s latest play People.
Next year the theatre will welcome an unusually long run of hit musical Wicked and appears to be making up for that with a large number of one and two-nighters this autumn, in between the long stints by Opera North and Northern Ballet.
Comedians Paul Merton, Bill Bailey, Sean Lock and Milton Jones will all be on the stage of the Grand and audiences will have the opportunity to spend time with Sir Roger Moore and Ray Mears – both on October 27, but in separate events – Roger Moore is in the afternoon, Ray Mears, the evening.
The Bradford Alhambra equally doesn’t do too badly with its comedic offerings – the St George’s Hall allows it a second venue for one-night shows, and this autumn it will see visits from Sarah Millican, Ed Byrne, Stewart Lee and the inimitable Russell Brand.
Bradford 01274 432000, www.bradford-theatres.co.uk Leeds Grand 084482700, leedsgrandtheatre.com