The legion of stars who have trod the boards at West Yorkshire Playhouse

Dame Judi Dench laid the foundation stone for West Yorkshire Playhouse in March 1989
Dame Judi Dench laid the foundation stone for West Yorkshire Playhouse in March 1989
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It is on the verge of a dramatic transformation as part of a £14m development, but in the last three decades the West Yorkshire Playhouse has showcased the skills of some of the nation’s best loved actors and actresses.

Long before the curtain opened on the first production at the Quarry Hill complex, stars were drawn to the site.

Lenny Henry in Northern Broadsides production of Othello at West Yorkshire Playhouse in February 2009.''Picture: Nobby Clark

Lenny Henry in Northern Broadsides production of Othello at West Yorkshire Playhouse in February 2009.''Picture: Nobby Clark

Award-winning Shakespearean actor Sir Donald Sinden had turned the first sod in November 1987; Judi Dench had laid the foundation stone in March 1989, with Albert Finney performing the topping-out ceremony in September 1989. Bond girl Diana Rigg opened the building.

The first production, which opened in March 1990, was John O’Keeffe’s Wild Oats starring Normanton-born Reece Dinsdale - who returned last year in Richard III. In the first six years of operation the Playhouse produced 93 of its own productions, and the acting luminaries who have trod the boards ever since seem too numerous to mention.

But some of the highlights over the years have included Sir Ian McKellen, who has performed in three WYP productions, The Seagull, Present Laughter and most recently The Tempest in 1999.

Former Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston has appeared as Hamlet and in Electricity, and is patron of the First Floor Project for young people. Lenny Henry made his professional theatrical debut in Northern Broadsides production of Othello in 2009, to rave reviews.

Sir Ian McKellen as Dr Dorn in Anton Chekhov's The Seagull at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Sir Ian McKellen as Dr Dorn in Anton Chekhov's The Seagull at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Other famous faces to appear at the Playhouse include Maxine Peake, Patrick Stewart, Prunella Scales and Sheila Hancock.

Artistic director James Brining said: “A wealth of talent has trod the boards since Diana Rigg performed the opening ceremony 25 years ago and we’re proud to have welcomed such great actors as Ian McKellen, Sheila Hancock, Christopher Eccleston and Patrick Stewart to the theatre.

“West Yorkshire Playhouse has also developed and continues to work with emerging new talent within the region, who’ve played a key role in helping establish the Playhouse as a leading regional theatre.”

Redevelopment plans

Christopher Ecclestone in Hamlet.''Picture: Keith Pattison

Christopher Ecclestone in Hamlet.''Picture: Keith Pattison

A third theatre will be opened inside the 25-year-old Quarry Hill complex as part of a £12m redevelopment of West Yorkshire Playhouse.

The majority of the cash has come from the Arts Council, £6.6m, with a further £4.9m from Leeds Council. The Playhouse will launch a fundraising drive to find a further £1.8m.

The new performance space will set to be complete by late 2018.

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