West Yorkshire Playhouse appoints Leeds director as new boss

James Brining.
James Brining.
Have your say

WEST Yorkshire Playhouse has appointed a new artistic director, James Brining, who was born and brought up in Leeds.

It’s the first time the theatre complex has had a Loiner in charge, though he comes back to his home city having enjoyed national and international success.

Brining, who’ll take up the post in the summer, currently heads up the leading theatre, Dundee Rep, and has previously worked with numerous organisations and companies winning several awards.

He said: “I’m hugely excited by the opportunity to return home and lead this great theatre into a new era. I look forward to bringing the many strands of my experience together at one of Britain’s leading cultural organisations and to working on both Playhouse stages, as well as providing platforms for other artists to make extraordinary work.

“I want to develop a culture of creativity and excellence, building partnerships at home and throughout the UK as well as overseas. Theatre is a vital element of our cultural and social fabric and I aim to ensure that West Yorkshire Playhouse is a place where people have life-enriching and transformative experiences. It’s our job to throw open the doors and welcome people to the Playhouse with unforgettable, world-class work.”

Click here to register and have your say on the stories and issues that matter to you

Alongside the Playhouse’s chief executive, Sheena Wrigley, Brining takes on the role as the current artistic director, Ian Brown, steps down after a decade at the helm.

As one of Britain’s most highly acclaimed theatres, the top job on Quarry Hill is one of the most coveted in the arts world. But the new man is considered to be one of the UK’s leading artistic voices and one of Scotland’s most successful artistic directors. Under his leadership Dundee Rep has been recognised as one of Scotland’s foremost theatres and cultural hubs, being home not only to one of the few ensemble companies in the UK, the Dundee Rep Ensemble, but also to Scottish Dance Theatre and Rep Creative Learning.

During Brining’s tenure Dundee Rep has won and been nominated for more TMA and Critics Awards in Scotland than any other Scottish theatre. The Company has gained a national and international reputation, touring work across the world to countries as diverse as Iran, Mexico and Japan, as well as throughout the UK. Playhouse Chief Executive Sheena Wrigley said: “I’m very excited to be welcoming James to the Playhouse. He has a singularly strong sense of how a theatre deeply rooted in its locality can have a rich and resonant national voice. The Playhouse has an illustrious past, under the directorships of Jude Kelly and Ian Brown, but like much of the arts sector at this time faces considerable challenges. James’s experience, creativity and vitality will be central to shaping a dynamic future for the theatre. I look forward to working with him to take the West Yorkshire Playhouse into a new era.”

As a director, Cambridge-graduate Brining has created premiere productions of newly commissioned plays by leading Scottish writers such as David Greig and Stephen Greenhorn, as well as presenting reinterpretations of contemporary drama and revivals of classic plays. His productions of Sunshine on Leith and Sweeney Todd won TMA Best Musical in 2007 and 2010 respectively.

He is currently working on the first major revival of Zinnie Harris’ acclaimed drama Further than the Furthest Thing. In his previous role as Artistic Director of TAG Theatre Company, Brining developed work with and for young people from across Scotland, a strand of work which has continued to play an integral role for him during his time at Dundee Rep.

His extensive knowledge and skills as a director and creative leader were called upon for the creation of both the National Theatre of Scotland and the Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland when he sat on the Steering Groups to establish both organisations. All of which will be much-needed as funding streams start to narrow for arts organisations in an age of austerity.

Brining says: “In the current economic climate it is vital that theatres like West Yorkshire Playhouse continue to push boundaries, challenge their audiences, stimulate debate and provide somewhere a shared experience can be enjoyed by all.”

PIC: Simon Hulme

£12m Leeds Grand Theatre regeneration plan includes a little extra help from the taxpayer