Leeds Playhouse celebrates 50th anniversary with exciting season following May reopening

Leeds Playhouse has announced an exciting season of productions and exhibitions to celebrate its milestone 50th anniversary.

Friday, 16th April 2021, 6:00 am
James Brining, artistic director at Leeds Playhouse

The theatre will welcome audiences back to its building on May 17 which will kick off the season of celebrations, set to last until mid-June.

Among the celebrations highlights are six specially-commissioned monologues by northern writers and a new family show that will open in Playhouse Square before embarking on a community tour.

There will also be an exhibition of photographs, stories and memories showcasing 50 years in the life of the theatre.

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The playhouse will collaborate with community story tellers from across Leeds to capture and celebrate the meaning of the city as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations.

James Brining, artistic director at Leeds Playhouse said: "Our 50th anniversary celebrations are a welcome back gift for us to share with the city. Whether we’re live in the theatre, across neighbourhoods or in people’s home, this is our time to celebrate together; to look back on what we’ve achieved and to look forward to all the wonderful adventures to come.

“After everything we’ve been through in the last year, it feels more important than ever to take a moment to reflect on what has made – and continues to make – our city and our theatre so special.

"Our reopening season of work, which we will announce more details of in the next few weeks and will include exciting details of our 2021 Christmas production, aims to engage with as many people as possible; whether that’s digitally in their living room, on a truck in their neighbourhood or live here in the theatre.

“Many of the people we are working with this year have been supported through our Furnace programme, which enables local artists to their practice as well as new projects.

"We want the work we are creating to embody what makes us all so proud; to celebrate the vision and artistic ambition we have here in the North; to express the breadth of stories that are experienced by our diverse communities; and, most importantly, to show how this 50 year old theatre has become the life blood of the community it serves – championing new work, celebrating locally-rooted artists and engaging with people across communities.”

Robin Hawkes, executive director of Leeds Playhouse said: “During the last unprecedented year, we have continued to push forward with our redevelopment plans – taking advantage of the time when we were forced to remain closed by the pandemic to ensure our theatre meets the practical and aesthetic aspirations of everyone who uses it daily.

"To that end, we’ve been working with Designer Hayley Grindle on some innovative and exciting new ideas for our front-of-house spaces, which we can’t wait to share with everyone when they walk back through that beautiful tiled entrance next month.”

Full details on the celebrations are as follows:

Decades: Stories from the City

A Leeds Playhouse Production written by Simon Armitage, Leanna Benjamin, Kamal Kaan, Alice Nutter, Maxine Peake, and Stan Owens.

Live at the Playhouse Wednesday, 19 May to Saturday, May 29.

Available online at home Monday, May 24 – Saturday, June 5.

The monologues feature characters rooted in the north, telling stories set in each of the decades.

They reflect the spirit of the people, city and region, showing who we are and how are lives have been shaped by Leeds.

50 years of Leeds Playhouse

From May 21, Monday to Saturday: 10.00am to 3.00pm

To mark the 50th anniversary and the reopening of Leeds Playhouse, a new exhibition will be displayed in the foyer areas of the theatre this summer.

Curated by Courtney Spencer and drawing on the Playhouse’s archive, the exhibition will celebrate the story of the theatre from its beginnings to the present day.

Displays will highlight the people, the places and the shows, celebrating memorable events and the playhouse's links with the community.

As well as a wide collection of photographic material, artist Cait McEniff, whose recent work includes a celebration of Kirkgate Market, has been commissioned to create a series of illustrations inspired by Playhouse memories.

Entry is free but a timed entry ticket must be pre-booked in advance via the website.

Fairy Poppins and the Naughty Winter Ghost

A Leeds Playhouse production written by Rob Alan Evans and directed by Alexander Ferris

From Thursday, May 27 in the Playhouse square with an additional community tour.

Gather round as Henderson, Brown and Wallis, a trio of rambunctious travelling players, tumble out of a van with a tall tale to tell.

With music, magic and jokes, let them transport you to the deep dark woods, where an 800-year-old forgotten fairy and a brave(ish) child called Freddy try to save spring from the freezing clutches of a naughty ghost.

Hilarious and a tiny bit spooky for scaredy-parents (a lion roars softly more than once), why not join Fairy Poppins, Freddy – and three very silly storytellers – on this magical, meaningful adventure.

Tickets are on sale to Leeds Playhouse’s priority access members, Playhouse pass holders, supporters and directors club members from Thursday, April 15 with tickets on general sale from Tuesday, April 20.

Leeds Playhouse and Opera North's co-production of Orpheus in the Record Shop by writer and beatboxer Testament will also release this month as part of BBC Light's Up - airing on iPlayer and BBC four from April 21.