As the Rugby World Cup heads to Leeds, preparations are underway for a spectacular theatrical event in Millennium Square. Yvette Huddleston reports.
“It’s amazing and slightly petrifying at the same time,” says Nathan Curry, artistic director of Tangled Feet theatre company of their latest project Collective Endeavour which will be taking over the whole of Leeds’ Millennium Square next Friday night.
The acclaimed company specialises in large-scale outdoor theatre pieces, but this could be their most ambitious venture yet. To mark the arrival of the Rugby World Cup in Leeds – Elland Road will be hosting two matches over the weekend of September 26 and 27 – Curry will be overseeing hundreds of professional and amateur performers in a dazzling production exploring teamwork, the power of community and rugby’s traditions of justice and fair play.
“It will be a lovely coming together to celebrate rugby and also the city and people of Leeds,” says Curry who when we speak is on his way to meet a hundred of the local volunteers who have signed up to the project to teach them the choregraphy of the piece.
“At the moment we are rehearsing in three separate groups in different places,” he explains. “Then we have one rehearsal all together, the night before, and then it’s show time. It’s like doing a massive jigsaw, but you are blindfolded. It is really exciting because this is a one-off thing – it won’t ever be repeated. And the volunteers are full of enthusiasm – they committed to being part of the show because they care about rugby or Leeds or culture. They are what will make it fantastic.”
The setting of Millennium Square is something that Curry is particularly excited about. “It is such a great space and it is surrounded by all those wonderful buildings,” he says. “It’s an amazing backdrop and it is in the heart of the city. It is also a very rare thing across the UK – it is a town square that has dressing rooms beneath it. That makes it perfect for outdoor performance.”
Curry and his team were approached two years ago by Leeds City Council and Leeds-based creative producers Dep Arts to make the piece as part of TRY, the official cultural celebration of the Rugby World Cup in the city. The programme also includes Rugby Songs which combines the local talents of Slung Low and BAFTA-nominated writer Lisa Holdsworth.
“Luckily I love rugby,” says Curry. “So we started thinking about the themes of rugby and what that had to offer as a piece of theatre. The Rugby World Cup is the third biggest sporting event in the world after the Olympics and the Football World Cup, so what we are doing is a kind of mini Opening Ceremony. It will start off that weekend in a very special way.”
And it promises to be quite an awe-inspiring experience – during the course of the performance the volunteers will, through their movement, construct a huge set of rugby posts and the piece will also feature pyrotechnics and live music.
“We really can promise people a spectacular piece of theatre and something that Leeds hasn’t seen before,” says Curry. “One of the many great things about Leeds is its strong rugby connection – Yorkshire has more participation in rugby union than anywhere else. Some of the themes of the show include community spirit and moral code so it feels very much a story of Leeds and Yorkshire, that tradition of supporting each other.
“That’s been one of the great things in preparing for this – finding out about how much Leeds is a city of community action and about people looking after each other. All the storytelling is about the fact that we can do great things when we work together.”
Collective Endeavour takes place on Friday September 25, 8pm, Millennium Square, Leeds.
To reserve tickets go to www. www.tryleeds.com
Leeds will host two matches as part of the Rugby World Cup at Elland Road: Canada v Italy, September 26 and USA v Scotland September 27.
Slung Low’s Rugby Songs, Millennium Square, Wednesday September 30 at 7.15pm.