A powerful season of storytelling and mould-breaking productions.
Leeds Playhouse – named the UK’s Most Welcoming Theatre at the recent UK Theatre Awards – today announces its Spring/Summer 2023 season of major, state-of-the-world stories, produced with freshness and urgency, and each epic in their own distinctive way.
Key pillars of the season include:
- the world premiere of new musical In Dreams, written by David West Read (Schitt’s Creek, & Juliet) and featuring the songs of legendary musician Roy Orbison and directed by Luke Sheppard
- in memory of one of Britain’s leading dramatists, Kay Mellor’s A Passionate Woman returns to the Playhouse 30 years after it was first staged in her home city, directed this time by Sameena Hussain
- a new production of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies with Director Amy Leach
- Director Holly Race Roughan will explore Henry V by William Shakespeare
- John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men will be directed by Iqbal Khan in an intimate yet epic story about friendship and what it means to be human
- dynamic new production Sinfonia as part 1001 Stories will be directed by Alan Lyddiard and created from stories donated by the older people of the Leeds city region in an uplifting and unique celebration of lives lived to the fullest
- new children’s show Football Freddie by local company Fidget Theatre will get audiences in the mood for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in the summer.
- jam-packed programme of artist development opportunities including a partnership with the JMK Trust to recruit a Resident Assistant Director
“We all tell stories. It’s part of what makes us human, how we describe the world, understand the landscape around us and how we would like it to be. This season, we are sharing stories that are simultaneously deeply humane and sweeping in scope. Each speaks to the moment – to who we are today and what our hopes are for tomorrow,” said Artistic Director and CEO James Brining.
“Our principal aim is to welcome everyone to the Playhouse whether that’s to enjoy a piece of theatre or a piece of cake, to share a creative idea or partake in a creative opportunity. Over the Playhouse’s 52 plus years, it is the stories and life experiences of the people we meet each and every day – whether they are from communities across our region or if they are visiting for the very first time – who help to mould this theatre, this charity, into the space they need it to be.
“It was an honour to be named UK Theatre’s Most Welcoming Theatre 2022 and to be in such great company both nationally and locally. A massive well done to all the Yorkshire artists and theatres whose work was recognised. It demonstrates the commitment we have in the region to producing quality work, and to caring for our audiences, participants and artists.
“I’m also delighted to welcome Shawab Iqbal to the Playhouse as our new Executive Director. I look forward to working alongside him along with the rest of the Playhouse team as we remain committed to creating programmes of work for our communities. We’re continuing to provide a platform for local artists and companies to share intimate pieces of work in our Bramall Rock Void studio space; to take work on tour both locally to communities in our city, and nationally with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – The Musical; and to open up our building as a warm space for everyone. As a theatre and a charity built by and for the people of Leeds, our house is – and will always be – your house. So please join us as we share our stories, and our warm and welcoming theatre, with you this season.”
In Dreams refashions and repurposes some of the greatest songs of the 20th century into a beautiful new musical that encourages us to reflect on life, the power of community and the impact our choices make. Based on the iconic back catalogue of hits by Roy Orbison, written by David West Read (Schitt’s Creek, & Juliet) and directed by Luke Sheppard (& Juliet), this will be a lyrical and comedic exploration about legacy and how we would like to be remembered. (Courtyard theatre, 1 July – 5 August)
Writer David West Read said: “It is a tremendous honour to be premiering our new musical In Dreams at Leeds Playhouse, which has developed a reputation for introducing innovative and inspirational work created by artists from around the world. When I was growing up in Canada, the iconic music of Roy Orbison was playing on repeat in my household, and it has been a lifelong ambition of mine to build a contemporary musical around his classic songs. To bring this show to the Leeds audience, in this theatre, in this moment, is quite literally a dream come true.”
Leeds Playhouse Associate Director Sameena Hussain (I Wanna Be Yours) will direct A Passionate Woman in May. The production premiered in the Playhouse’s Courtyard theatre 30 years ago, propelling Leeds writer Kay Mellor into the theatrical spotlight and her play into the West End, and starting a long, fruitful relationship between the Playhouse and this extraordinary storyteller. This intimate, deeply personal story of reinvention and rediscovery is a tribute to the much-missed luminary, giving audiences the chance to once again enjoy Kay’s entertaining, engaging and relatable work. (Courtyard yheatre, 20 May – 10 June)
This production will be part of a series of events celebrating Kay Mellor’s trailblazing life, exploring the impact she had as one of Britain’s leading dramatists and the tremendous legacy she leaves.
Director Sameena Hussain said: “I am delighted to be directing A Passionate Woman and bringing it back to the Playhouse. It is an honour to be working on Kay Mellor’s exceptional play which celebrates and centralises Northern people, especially Northern women. Paying tribute to the magnificent and magnanimous generation of women to whom we owe so much, this is a much-needed reminder that we stand on the shoulders of giants.”
Lord of the Flies made an immediate impact when it was first published as a novel in 1954 by Nobel Prize-winning British author William Golding. Almost 70 years later, its searing iconoclastic gaze remains intact, giving us the chance to reflect anew on modern society. This Leeds Playhouse and Belgrade Theatre Coventry co-production presented in association with Rose Theatre will be directed with energy and drive by Leeds Playhouse’s Deputy Artistic Director Amy Leach (Macbeth, Oliver Twist) with creative audio description available at every performance. Adapted by Nigel Williams, it promises to be an exciting exploration of who we are as people and as a society, attempting to survive and thrive in an often brutally competitive world. (Quarry theatre 18 March – 8 April)
Deputy Artistic Director Amy Leach said: “I fell in love with theatre as a teenager watching productions at places like Leeds Playhouse on school trips and visits with my mum. It’s been a huge honour to create a number of productions for Leeds Playhouse over the last few years, including Macbeth in 2022, which have brought classic stories to life in fresh and contemporary ways. I can’t wait to share our epic, visceral production of Lord of the Flies with audiences, and to welcome numerous young people to share and experience the power of live theatre.”
Sinfonia is a dynamic new production filled with cross-artform performances of music, dance and storytelling which unapologetically combines moments of joy, humour and true stories from the generation who introduced punk to the world. Created from stories donated by the older people from the Leeds city region, this is an uplifting and unique celebration of lives lived to the fullest. Directed by award-winning 73-year-old theatre maker Alan Lyddiard (The Promise of a Garden, Anniversary), this is a ground-breaking collaboration between The Performance Ensemble, Leeds Playhouse, Leeds Museums and Galleries and Leeds Older People’s Forum for LEEDS 2023. (Quarry theatre, 27 April – 6 May).
Director Alan Lyddiard said: “Everybody has a story to tell. It is a generous act to share your story and to listen to others. Stories entertain, teach us, help us understand difference and sometimes even keep us alive. I have always been interested in people’s stories. Sinfonia is a search for meaning in those seemingly insignificant moment of life that suddenly become important and life changing. Recognising small moments matter and when gathered together can make a big impact on us all.”
Sinfonia is part of 1001 Stories Takeover, a multi-strand event that will take over the Playhouse building. It is one of a number of projects designed to celebrate the creativity of our city as part of LEEDS 2023, foregrounding the lived experiences of older people. Working with Associate Company The Performance Ensemble, the project will take over the Playhouse for two weeks, celebrating the diversity, passion and lives of the 160,000 older people over 60 who make up our brilliant city. (24 April – 6 May).
Henry V by William Shakespeare is a story firmly rooted in the past, but which still resonates strongly with modern audiences. Directed by Holly Race Roughan (Artistic Director, Headlong), this production by Leeds Playhouse, Shakespeare’s Globe and Headlong with Royal & Derngate, Northampton will be performed in an intimate setting, exploring Henry V’s single-minded pursuit of power, and what it means to be English, remodelling its centuries-old heritage with contemporary vision to create a searching, innovative new version of this Shakespearean classic. (Courtyard theatre 9 – 25 February)
Of Mice and Men is an epic piece of theatre that tells an intimate story about friendship and tenderness whilst encouraging us to look at the choices we make, and how we choose to live. John Steinbeck’s original novel may be 85 years old, but the play remains intensely thematically relevant and offers a richly emotional experience. This Leeds Playhouse, Birmingham Rep and Fiery Angel co-production will be directed by Birmingham Rep’s Associate Director Iqbal Khan, who directed the Opening Ceremony for the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games. (Quarry theatre, 11 – 27 May)
Every year, Leeds Playhouse tours a piece of theatre to venues at the heart of local communities. For 2023, the Playhouse is working with local company Fidget Theatre to take their warm and witty new children’s show Football Freddie on the road, getting audiences in the mood for the FIFA Women’s World Cup in the summer. The production will play in the Playhouse’s Bramall Rock Void from 31 May – 3 June ahead of the two-week community tour.
The Playhouse will continue its annual tradition of handing over its building to the people of the Leeds city region for Open Season – a month long celebration of some of the best community theatre and creativity. The full programme will be announced in late spring and is centred on the theme of “My City, My World”.
The Playhouse’s award-winning Creative Engagement team will also continue to work with over 12,000 people a year with a particular focus on activity in key areas in the city. The Playhouse was recently nominated in the Fantastic for Families Awards for Armley Comedy Club, which addresses isolation and loneliness in older men in Armley. The theatre will also be working in partnership with Bellbrooke Surgery in Harehills, Leeds, offering wellbeing sessions for older people; creative performance projects for young people; a Conversation Café for people seeking sanctuary; and creative writing sessions for adults.
Associate Director – Creative Engagement Alexander Ferris said: “As Leeds celebrates a year of culture in 2023, we are proud to continue to offer dynamic platforms for creativity and self-expression at the Playhouse such as our Youth Theatre, Buzz for people with learning disabilities, and Heydays for older people. And we will be extending that reach so that people can enjoy Playhouse activity without having to travel to the city centre with projects taking place on the doorstep in Harehills, Burmantofts, Chapeltown, Middleton and more. We are especially looking forward to partnering with many groups in the city on this and, of course, showcasing the very best of community performance through our Open Season Festival in the summer.”
The new year brings a flurry of opportunities with Furnace, the Playhouse’s Artist Development Programme, including the continuation of our Bramall Rock Void Creation Space and exciting opportunities for locally based theatre designers to be announced soon. Leeds Playhouse is also working in partnership with the JMK Trust and the Victoria Wood Foundation to create a new Resident Assistant Director placement. Applications for this open this month.
For Spring/Summer 2023, the Playhouse welcomes some of the UKs leading theatre companies to its stages. Productions include:
- The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, starring Hollywood icon and Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe winner Hayley Mills (Wild at Heart, Pollyanna, The Parent Trap), and screen and stage favourites Paul Nicholas (Jesus Christ Superstar, Just Good Friends, EastEnders) and Rula Lenska (Rock Follies, Coronation Street, EastEnders).
- Reflections of an Indian Dancer is the latest collaboration between pioneering theatre maker Balbir Singh and highly sought-after dancer Sooraj Subramaniam, touching on the universal themes of home and our sense of self, whilst remaining focused on the power of the individual performer.
- A fresh and family friendly retelling of Rapunzel by Carol Ann Duffy will be brought to life by leading dance theatre company balletLORENT.
- Jump on board the broom with the witch and her cat in Tall Stories’ fun-filled adaptation of Room on the Broom, the best-selling picture book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.
- FRESH 2023 by Yorkshire Dance and partners presents youth dance online and in person from across the Yorkshire region as part of the LEEDS 2023 celebrations.
- Northern Broadsides’ Quality Street, a story of romance, deception and reinvention is set against the backdrop of a bustling northern town.
- The Beekeeper of Aleppo brings us the best-selling novel by Christy Lefteri in a new adaptation by Nesrin Alrefaai and Matthew Spangler (The Kite Runner), directed by Olivier Award winning Miranda Cromwell (Death of a Salesman).
- Rush: A Joyous Jamaican Journey is the hit Windrush musical telling the story of a people and their music: Jamaica & reggae. Narrated by comedian John Simmit with hits by Bob Marley, Beres Hammond, Desmond Dekker, Freddie McGregor and more played live by the JA Reggae Band.
- The Johal family invites you to a surprise birthday party for Sunita as award-winning Rifco Theatre return with Happy Birthday Sunita.
The Playhouse’s studio theatre, the Bramall Rock Void, will host a vibrant and creative selection of smaller works that pack a powerful punch for 2023, all created by locally rooted artists who have been supported through the Playhouse’s Furnace Programme.
- Blow Down by award-winning playwright Garry Lyons is based on stories collected from the local community and presented by Theatre Royal Wakefield
- I’m Muslamic Don’t Panik, presented by Spin Arts and Bristolian, Iranian and Yorkshireman Bobak, showcases spoken word, dance, and live music in an intimate exploration of identity, where being British, Iranian, and a hip-hop head collide.
- One-man show Better Days by Ben Tagoe takes the audience on a musical journey from 1990 to 1993, combining poetic storytelling with some of the best music from the time.
- Artists Natalie Bellingham and Daniele Pennati present The Polar Bear (is Dead), a show about loss and being alone that’s ultimately full of hope.
Priority booking is now open for Priority Access, Playhouse Pass and Under 30s members with general on sale from 22 November.