Leeds Playhouse Autumn Winter Season pledges support to the Leeds City Region and offers free tickets to our NHS workers for Christmas

2nd October 2020

Responding directly to current conditions, Leeds Playhouse launches its Autumn Winter Season – created for audiences in a Covid-secure environment both in the Playhouse and out in the community and providing a platform for artists and companies from across Leeds City Region. The programme demonstrates the resilience of partnerships across the region and gives audiences the chance to safely re-engage with the unparalleled experience of live theatre.

• Leeds Playhouse will play a vital role in the social and economic life of the city, opening its doors to offer space and resources as well as partnering with local artists and companies large and small, providing a safe environment for audiences to enjoy much-needed shared experiences.

• At Christmas, Leeds Playhouse pledges 1000 free tickets for NHS workers for beloved family-favourite A CHRISTMAS CAROL as part of the #LeedsSaysThanks scheme, and commissions a new play especially to be performed in communities across Leeds.

• Following detailed planning in line with government guidelines culminating in a successful trial event, a range of safety measures have been introduced including: socially-distanced seating, e-tickets, deep cleaning, staggered entry times to reduce queues, temperature checks, a face covering policy, and sanitising stations throughout the building, which benefits from newly redeveloped large and airy foyers, and a newly installed state of the art ventilation system.

• PLAYHOUSE CONNECT: A DIGITAL SHOWCASE – an online celebration of our Creative Engagement community work with over 4000 people across Leeds throughout the lockdown period, supported by local, national and international partnerships.

• Leeds Playhouse will celebrate 50 years as a leading regional theatre with an exhibition of photographs and memories from communities, artists, staff and companies.
As the Playhouse building reopens, face-to-face participation activity is also welcomed back inside. ALL TOGETHER NOW is a fun project for 5 – 8 year olds to stimulate imagination through creative play. The project is supported by Child Friendly Leeds and places are free. Over the coming months the Playhouse’s alternative education provision run in partnership with Leeds City College returns, alongside a range of further in-person projects for Leeds residents to take part in safely and creatively. Leeds Playhouse will also continue to engage with people in some of the most vulnerable circumstances through a range of online activity and in our local communities.


James Brining, Artistic Director of Leeds Playhouse, said:
“From standing in solidarity with our colleagues across the arts industry, lighting up our digital screens for our wonderful NHS and key workers, to celebrating with the city as Leeds United were crowned champions – this certainly has been an incredible six months, which despite the ongoing challenges has seen the Leeds City Region holding strong. I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has supported us throughout this period of uncertainty and who has stepped forward to help us in this time of need.

“We feel an overwhelming drive to reopen the Playhouse so that we can share our stages and resources and work collaboratively with local companies and artists, providing a sense of hope and offering entertainment at a time when we need it the most. Building on our vital role within the economic life of the city, we’re offering commissions and employment to freelancers as well as contributing to the local economy. New opportunities are continuing to be developed through our Furnace programme to support and showcase the vibrancy and diversity of artists in our region. This includes partnerships with organisations such as Sphinx Theatre and English Touring Theatre supporting brilliant local artists like Gemma Bedeau and Adam Hughes, a continuation of our support for projects brought to us by independent artists through free rehearsal space and seed funding, working in collaboration with Leeds City College and Leeds Conservatoire to support the delivery of their courses, and the creation of a range of placements and opportunities for early career artists to work on shows.

“I am thrilled that we are welcoming back local playwright Zodwa Nyoni with her play NINE LIVES, which started life at the Playhouse in 2014 and has since travelled the country. We’re also welcoming back to Yorkshire Alan Bennett’s ever-popular Talking Heads monologues, performed by fantastic leading actors who are committing their time to audiences here in the North during this difficult period. This season is not going to be without challenges but the passion and resilience of our audiences, artists, and supporters is as strong as ever. With this in mind, we will be celebrating our 50th anniversary with a new exhibition online and in the Playhouse. This is our gift to the city; an opportunity to look back at what has made – and continues to make – this theatre so special.”
Previously announced productions include CONNECTING VOICES (2 – 17 October), in co-production with Opera North, a new production with imitating the dog DR BLOOD’S OLD TRAVELLING SHOW (7 – 8 October) and a warm welcome back to neighbours Northern Ballet for a two-week mixed programme of work including a restaging of the classic DANGEROUS LIAISONS (21 – 31 October).

Imelda Staunton credit Zac Nicholson

Leading actors pledge their commitment to regional theatre audiences in Alan Bennett’s timeless monologues TALKING HEADS. In addition to previously announced performances by Imelda Staunton and Maxine Peake the season will now also feature Rochenda Sandall who will bring her monologue THE OUTSIDE DOG to share with Leeds audiences. These performances follow the recent BBC series of monologues and the stage performances at the Bridge Theatre in London.
Courtyard Theatre: 7 November (Rochenda Sandall) 12 – 14 November (Imelda Staunton and Maxine Peake)

Maxine Peake said: “It’s a huge pleasure to have the opportunity to bring Talking Heads back to their spiritual home of Yorkshire and I’m very excited about performing Miss Fozzard to audiences in the North especially when the arts and theatre industry is being subjected to such a horrendous time. Seeing these two great theatres pulling together to restore live performances in Leeds and Sheffield is very, very good news!”

Poet and playwright Zodwa Nyoni’s (Carnival Chronicles, Ode to Leeds, Boi Boi is Dead, Leeds Playhouse) NINE LIVES returns to the Playhouse after debuting at the theatre in 2014, and also most recently forming part of the Bridge Theatre’s season of one-person plays. Presented by Leeds Studio, this powerful and intimate drama combines humour and humanity in a deeply personal account. Performed by Lladel Bryant, known to Playhouse audiences as part of the Pop-Up Season Ensemble, it is directed by Co-Artistic Director of Bradford-based Freedom Studios Alex Chisholm.
Courtyard Theatre: 5 – 6 November

Nine Lives

Following on from their co-production with the Playhouse of October’s Connecting Voices in October, Opera North will present a new double-bill – combining Handel’s pastoral opera ACIS AND GALATEA, and Brecht and Weill’s acerbic ‘sung ballet’ SEVEN DEADLY SINS.
Quarry Theatre: 11 – 21 November.

Leeds-based Wrongsemble returns with a new family-friendly musical, THE NOT SO UGLY SISTERS, a fascinating alternative story of Cinderella’s infamous step-family. This two-hander is written and directed by Elvi Piper (Rapunzel, Three UK tour) and designed by Antony Jones (Rapunzel, Three UK tour), with an all-female northern cast and with original score composed by Claire-Marie Seddon and Bay Bryan. The production was scheduled to go on a community tour earlier this year in co-production with the Playhouse and Red Ladder Theatre Company but was brought to a halt when the country was locked down on the first day of rehearsals.
Courtyard Theatre: 18 – 21 November

Elvi Piper, Artistic Director of Wrongsemble said: “We’re so delighted to be finally able to fully realise this production of ‘The Not So Ugly Sisters’ and share it with the families of Leeds as part of Leeds Playhouse’s incredible season of work to welcome back audiences. We hope you’ll be dancing in your seats (at a safe distance!) – I know I will be!”

Riptide Theatre Company return to Leeds Playhouse this Autumn with PROJECT INTIMACY, a two-week long pervasive experience which aims to combat isolation and connect people from across the globe. This unique digital experience pairs participants through instructions received via text messages to form a remote pairing. Riptide are committed to continuing this and have made several places available to Leeds Playhouse Heydays members in a bid to promote connection and battle isolation amongst older people. For the October project with the Playhouse, participants will be paired with someone from the other side of the world when Riptide showcase the work for Melbourne Fringe Festival 2020.

Alex Palmer, Artistic Director of Riptide, said: “We hope this experience will connect people from different countries, making connections across time-zones, over oceans, and with people from all backgrounds in a time of isolation and disconnect. We hope it will encourage people to look beyond their own four walls and to find a meaningful connection with a stranger.”

Leeds based Red Ladder Theatre Company returns this November with exciting new playwright Nana-Kofi Kufuor’s debut play MY VOICE WAS HEARD BUT IT WAS IGNORED. A young, black teacher witnesses her disruptive student being violently accosted by the police. He is seething with anger that she failed to answer his plea for help and takes drastic action the next day to confront her. A gripping play fraught with tension that interrogates the complexities of black identity. Directed by Leeds based Dermot Daly, currently working with Leeds Playhouse as Assistant Director on KRAPP’S LAST TAPE.
Courtyard Theatre: 26 – 28 November

Playwright Nana-Kofi Kufuor said: “I’m really excited to be working with Red Ladder on MY VOICE WAS HEARD BUT IT WAS IGNORED. The inspiration came from working at the Pupil Referral Unit, when I had a student try to take a knife to stab another student. The police were outside, and they took him. I saw him a few weeks later and he asked why I didn’t help him. A rush of guilt changed to anger and quickly to sympathy as he saw me as his protector. But I knew I couldn’t do anything. The crux of this story is how two people react to the same situation: they go on a journey; a journey a lot of people of colour go on – a realisation that where you are now isn’t necessarily where you come from.”

Leeds Playhouse is bringing Christmas sparkle to the city with a double festive offering for everyone. With one show in the Quarry Theatre and another touring the communities and neighbourhoods of Leeds, the Playhouse will spread Christmas cheer at a time when it’s most needed. The long-standing support of Families Partner Caddick Group and Access Partner Irwin Mitchell will help to ensure we can bring Christmas to Leeds this year.

Transforming the Quarry Theatre into Victorian England will be Charles Dickens’ classic A CHRISTMAS CAROL, adapted by playwright Deborah McAndrew. Full of festive cheer and music, with all the joys of a timeless Christmas family story, the Playhouse is reinventing their magical production from the Pop-Up Season in 2018, based on the original Hull Truck production. Familiar, sumptuous and spine-tingling, the production, directed by Playhouse Associate Director Amy Leach (There Are No Beginnings, Oliver Twist) will have integrated British Sign Language.
The Playhouse pledges 1000 free tickets for NHS workers for beloved family-favourite as part of the #LeedsSaysThanks scheme with further offers for other frontline workers to be announced for future productions.
Quarry Theatre: 3 December – 9 January

Continuing Leeds Playhouse’s commitment to working with its communities and taking theatre to locations right across the city, especially aiming to reach people who may currently feel isolated or cut off, the Playhouse has commissioned Robert Alan Evans (The Night Before Christmas, Crumble’s Search for Christmas) to create a new family-friendly production which will be performed on the back of a truck driving through the neighbourhoods of Leeds.