Leeds Playhouse to Celebrate 50th Anniversary With Audiences Live at the Theatre, in the Community and at Home

15th April 2021

Leeds Playhouse has today announced an exciting season of productions and exhibitions to celebrate its milestone 50th anniversary as it looks forward to welcoming audiences back to the building safely in May. Leeds Playhouse was created by and for the people of Leeds, so it seems only fitting that they are now at the centre of the celebrations 50 years later.
Among the highlights are:
• six specially-commissioned monologues by northern writers with strong connections to the Playhouse
• a new family show that will open in Playhouse Square before embarking on a community tour
• an exhibition of photographs, stories and memories showcasing 50 years in the life of the theatre
• a collaboration with community story tellers from across our city to capture and celebrate what Leeds means to us

Leeds Playhouse Decades

Leeds Playhouse will be welcoming audiences back into the building for the first time since November, safely reintroducing them to live theatre with six new monologues written by six writers, each with a strong connection to the Playhouse, and each with their own perspectives on Leeds and the region. The writers – Simon Armitage, Leanna Benjamin, Kamal Kaan, Alice Nutter, Maxine Peake, and Stan Owens – have each taken a particular decade from across the Playhouse’s lifespan covering the 1970s to the 2020s as their inspiration, creating a diverse collection of stories firmly rooted in the North. Leeds Playhouse’s Artistic Director James Brining, Associate Director Amy Leach and RTYDS Resident Assistant Director Sameena Hussain will be joined by Evie Manning of Common Wealth Theatre, Theatre State’s Tess Seddon and Theatre Director Amanda Huxtable to direct these powerful and witty monologues, which will be shown in rep under the title DECADES: STORIES FROM THE CITY. The productions will be staged in the Courtyard Theatre and available online via Playhouse: At Home. All performances will include creative audio description.

FAIRY POPPINS AND THE NAUGHTY WINTER GHOST is a new family show by Robert Alan Evans, commissioned by Leeds Playhouse to mark its 50th anniversary, which will open in Playhouse Square in late spring before embarking on a community tour. The production, directed by Leeds Playhouse Associate Director Creative Engagement Alexander Ferris, will visit neighbourhoods and non-traditional venues throughout Leeds, bringing the joy and excitement of live theatre on the back of a truck. Families will be able to enjoy this magical adventure in their own neighbourhood as a trio of rambunctious players transport them to the deep dark woods to meet an 800-year-old forgotten fairy. The show is sponsored by local insurance brokers J M Glendinning as part of their longstanding support for the Playhouse.

Reopening next month, the theatre will mark its season of celebrations with an exciting exhibition 50 YEARS OF LEEDS PLAYHOUSE curated by Independent Curator Courtney Spencer. Also available to view online, the exhibition will turn the spotlight on the theatre’s history, highlighting its pioneering, industry-leading work, such as becoming the first ever Theatre of Sanctuary for Refugees and People Seeking Asylum, and creating the first ever Dementia Friendly productions – now adopted all over the world. It will also highlight 50 years of memorable and ground-breaking productions, encapsulating what the Playhouse is all about: people, community and creativity. As part of the exhibition, the Playhouse will unveil newly commissioned artworks on 21 May by Leeds based illustrator Cait McEniff which capture people’s memories from the last 50 years.

Our Creative Engagement team are collaborating with community story tellers from across our city to capture and celebrate what Leeds means to us for HALF A CENTURY STORIES. The stories will be hand posted through the letter boxes of communities throughout Leeds, inviting others to share their memories and create new connections.

“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,” said James Brining, Artistic Director of Leeds Playhouse.
“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.”
Leeds Playhouse is confident it can welcome audiences safely and efficiently back into its theatres in May as it had the chance to test and perfect its covid procedures when it temporarily reopened last October. It will continue to abide by national guidelines and will keep audiences informed about its ongoing covid safety measures as it reopens.

“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,” James continued “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.”

“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.” said Robin Hawkes, Executive Director of Leeds Playhouse.

“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.”

Tickets are on sale to Leeds Playhouse’s Priority Access Members, Playhouse Pass holders, Supporters and Directors Club members from Thursday 15 April, with tickets on general sale from Tuesday 20 April.

This April, will also see Leeds Playhouse and Opera North’s co-production of ORPHEUS IN THE RECORD SHOP by acclaimed writer and beatboxer Testament’s releases as part of BBC Lights Up, an unprecedented season of plays for BBC TV and radio produced in partnership with theatres across the UK and continuing BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine initiative. The production will air on iPlayer and BBC Four from 21 April.

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 – Saturday 29 May
Available online At Home Monday 24 May – Saturday 5 June
Six characters, six new plays, six directors, six compelling stories from the heart of Yorkshire.
Commissioned to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Leeds Playhouse, from writers with strong links to the theatre, these new monologues feature characters firmly rooted in the North telling stories set in each of the decades.
Powerful and insightful with biting Yorkshire wit, these are tales that reflect the spirit of the people, the city and the region, showing us who we are and how our lives have been shaped by the place we call home.
Decades: Stories from the City will be an unmissable event that can be enjoyed live in the Courtyard Theatre at the Playhouse or online At Home.

Dates: From 21 May, Monday to Saturday, 10am – 3pm
Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Leeds Playhouse, and marking its re-opening, an exciting 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 this remarkable theatre. From its beginnings, when it was set up by the people of Leeds, to the present day as one of the country’s leading producing theatres, displays will highlight the people, the places, the shows, celebrating memorable events and our 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 from our Creative Engagement participants and the wider public.
Come and celebrate why the Playhouse has been at the heart of Leeds for half a century.
The 50th Anniversary Exhibition will be on view at Leeds Playhouse from 21 May, Monday to Saturday between 10am and 3pm. Entry is free; however, to manage numbers and keep everyone safe, please book a timed entry ticket in advance via the website.

A Leeds Playhouse production
Written by Rob Alan Evans
Directed by Alexander Ferris
Dates: From Thursday 27 May
Playhouse Square plus Community Tour
“Maybe the tables have turned and it’s fairies who need to believe in humans now”
Something magical is happening. In a street near you.
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 very (very) bad 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.