‘West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Autumn/ Winter 17 Season is a vibrant collection of diverse stories from across the world, retold by exceptional theatre makers.’ -WYP
It’s official: West Yorkshire Playhouse has a very exciting Autumn/winter season planned…
I went along to their launch event yesterday and found myself very impressed with the line-up; the season is exclusively made up of newly written productions which cover a fantastic range of subjects, cultures and backgrounds – and is somewhat of a beacon of hope in an industry which doesn’t always put minorities front and centre. In attendance were some of the creators of the line-up for the upcoming season and while I’d happily go along to each and every production based on their pitches and insights, I’ve got my top picks of WYP, visiting and Furnace Festival productions for you – enjoy!
West Yorkshire Playhouse Productions: Top 3
1: Kneehigh are back! This time with Günter Grass’s novel The Tin Drum which is apparently a hefty volume as prose but a lively, fun production punctuated with a heavy musical thread when transposed for the stage. This production is the collaborative work of WYP, Kneehigh and Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse. Billed as an exploration of ‘love and war as musical satire’, the plot seems rather wild and should certainly prove entertaining with Mike Shepherd’s unique Kneehigh spin on it. Run: 17-28 October.
2: Pink Sari Revolution, directed by Suba Das, is based on ‘a true story of resistence’ as told in Amana Fontanella-Khan’s biography. This production promises a ‘kick ass’ display of women taking control in India, where thy face child marriage and violence towards women. Donning pink saris, the women unite and take back their bodies in a production which questions notions of power and control when it comes to the body and the mind. Run: 7-11 November.
3: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. This adaptation of C.C Lewis’s much -lived children’s story received a lot of hype at the launch, and it would appear that that is rightly so. Promises have been made: this will be one of the largest scale productions of recent years; ambitious, vibrant and…for the first time ever in The Quarry theatre space…in the round! Capacity will be maximised, as will the experience, with the intention being to swallow up the audience in the land of Narnia through the layout and Rae Smith’s design. With Sally Cookson directing, it should be a gorgeous piece of physical storytelling and spectacle if La Strada is anything to go by. Run: 29 November- 21 January.
Queen of Chapeltown: a celebration of Leeds Carnival’s 50th year will see the carnival brought inside, with all the trimmings kept intact. As part of a week-long celebration, this play from Colin Grant (directed by Amy Leach) explores how this famous Leeds event began and celebrates how West Indian heritage took root in good old Yorkshire. Run: 12-15 September.
Partition: in recognition of the 70th anniversary of the division of colonial India into two separate religious states, WYP and BBC Radio Leeds have collaborated with writer Nick Ahad to create a production for a simultaneous live performance and radio broadcast. This production explores the shocking consequences of division and looks at the conflict through the eyes of a modern couple who must discover whether love can persevere when surrounded by hate. I’m sure this will be an interesting theatrical experience with such exciting collaboration at the heart of it. Run: 8-9 September.
Visiting Productions: Top 3
1: The Boy in The Striped Pyjamas. Northern Ballet’s adaptation of John Boyne’s wonderfully tragic novel should be a highlight of the visiting productions line up. Following the friendship of two boys on either side of a war in Nazi Germany, Boyne’s story explores conflict through the eyes of a child and I’m fascinated to see how this production will translate into ballet for the stage. Run: 5-9 September.
2: Reasons to Be Cheerful, by disabled led theatre company Graeae and in association with Belgrade Theatre Coventry. This is a punk rock musical which promises fun and grit through a celebration of the music of Ian Drury and the Blockheads. Friends do everything they can to get to Druro’s gig, leading to a coming of age story with a kick. Although this isn’t my kind of music, hearing yesterday about how the production is leading the way in terms of the quality of theatrical experiences for the blind and the deaf makes this well worth seeing. Rather than presenting a production with add-ons for those with impairments, this company gives a unique experience through a 3D approach to visuals and audio. Run: 10-14 October.
3: The Kite Runner, produced originally by Nottingham Playhouse and Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse. Based on Khaled Hosseini’s novel, this production follows the lives of two childhood friends in war torn Afghanistan. Their friendship is destroyed by a hideous incident and this production handles dark subject matter with grit and poignancy. I saw the production in Nottingham a few years ago and I remember being very impressed. Run: 19-23 September.
Furnace Festival: Top 3
1: Little Mighty’s Woke. Rapper and beat boxer Testament dons his feminism placard and explores modern ideas about prejudice and freedom. After a taster of this show from Testament at yesterday’s launch, I can say that this promises to be something engaging, different and very important. Run: 20-22 September.
2: Transcreative’s You’ve Changed. Having been a fan of Liverpool’s Homotopia season for a few years now, I am delighted to see shows like this in Yorkshire. Kate O’Donnell explores our modern, changing relationship with gender identity and questions whether we are enlightened or still in the dark about transitioning. The production will feature song, dance an comedy and comes with a 14+ age advisory. Billed as a revealing insight into the life of a woman who transitioned 14 years ago, this should prove to be a very important show in WYP’s new season. Run: 19th September.
3: Rash Dash’s Two Man Show. This two hander will explore ideas about masculinity, patriarchy and Man. It will feature music and dance and proudly declares that it will be ‘loud and raucous’. This sounds fascinating to me; I’ve seen a fair few pieces of theatre on females and identity but I don’t recall having yet seen a show which focuses solely on male identity. Run: 21-22nd September.
The fact that this one season spans race, religion, culture, gender and sexuality in one form or another is timely and absolutely fantastic – and actually, still quite rare at the moment. It promises to celebrate as well as explore the lives of others while also offering insight and education for up and coming companies and artists. I can’t wait to see as much as I can!
You can get your tickets for all of the above here.