‘FOUNDED IN 1970, RELOCATED IN 1990, AND RELAUNCHED IN 2018, THE LEEDS PLAYHOUSE IS A THEATRE AT THE HEART OF THE CITY AND REGION WE CALL HOME.’
Artistic Director James Brining and Executive Director Robin Hawkes have been steering this theatre from strength to strength. From the recent re-brand which saw the theatre transform from the West Yorkshire Playhouse to Leeds Playhouse, to the award-winning £15.8m recent redevelopment and over to the cracking opening season post-re-opening, this theatre is certifiably bloomin’ brilliant as ‘one of the largest producing theatres in the north’. Here’s five things to love about Leeds Playhouse…
1. The team. My gosh they’re a jolly bunch. Not just those I work with directly, the wonderful Rachel Marriner, Georgie Sykes and Jo Haywood but the whole gang. Every trip sees folk greeted with big smiles and helpful directions by ushers who genuinely seem so happy to be a part of it all. Then there’s the populace of various departments who turn out in big numbers to support home grown and touring talent, meaning you can often see the whole close knit collective having a good old jolly and enjoying their time in the auditoriums (even after spending their days working in the same building). That sort of commitment and widespread support could never be anything but sincere and I love love love to see it.
*** Special shout out also to Georgie Skyes who was my first ever point of contact and the first to ever add me to a press list – that 60 second off-hand conversation way back when quite literally changed my life – thanks Georgie!
2. Outreach and accessibility. I am in awe of the outreach going on at this theatre. Take a look at their website and feel your heart swell to know that this theatre and this extended team are embracing all corners of the local community and beyond. The creative engagement and accessibility work going on here is staggering and the theatre is quite clearly setting a benchmark for accessibility and inclusion within the industry.
3. The re-brand. Inspired. Recognising the theatre’s position as a Leeds local and spotlighting the ‘us’ of the theatre industry and its audiences, the re-brand was both a tribute and a reminder to Leeds that theatre is for and about everyone. Even the season programmes made me giddy with the diversity of cover stars proving to be a hugely satisfying statement of inclusivity.
4. That new facade. What a beauty! Having invested in a major redevelopment which sees even greater accessibility, my favourite parts are plain to see on the approach; that new facade finally offers the city centre a forward facing welcome, visible from a distance and taking up space just as it should. Shimmy along the side of the building and you’ll also see a call to arms entirely befitting the arts and the locality side by side – and more than a little apt for the precarious footing of all theatres right now. #TeamLeeds
5. The programming. Talk about range and diversity! This theatre brings shows spotlighting a vast variety of life experience, backgrounds and identities to the stage. From the Furnace Festival which embraces exciting, daring new work to embracing home-grown talent to community productions to hosting large scale touring productions, you can escape to every kind of place and time at Leeds Playhouse, and what’s not to love about that?
Best of all with Leeds Playhouse perhaps is the general buzz of the place. With shows often playing across 2-3 stages on the same evening, this theatre often feels the way theatre spaces should always feel: packed with anticipation and full of life.
Their website proudly declares: ‘OUR VISION: We will be a vital theatre, a great artistic beacon for the North, rooted in our communities and creating exceptional art…Our mission is to create world class, relevant and compelling theatre and to transform people’s lives by the power and vitality of our work. We aim to have a company, an artistic programme and an audience that reflect the diversity of the society in which we live.’ …and what could be more dreamy I ask you? They have been and will, I have no doubt, continue to do exactly that when the doors are once again wide open to all of us.
Hungry for more theatre appreciation? Take a look at some of these other love letters to cracking theatres: Leeds City Varieties, The Grand Theatre and Opera House, Leeds, York Theatre Royal, York Grand Opera House, Harrogate Theatre and Nottingham Theatre Royal. And watch this space – there’s plenty more to come!