A MULTI-CULTURAL FAMILY: A new Yorkshire theatre production explores cross-cultural families

A MULTI-CULTURAL FAMILY: A new Yorkshire theatre production explores cross-cultural families

At Yorkshire Families we want to represent ALL families who live or want to experience the region regardless of background and any barriers whether it cultural or financial etc. Our founder Sophie Mei Lan aka Mama Mei comes from her own unique background which has been/is full of lots of challenges but with a passion for the county! So we’re excited to see that there’s a new theatre production exploring cross-cultural families coming to Leeds, West Yorkshire.

Missing People by Pinter Prize-winning playwright Brad Birch explores the similarities and mistranslations of a Japanese and British family thrown together by a cross-cultural marriage. This is the first co-production between Leeds Playhouse and Kani Public Arts Center Japan, opening in Leeds from 12-21 March, following its Japanese debut at the New National Theatre in Tokyo and at Kani Public Arts Center. 

Missing People is co-directed by Leeds PlayhouseAssociate Artist Mark Rosenblatt and Kani Public Arts Center Associate Director Nobuhiro Nishikawa. The production is the centrepiece of a creative relationship shaped over two decades, sharing working practices for staff and artists across cultures and offering an insight into each other’s sector-leading organisations.

Rehearsal images show British actors Ishia Bennison (Romeo And Juliet, Royal Shakespeare Company) and Simon Darwen (Skellig, Nottingham Playhouse) alongside Japanese actors Susan Hingley, Hiroki Tanaka, Yutaka Oda, Yuri Eikawa and Natsumi Nanase.

This new play focuses on a multi-cultural family who are not as serene as they first appear. Sakiko, a Japanese woman, and her English fiancé Dan have returned to her hometown of Kani, a commuter town near Nagoya, to introduce Dan and his mother Linda to her parents so they can plan their wedding. However, under the calm surface is a family in crisis, struggling with the loss of Sakiko’s brother. As she seeks the truth about her brother, Sakiko is forced to confront her own past, her own ‘disappearance’ to live in the UK, and where her own choices have led her.

The Missing People creative team includes Rumi Matsui, a Tokyo-based set designer and scenographer; Japanese artist Rie Nishihara, who has designed the costumes; lighting designer Elliot Griggs; sound designer Matt Padden; movement by Sachi Kimura; script translator Keiko Tsuneda;and translator in the room Mikiyo Usui.    

The production is part of a series of official public events that make up the Japan Season of Culture, which aims to build public support ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The Tokyo 2020 Cultural Olympiad was originally launched in 2017 with a ceremony in the city’s Nihonbashi district featuring performances fusing traditional arts with modern technology.  

Missing People is supported by the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation.

Missing People, Courtyard Theatre, Leeds Playhouse

12 – 21 March, Press Night Mon 16 March, 7.45pm

Box office 0113 213 7700. Book online leedsplayhouse.org.uk

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THE BEAR: Half-term family show at Leeds Playhouse for children

THE BEAR: Half-term family show at Leeds Playhouse for children

Ever wondered what it would be like to sit on a polar bear‘s lap? Or ride on its back? Have you ever tried to give a bear a bath?

 

Probably not. But now you can spend some quality time with an enormous snowy white bear at Leeds Playhouse when Raymond Briggs’ magical story The Bear is brought to life on the Courtyard stage.

 

One night when Tilly is fast asleep, a huge bearclimbs into her bedroom. It has a long black tongue and a yawn as big as her head. But, still, she’s not scared.

 

The Bear is a heart-warming, humorous tale from the team that brought young theatregoers the hugely successful Father Christmas. Pins and Needles Productions are delighted to be sharing another of Raymond Briggs’ much-loved storybooks, including dazzling puppetry, unforgettable music, dreamy storytelling, and more laughs than there are penguins in Antarctica (i.e. a lot).

The cast of The Bear includes: 

Abby Wain (Tilly) – All that’s solid Melts into air (Tangled Feet, National Theatre), Alice’s Adventures Underground (Les Enfants Terribles, The Vaults), A Tale of Two Cities (Red Shift Theatre Company, Hong Kong), Fried chicken (Bounce Theatre, Kingston Theatre), Alice in Wonderland (Derby Theatre)

Elena Stephenson (Mum / Puppeteer) – Wendla in Spring Awakening, Hecuba in Trojan Women. Noted portrayals include Hero in Much Ado About Nothing (Trickster Theatre) and Desdemona in Othello (Trickster Theatre), Elaine in Breathing Corpses (Sweet Venues, Edinburgh Fringe), Netflix US, in the role of Claire Morris in Nurses Who Kill and in the upcoming film Redcoat, which will be available to view on Amazon Prime.

John Winchester (Dad / Puppeteer) – Oi Frog & Friends (Kenny Wax Productions/ Pins and Needles Productions); The Scarlet Pimpernel (Pimpernel Productions); Cinderella (Imagine Theatre); A Christmas Carol and Lovers (Cumbernauld Theatre); Dick McWhittington (Perth Theatre), The Demon Headmaster (CBBC); Anna and The Apocalypse (Blazing Griffin Films); A Long Long Crime Ago (CBBC); Grandpa in my Pocket, The Ha Ha Hairies (Adastra Creative/CBeebies).

 

The Bear is a not-to-be-missed experience for the whole family and a perfect introduction to theatre for little people with big imaginations.

So, why not bring your very best bear to Leeds Playhouse and join Tilly and her great big white friend on a wild and magical adventure?

The Bear, Courtyard, Leeds Playhouse

18 – 22 Feb. 

Box office: 0113 213 7700; leedsplayhouse.org.uk

 

OLIVER TWIST AT LEEDS PLAYHOUSE: Casting announced for new adaptation

OLIVER TWIST AT LEEDS PLAYHOUSE: Casting announced for new adaptation

Leeds Playhouse and Ramps on the Moon have announced the full cast for their bold new version of Dickens’ novel Oliver Twist.

Directed by Leeds Playhouse’s Associate Director Amy Leach (The Night Before Christmas, Hamlet, Road, Romeo & Juliet) and adapted by award-winning playwright Bryony Lavery, it will starBrooklyn Melvin in the role of Oliver, aided and abetted by a gang of wily pickpockets led the Artful Dodger, played by Nadeem Islam, who’s best known for presenting the BBC’s See Hear series, and Caroline Parker MBE as Fagin (Our Country’s Good, Ramps on the Moon and Nottingham Playhouse UK Tour).

Nancy will be played by Clare-Louise English, making a swift return to Leeds Playhouse after appearing in Graeae/Theatre Royal Plymouth’s One Under commissioned by Ramps on the Moon in the Courtyard in November 2019, with Stephen Collinsstepping into the brutal boots of Bill Sikes (the spelling taken from Charles Dickens’ original text).

The cast will be completed by Katie Erich as Rose, Rebekah Hill as Luna, Georgia Jackson as Fingers, Steph Lacey as Mrs Thingummy, Jack Lord as Mr Brownlow, Craig Painting as Mr Sowerberry, Mitesh Soni as Charley Bates and Benjamin Wilson as Mr Bumble.

Director Amy Leach said: Oliver Twist is a vivid, dark and visceral story and I am really excited to explore how adding artistic layers of creative sign language, audio description and captioning can enhance the storytelling for all audience members. I can’t wait to get started with the amazing OliverTwist company. I feel so lucky to get to create this production with such a wonderfully talented and versatile ensemble of D/deaf, disabled and non-disabled actors. I can’t wait to share Bryony’s very special adaptation with audiences around the country.”

Oliver Twist builds on the success of previous Ramps on the Moon productions including Our Country’s Good, The Who’s Tommy and The Government Inspector.

The creative team includes Designer Hayley Grindle, Lighting Designer Joe Fletcher, Sound Designer John Biddle, Composer Oliver Vibrans, Associate Director Hannah Quigley, Puppet Director Rachael Canning, Dramaturg Jenny Sealey, Projection Designer Akhila Krishnan, BSL Consultant Daryl Jackson, Audio Description Consultants Benjamin Wilson and Chloe Clarke, Lead BSL Interpreter Dave Wycherley, Creative Enabler Kirsty Pennycook, Creative Assistant Directors Nicole Joseph and Adam Bassett and Casting Director Kay Magson CDG.

This thrilling production will open at Leeds Playhouse in February ahead of visiting Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Nottingham Playhouse, Sheffield Theatres, New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich and Theatre Royal Stratford East, who are all part of the Ramps on the Moon consortium alongside Graeae, the UK’s leading disabled-led theatre company.

Every performance of Oliver Twist will feature integrated creative sign language, audio description and captioning. The production plays in Leeds Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre from 28 February – 21 March 2020 ahead of a UK tour.

Oliver Twist, Quarry Theatre, Leeds Playhouse

Fri 28 Feb – Sat 21 March 2020.

Box office 0113 213 7700. Book online: leedsplayhouse.org.uk

 

Full tour information

28 Feb – 21 March 2020
Leeds Playhouse
0113 213 7700
www.leedsplayhouse.org.uk

For Leeds Playhouse Oliver Twist is sponsored by Access Partner, Irwin Mitchell.

25 March – 4 April 2020
New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich
01473 295900
www.wolseytheatre.co.uk

16 – 25 April 2020
Nottingham Playhouse
011594 19419
www.nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk

29 April – 9 May 2020
Birmingham Repertory Theatre
0121 236 4455
www.birmingham-rep.co.uk

13 – 23 May 2020
Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
0114 249 6000
www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk

28 May – 6 June 2020
Theatre Royal Stratford East
020 8534 0310
www.stratfordeast.com

Writer Bryony Lavery was born in Wakefield and is one of the UK’s most well respected and prolific playwrights. She is best known for her award-winning play Frozen which recently played in the West End featuring Suranne Jones. Bryony’s adaptation of A Christmas Carol played at Leeds Playhouse in 2010. She has had a long and varied career, including writing plays for the National Theatre and Frantic Assembly.


Director Amy Leach
joined Leeds Playhouse as Associate Director in 2017. She directed Hamlet, A Christmas Carol and Road during the theatre’s acclaimed Pop-Up Season. She previously directedTalking Heads, Queen of Chapeltown, Romeo & Juliet, Kes, The Night Before Christmas and Little Sure Shot.

Amy is committed to placing accessibility and inclusion at the centre of her work. During the Pop-Up Season, her production of Road included integrated live audio description, her production ofHamlet was the first Leeds Playhouse production to trial the National Theatre’s groundbreaking caption glasses, and she was instrumental in forming the Playhouse’s partnership with Mind the Gap’s Staging Change initiative which encourages professional opportunities for learning disabled actors and creatives. In autumn 2019, Amy directedThere Are No Beginnings by Yorkshire writerCharley Miles, the first production in Leeds Playhouse’s new studio theatre the Bramall Rock Void. This production featured creative audio description at every performance. For Christmas 2019, Amy directed The Night Before Christmaswith every performance D/deaf friendly using integrated creative sign language.


Ramps On The Moon is a consortium of seven major theatre companies
committed to putting Deaf and disabled artists and audiences at the centre of their work; to accelerate positive change, explore opportunities and stimulate awareness of disability issues within arts and culture. The project is supported by public funding through the Arts Council’s Strategic Touring programme – the largest award of its kind. The consortium venues are New Wolsey Theatre, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Leeds Playhouse, Nottingham Playhouse, Sheffield Theatres, Theatre Royal Stratford East and Graeae Theatre Company.


Leeds Playhouse is celebrating its 50thanniversary in 2020.
It is a cultural hub, a place where people gather to share stories and to engage in world class theatre.

The Playhouse makes work that is pioneering and relevant, seeking out the best companies and artists to create inspirational theatre in the heart of Yorkshire. From large scale spectacles to intimate performances, the Playhouse develops and makes work for the stage, found spaces, tours, schools and community venues.

A dedicated collaborator, Leeds Playhouse works with distinctive, original voices from across the UK. Its Artistic Development programme, Furnace, discovers, nurtures and supports new voices, while developing work with established practitioners. It provides a creative space for writers, directors, companies and individual theatre-makers to refine their practice at all stages of their career.

The Playhouse’s sector-leading Creative Engagement team works with more than 12,000 people aged 0–95 every year. It runs a range of weekly workshops and exciting creative projects using theatre to reach out to refugee communities, young people, students, older people and people with learning disabilities.

Leeds Playhouse now has a building to match its wide-ranging, far-reaching ambitions. As a result of a £15.8m transformation in 2019, it now offers improved access to and around the theatre, a city-facing entrance and a new studio space, the Bramall Rock Void.

 

HUDDERSFIELD PANTOMIME: Sleeping Beauty at the Lawrence Batley Theatre – Review

HUDDERSFIELD PANTOMIME: Sleeping Beauty at the Lawrence Batley Theatre – Review

Christmas isn’t Christmas without a trip to the Pantomime… and Huddersfields’ favourite Panto is back at the Lawrence Batley Theatre for the 4th year running. This year’s Christmas panto is Sleeping Beauty, Oh yes it is and, they just keep getting bigger and better with sumptuous costumes, brilliant foot-stomping tunes and an outrageous Dame, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Blogger Amy Downes went to review the show for Yorkshire Families… 

With just a week left until Christmas, things are really getting busy and between the school plays, festive parties and gift shopping it’s easy to forget to have some fun with your family!

So, I was grateful for the opportunity to attend the Lawrence Batley Theatre’s production of Sleeping Beauty last week. My little boy is 3 years old, so I wasn’t sure if he is old enough yet for the evening performances and much-loved storyline, but there really was something for all of us to enjoy.

Harry was engrossed by the songs and the dragon, 3-month-old James by the lights and colours and Mummy and Daddy couldn’t help but chuckle at ‘Nanny Fanny’ (Robin Simpson). When my other half laughs at a joke, you know you’ve hit the nail on the head with the Dad jokes.

sleeping beauty lawrence batley theatre huddersfield

Director Joyce Branagh has written four pantomimes and lives in West Yorkshire, while playwright Andrew Pollard specialises in writing for families (he also appeared as John Bune in Emmerdale!). Henry Filoux-Bennett, Chief Executive and Artistic Director oat the theatre said of the duo:

‘I’ve heard so much about our audiences’ fantastic reaction to previous productions and this is set to build and excel upon their previous triumphs.’

The opening performance from the cast of Sleeping Beauty was stunning.

From the moment the curtain lifted there was a proud Yorkshire theme which helps set this story apart from the huge offering of pantos that we have on offer every year. From Hester the Jester (Nicola Jayne Ingram) with her thick local accent to the references of nearby towns and suburbs.

The songs too made this a high-quality show, from amazing routines choreographed around well-known hits like Robbie Williams’ ‘Let Me Entertain You’, to originals by like ‘When We Grow Up’ and ‘I’m Stuck on You.’

Nanny Fanny’s ‘Yorkshire Haka was the highlight of the show for me!

Finally, pantos are known for their corny jokes, but my inner feminist is all too often prickled by the uncomfortable stereotyping of larger women, the transgender community and ‘damsels in distress’. Happily, Sleeping Beauty defied this with a cast of strong female leads who stole the show and a challenge to typical parenting roles.

Nanny Fanny’s ‘Yorkshire Haka was the highlight of the show for me!

King Herbert the Hesitant (Richard Hand), who was left as Princess Aurora’s primary caregiver after her mother passed away, was dishing out parenting jokes, Aurora (Alyce Liburd) was seen practicing football in between her lessons, and Hayley Russell was sensational and strong as the evil Belladonna Bile.

Luke, Harry, Baby James and I had a wonderful family evening which got our Christmas celebrations off to a fun start.

We walked out into the rain with smiles on our faces and festive cheer in our hearts, chuffed to have made memories to add to our first Christmas as a family of four. Nanny Fanny will always be a part of that!

Luke, Harry, Baby James and I had a wonderful family evening which got our Christmas celebrations off to a fun start.

So, if you’re looking for something to do with your kids over the next few weeks, this panto is on until Sunday 5th January. The perfect Christmas gift for you all to share is some time together to remember forever.

With thanks to The Lawrence Batley Theatre and Bonner and Hindley for the gifted family ticket.

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS: Festive family show for young children at Leeds Playhouse – Review

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS: Festive family show for young children at Leeds Playhouse – Review

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at Leeds Playhouse with its fun festive family show, The Night Before Christmas, perfect for young children. 

Yorkshire Families went along to the Courtyard Theatre in Leeds Playhouse for the latest production at the new facilities.

After marching through the hustle and bustle of Leeds City Centre at Rush Hour, we were relieved to be able to escape into the stunning purpose-built building that is Leeds Playhouse’s new home. The city facing entrance helps to make the theatre feel more accessible. The bright lights were a welcome aim in the darkness.

We made our wait into the Courtyard Theatre to review The Night Before Christmas, perfect for 3-6 year olds (there’s also Snow Mouse on at the moment for 0-3 year olds and The Wizard of Oz for older children).

My friend and I had brought along our there kids straight from school, so we were all a bit stressed and rushed as we took to our seats.

But within moments, we were transported to the gentle land of Carol and Elf at home on Christmas Eve.

The show is all in sign language and rather than it be an addition it is an integral part of the characters;’ communication on stage, which was great to see.

All the stresses of Christmas seemed to whirl away into the twinkling stars above Carol’s house.

Lladel Bryant (Elf) and Alexandra James (Carol) in The Night Before Christmas at Leeds Playhouse. Photographs by Anthony Robling (2)

The setting is simple and the show features two main characters who communicate through sign language, speech and “Elvish.” I wasn’t sure how the kids would react to such a calm production but surprisingly they were engulfed into the beautiful friendship between Carol and elf.

There were nice touches of dancing and costume changes too as well as lovely parts where the characters came into the audience.

As the snow settled on Carol’s house ready for Christmas Day, we too felt relaxed and in the Christmas Spirit for the big day.

The Official Lowdown

Production images give a glimpse of the twinkly Christmas Eve sky above the small, neat home of Carol (Alexandra James) as she prepares for another ordinary day in her ordinary life. But then something extraordinary happens. Elf (Lladel Bryant) drops in – literally – and turns her world upside down, leading to rooftop adventures, ice dancing, a search for Santa and, best of all, a firm festive friendship.  

The Night Before Christmas by Robert Alan Evans(Crumble’s Search for Christmas, Kes, Leeds Playhouse) proved a big hit with audiences of all ages when it was first staged at Leeds Playhouse in 2015. Now, director Amy Leach (A ChristmasCarol, Kes, Leeds Playhouse) has added a dynamic new dimension for Christmas 2019, introducing creative use of sign language to make every performance D/deaf friendly, while giving Carol the perfect tool to communicate with Elf, who only speaks Elvish.

The Night Before Christmas, Leeds Playhouse’s Courtyard Theatre

30 November 2019 – 28 December. 

Box office 0113 213 7700. Book online: leedsplayhouse.org.uk

YORKSHIRE YOUNG ACTORS on a journey to The Wizard of Oz at Leeds Playhouse

YORKSHIRE YOUNG ACTORS on a journey to The Wizard of Oz at Leeds Playhouse

As the cast of The Wizard of Oz prepare to take audiences on a magical adventure along the yellow brick road at Leeds Playhouse this month, it’s time to meet Lucy Sherman and Agatha Meehan, who will star as alternate Dorothys during the festive run from 20 November 2019 to 25 January 2020.

These images show the young local actors with their new best friends, Doris and Scruff, who will be playing Toto, Dorothy’s faithful four-legged companion on her journey to the Emerald City alongside a stunning puppet designed and created by Charlie Tymms (Life of Pi, Sheffield Theatres, Running Wild, UK tour).

In this timeless story of adventure and friendship, directed by James Brining (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Sunshine on Leith, Leeds Playhouse) and designed by Simon Higlett (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Leeds Playhouse), the Munchkins and a number of ensemble roles are being played by local children in two teams – Team East and Team West.

James opted to cast a young ensemble and two real-age Dorothys to heighten the tension and ramp up the energy of this timeless tale: ‘Having a child play Dorothy brings out the jeopardy of the story. As soon as a child steps into Dorothy’s ruby slippers, the whole energy of the piece changes. There’s more vulnerability and an increased sense of responsibility on behalf of the adults for the child, for someone so young and small. I’m also very conscious of having young people in the audience watching the story and identifying with the protagonist – that’s a very powerful thing.’

The Wizard of Oz will play in Leeds Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre, which reopens this Christmas following the building’s dramatic £15.8m redevelopment.

The theatre will host a sing-along performance of The Wizard of Oz on Friday 13 December, inviting the audience to dress up, sing out and join in the fun. Relaxed and Dementia Friendly performances will also be available, and there will be a selection of bespoke wrap-around and inschool activities led by the Playhouse’s award-winning Creative Engagement team.

There’s no place like home

Leeds Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining talks about his fresh, dynamic take on The Wizard of Oz – and why it’s the perfect show to mark the theatre’s first Christmas in its newly redeveloped home. 

Why have you chosen The Wizard of Oz for the Playhouse’s first Christmas after its £15.8 million redevelopment?

‘The Christmas show in the Quarry at the Playhouse is a big event that attracts tens of thousands of people. For many, it’s a special occasion that marks the festive season, so we’re always looking for a show that can unite an audience in celebration.

The Wizard of Oz is a story of people triumphing over challenging odds. It’s full of peril, jeopardy, excitement and hope, but it should also make people feel inspired, positive and joyful.

‘Theatrically, it gives us the opportunity to make the most of the amazing space that is the Quarry Theatre. It’s a chance for us to stage a fantastic, affirmative theatrical event. The notion of ‘there’s no place like home’ is particularly interesting because, this year, we’re back in the theatre after our redevelopment. It’s brilliant to welcome people back with a show of this scale – it feels appropriate as a celebration of the monumental year we’ve had.’

What, for you, are the key themes of The Wizard of Oz? And what new elements are you striving to bring out?

‘The story is so well known but now, having worked on it so closely, I have found lots in there I hadn’t recognised or maybe had just taken for granted before. It really repays a fresh look.

‘It’s about a child who’s let down by lots of people, particularly adults, and isn’t having an easy time. She has to battle really hard to discover who she is and, in the process, she enables other people to discover who they are and what their positive and affirmative qualities are.

‘The approach we’re taking is to make it feel as inclusive as possible so that it represents a contemporary view of the world rather than an old-fashioned view. It’s a cherished story still very much set in its original time, but ours is a modern telling that’s very accessible to audiences.’

You’ve chosen two young local actors to play Dorothy – 12-year-old Agatha Meehan and 14-year-old Lucy Sherman – and have also cast a young ensemble. Why was this important to you?

‘Having a child play Dorothy brings out the jeopardy of the story. As soon as a child steps into Dorothy’s ruby slippers, the whole energy of the piece changes. There’s more vulnerability and an increased sense of responsibility on behalf of the adults for the child, for someone so young and small. I’m also very conscious of having young people in the audience watching the story and identifying with the protagonist – that’s a very powerful thing.

‘Lucy and Agatha are working so hard. The show asks a lot of them, but they are really excellent. I’m so impressed with them; they’re both very skilled and talented and also have a wonderful open enthusiasm.’

Why is the character of Dorothy still so beloved by audiences?

‘Dorothy helps liberate people and communities by her actions, and her personality – she’s always completely without ego. She takes other people along with her, inspiring them to make a change in their own lives. The potential of a child to change the world is a really powerful idea. Adults can often be much more aware of risk, failure and disappointment. What I find interesting here is that you have a child who’s put into a position where she has to act beyond her years, and she achieves everything she sets out to do.’

What can people expect from Leeds Playhouse version of The Wizard of Oz?

‘All the classic elements will be there – the ruby slippers, the yellow brick road, the Wicked Witch – but there will be so much more besides. Aerialists, puppetry, real animals – our aim is to not only match people’s expectations but to surpass them. We’re also using projections to energise the aesthetic and bring a new dynamic element to the show.

‘For me, the yellow brick road is an interesting metaphor. It’s obviously a real thing in the story but it also represents a journey, growth and companionship. Also, for me, it represents faith; not in a religious way but in the possibility of achieving something that initially seems impossible. It shows how, if you set out with purpose in good company, you can achieve a goal that you never could have imagined achieving by yourself.’

What’s your personal relationship with The Wizard of Oz?

‘I don’t know whether it’s a generational thing, but when I was growing up there were films that seemed to be on the telly all the time, every year, andThe Wizard of Oz was one of them. The story has entered the national consciousness to a certain extent. There are certain lines in it that have become iconic, almost Shakespearean in their recognisability. Like “I’ll get you my pretty” and “I’m melting” – they’ve become part of popular vernacular.’

Has working intensely on The Wizard of Oz changed your view of the story?

‘Working so closely on it means I’ve got to know it really well. The Wizard of Oz is such a complex and interesting story that it has almost taken on mythological proportions, moving beyond its narrative and becoming a powerful emotional arc.

‘The technique of having a reality that is, in effect, in a dream world is something I’ve realised I’ve done quite a lot in my other work, in other shows, almost subconsciously referencing The Wizard of Oz as a source idea. The idea that there is a reality and then there’s an alternative reality based on that reality is a very rich, dramatic and incredibly neat structure to make a piece of work from.’

Who do you think Leeds Playhouse production of The Wizard of Oz will appeal to?

‘It’s tempting to say “all the family”, but it’s a story that reaches even further than that, to people who don’t have a family, to everyone in fact. It’s a great story that, as the Playhouse, we will deliver with an integrity, depth and warmth.’

What makes The Wizard of Oz in the Quarry special? What sets it apart?

‘For me, it’s not just about the songs and the spectacular elements, it’s about interrogating the story, and making it clear and gripping and exciting. I want to make it about something; about courage and friendship and the possibility of transformation and community.

‘We will, of course, deliver on the songs and the dancing and the spectacular elements, but with added dynamism and freshness. I want people to experience things they didn’t expect to see.

‘It’s a family show, but it’s also more than that. It’s a classic story, and we do classic stories very differently at the Playhouse. We respect the original, but present it in a way that feels fresh, modern and completely unexpected.’

The Wizard of Oz, Leeds Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre

20 November 2019 25 January 2020. Press Night Tue 26 November 2019, 7pm

Box office 0113 213 7700. Book online leedsplayhouse.org.uk

An interview with the director

THE WIZARD OF OZ

By L. Frank Baum

With Music and Lyrics by Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg

Background Music by Herbert Stothart

Dance and Vocal Arrangements by Peter Howard

Orchestration by Larry Wilcox as revised by Toby Higgins

Adapted by John Kane for the Royal Shakespeare Company

Based upon the Classic Motion Picture owned by Turner Entertainment Co. and distributed in all media by Warner Bros.

Leeds Playhouse opened nearly 50 years ago. It is a cultural hub, a place where people gather to tell and share stories and to engage in world class theatre. The Playhouse makes work which is pioneering and relevant, seeking out the best companies and artists to create inspirational theatre in the heart of Yorkshire. From large scale spectacles to intimate performance, the Playhouse develops and makes work for the stage, found spaces, touring, schools and community venues. As dedicated collaborators, Leeds Playhouse works regularly with other organisations from across the UK, and some of the most distinctive and original voices in theatre today. Through their Artistic Development programme Furnace, they develop work with established practitioners and find, nurture and support new voices. They cultivate artists by providing creative space for writers, directors, companies and individual theatre-makers to refine their practice at any stage of their career. The Playhouse’s sector-leading Creative Engagement team works with over 10,000 people aged 0 – 95 every year through a range of weekly workshops and exciting creative projects using theatre to open up possibilities, reaching out to refugee communities, young people, students, older people and people with learning disabilities. At the Playhouse there is always a way to get involved.

 

Leeds Playhouse’s Autumn/Winter 2019 season will take place back in the redeveloped theatre following a £15.8 million transformation. The new building will include improved access to and around the theatre, a new city-facing entrance and the addition of a new studio theatre, the Bramall Rock Void. The full season consists of: FURNACE FESTIVAL 2019 returns showcasing a weekend of works in progress (13 – 16 November); Inua Ellams’ critically acclaimed BARBER SHOP CHRONICLES returns (20 – 23 November); celebrating 80 years since the iconic film THE WIZARD OF OZ  (20 November – 25 January) is the Playhouse’s Christmas spectacular; Leeds Playhouse presents THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (30 November – 28 December); the The Egg and The Travelling Light present SNOW MOUSE (10 – 21 December), and the Playhouse proudly celebrates 10 years of Relaxed Performances this Christmas-time, pioneered at Leeds Playhouse and now adopted as standard practice in theatres worldwide.

THE WIZARD OF OZ: Land of Oz at Leeds Playhouse, West Yorkshire

THE WIZARD OF OZ: Land of Oz at Leeds Playhouse, West Yorkshire

With just a month to go, the cast of The Wizard of Oz are preparing to bring the spectacular tale of the magical land of Oz to Leeds Playhouse from 20 November 2019 until 25 January 2020.

These images give a first glimpse of the tremendous trio of Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion as they escort Dorothy and Toto through the poppy fields of Oz, ducking and diving from the terrifying Wicked Witch of the West, played by Polly Lister (The Worst Witch Live, Nimax/Northampton Theatre Royal/Kenny Wax/ Novel, Theresa Heskins; Boeing Boeing & Private Lives for Harrogate Rep).

 

When venturing into the land of Oz, Toto, Dorothy’s tiny but tenacious four-legged friend, will be magically brought to life by puppeteer Ailsa Dalling, under the direction of Rachel Leonard. Designed and created by Puppet Maker Charlie Tymms (Life of Pi, Sheffield Theatres, Running Wild, UK tour), Toto has been crafted using a plywood skeleton with elastic hinge joints with a jaunty outer-layer of dyed hessian and 1930s-style patterned fabric to create that furry exterior.

In this timeless story of adventure and friendship, young Dorothy and her little dog Toto are caught in a cyclone and whisked away to the magical Land of Oz in a technicolour production directed by James Brining (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Sunshine on Leith Leeds Playhouse) and designed by Simon Higlett (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Leeds Playhouse).

The Wizard of Oz will play in Leeds Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre, which reopens this Christmas following the building’s dramatic £15.8m redevelopment. Audiences now enjoy improved access into and around the building, contemporary seating in the Quarry, new hospitality areas and a dramatic new city-facing entrance opposite Leeds City Bus Station.

 

The theatre will host a sing-along performance of The Wizard of Oz on Friday 13 December, inviting the audience to dress up, sing out and join in the fun. Relaxed and Dementia Friendly performances will also be available, and there will be a selection of bespoke wrap-around and inschool activities led by the Playhouse’s award-winning Creative Engagement team.

 

The Wizard of Oz, Leeds Playhouse’s Quarry Theatre

20 November 2019 – 25 January 2020. Press Night Tue 26 November 2019, 7pm

Box office 0113 213 7700. Book online leedsplayhouse.org.uk

HALLOWEEN THEATRE FUN: Family musical in Sheffield this half term

HALLOWEEN THEATRE FUN: Family musical in Sheffield this half term

Baroness Frankenstein has opened the doors of her castle to creatures of the night looking for a safe place to stay, away from the prying eyes and pitchforks of the townsfolk.

 

 The problem is, it’s not technically her castle anymore! The Baroness is penniless, and sold the castle to fund her experiments! Meanwhile, the new owner (the wealthy American widow, Hannah Hoople) believes she’s bought a hotel and she’s now on her way to inspect it!

 

 Aided by her assistant Igor and a gang of ghostly housemates, the Baroness must convince Mrs. Hoople that the castle is in fact a luxury hotel and not a dusty old Laboratory. 

 

To top it off, they only have one night to do it before Mrs Hoople leaves for Paris the next morning.

 

If they fail, they’ll have to pack up their coffins and find a new place to haunt!

 

 This frightfully good family musical is sure to be a hit with big and little monsters alike!

I want my mummy a family halloween musical

Full of show stopping tunes , crazy characters, spooky silliness, and a fancy dress competition with a prize for the best costume, I Want My Mummy! is the perfect treat for this Halloween half term. 

 

I Want My Mummy! Takes place at the Montgomery, Sheffield on 29th October (7pm), 30th October (1pm signed performance & 3:30pm) and 31st October (11am & 2pm). 

 

Please note disabled access is not available at the theatre.

 

For more information, go to: 

https://m.facebook.com/pg/farfarawaytheatre/posts/?ref=page_internal&mt_nav=0

 

CITY VARIETIES IN LEEDS: Backstage Pass for young people this Summer

CITY VARIETIES IN LEEDS: Backstage Pass for young people this Summer

Children aged seven to 17 are invited to participate in a wide range of activities this August at the world-famous City Varieties Music Hall (CVMH).

Backstage Pass is two weeks of fun-filled activities, including junk percussion, script writing, improvisation, directing, dance and performance workshops.

With the opportunity to meet new people, work with industry professionals, gain new skills and back stage access there’s something for everyone to get involved in. No experience necessary!

Catherine Hayward, Education Manager, said: “Backstage Pass offers children of all ages and abilities, first-timers or regular attendees, the chance to make friends, have fun and learn new skills.

“We hope that by opening our doors throughout the summer, that some, if not all of the children, will want to get involved year-round through our Youth Theatre, projects or workshops.”

Yorkshire Challenge Image (Rachel Lythe - Leeds Grand Theatre)

Run in collaboration with industry professionals, the programme runs as follows:

MONDAY 12 AUGUST: YOUTH THEATRE TASTER DAY (ages 7-17)

Ever wanted to know what goes on at City Varieties Youth Theatre? Come join our incredible creative team for a full day of acting, voice work and movement across our two fantastic venues; City Varieties Music Hall and Leeds Grand Theatre.

TUESDAY 13 AUGUST: RIGHT DIRECTION (ages 12-17)

Want to make a scene? Then let this workshop take you in the Right Direction. Learn the skills of instantly creating theatre through improvisation and then be given the directing tools from award-winning director Paul Birch that will help you turn your ideas into drama that makes a lasting impact.

Learning 6

TUESDAY 13 AUGUST: JAMMIN AND JUNK’ MUSIC WORKSHOP (ages 7-11)

There is nothing professional musician Alex Cromarty can’t make music from! With a studio full of drums, ukuleles and even dustbins, spend a day creating rhythms and music, filling the room with a cacophony of sounds as one big band. No prior musical experience required.

WEDNESDAY 14 – FRIDAY 16 AUGUST: YOUNG PLAYWRIGHTS (ages 12-17)

Three days to create characters, make monologues and write a whole new script from scratch! Your script will then be performed on the main stage by a group the following week.

Learning 5

MONDAY 19 – FRIDAY 23 AUGUST: PLAY IN A WEEK (ages 7-11)

Working on an original script, written especially for this project, spend a full week on The Varieties stage to create and perform a full play in just five days!

Places for each activity are limited. For more information and to book call Box Office on 0113 243 0808 or visitwww.cityvarieties.co.uk.

Costs range from £25 to £100 depending on activity

LEEDS PLAYHOUSE REVIEW: Be My Baby features a lead role for an actor with learning disabilities

LEEDS PLAYHOUSE REVIEW: Be My Baby features a lead role for an actor with learning disabilities

All-female ensemble company perform in final production in Leeds Playhouse’s Pop-Up Theatre which tells a story of a maternity home for young, unmarried women who have ‘made one mistake.’

Anna Gray who stars in the show is a resident artist with Mind the Gap theatre company – one of the country’s largest learning disability theatre companies that has championed learning-disabled arts for 30 years.  The production is presented in association with Mind the Gap and this project is a continuation of a longstanding relationship between them and Leeds Playhouse.

In 2018 Leeds Playhouse took part in Staging Change, a Mind the Gap initiative that encourages access for learning disabled actors, creatives, and audiences.

“As a direct result of Staging Change Anna was asked to audition for Be My Baby – we knew immediately that we wanted to work with her. She’s a skilled actor and in casting her we highlight the contemporary approach to the play.”

Director, Jacqui Honess-Martin said: “For the final production in the Pop-Up theatre our ensemble is joined by Anna Gray who plays Norma. Anna is an actor with learning disabilities, and sometimes learning names is a challenge, to help her not feel too much like the new girl we are all wearing named t-shirts (as pictured in featured photo) – we’ve had a great time personalising them!”

What’s the show about? 

19-year old Mary is seven months pregnant when her mother delivers her into the charge of St Saviours. As Mary, Dolores, Queenie and Norma bond over records and romance, they begin to understand what it means to give their children to the Welfare Service and Mary realises she must fight to take her baby home.

Whilst there are nods to the 1960s by use of key props and snippets of song, Jacqui and the creative team have shaped a piece that comes without an era thus opting for a contemporary and resonant approach. The set is stark, the costumes unspecific in fashion, and the piece is fully captioned at every performance.

The female Ensemble Company is Tessa Parr fresh from her role in the critically acclaimed Hamlet, she is joined by Anna Gray as Norma Jo Mousley as Mrs Adams, Crystal Condie as Queenie, Simona Bitmate as Mary and Susan Twist as Matron.


Tessa Parr (Dolores) in Be My Baby. Photography by Anthony RoblingReview By Mel Neale, CoActive Charity which supports adults with learning difficulties. 

Good things about this play; the cast, the performances were all strong and there was a clear affinity between the performers, I got the impression they had enjoyed working together. Susan Twist who played Matron was a touch of class. Anna Gray, who has previously trained and performed with ‘Mind the Gap’, is a strong addition to the company. The use of live singing throughout the piece was engaging and tender.

Unfortunately, despite these elements, overall, I was disappointed. Stories of abortion practices in the 1960’s are poignant and important to tell, however, I found this play told the story without managing to evoke investment in the characters stories, or even in their relationships to each other. I felt distant from them, and at times confused by their stories, and even bored. I found Norma’s story, played by Anna Gray, very confusing, I did not know if a central part of the character was that she had a learning difficulty or not. Whichever the case there was a missed opportunity in clearly representing the additional challenges faced by a woman with a learning difficulty at this time.
Anna Gray (Norma) in Be My Baby. Photography by Anthony Robling.jpg

The main problem I had with the central story of Mary Adams, played by Simona Bitmate, was that I thought the pacing of the play stripped her story of drama. There was a part of the play in which Mary and her room mate Queenie plan to leave together and move to the coast, but no sooner than the plan is made, it is abandoned and given no time for the audience to invest in the plan or to feel the loss of it.

I would have enjoyed this play significantly more if I could have seen a stronger development of the characters throughout the play.

Be My Baby plays in Leeds Playhouse’s Pop-Up theatre, in association with SOYO Leeds, from 11 May – 1 June.

Be My Baby, Leeds Playhouse’s Pop-Up theatre

11 May – Sat 1 June,

Box office 0113 213 7700. Book online leedsplayhouse.org.uk