Birdsong Review

Civic Theatre, Darlington – 10 March 2015

Sebastian Faulkes Birdsong arrives in Darlington this week, as part of a UK tour commemorating 100 years since the World War I.

Rachel Wagstaff’s stage adaptation is intense, dark and brooding, so accurate you felt you were down those horrendous small tunnels.  Although this is in part due to the immense set, designed by Victoria Spearing and the outstanding lighting, designed by Alex Wardle for Charcoalblue LLP.

Telling the story of Stephen Wraysford (Edmund Wiseman), the play moves between the Western Front in France between 1916 and 1918 and flashes back to his past to Amiens in 1910.

Birdsong dwells on the hellish tunnelling and explosives-laying operations conducted below the battlefield. Using atmospheric lighting and crouching, nerve-racked movements to conjure an indescribable mood of tension, the cast powerfully conveys the terror of being buried alive in narrow earthy passageways dripping with blood

The story is based on the idea that the bombardment is already under way and Stephen is lying seriously injured in a field hospital.  With his past in Amiens being replayed as part of the shell shock.

There are two moments that stand out: the needless, but almost heroic, suicide of 15 year old Tripper (Max Bowden) and Peter Duncan’s performance as Jack Firebrace, a simple sapper.  Duncan shakes off his action man children’s TV presenter persona to show just what an exceptional actor he is.

The singing and music pieces are totally evocative and blend into the performance seamlessly.

The 12 strong ensemble are a tribute to the sacrifice of the millions of men who died – showing just a glimpse of the  horrendous experiences they went through.

Showing in Darlington until Saturday March 14th and on tour in the UK, visit for further dates


Way Upstream press release

Jason Durr   Peter Forbes   Jill Halfpenny   Jason Hughes   Sarah Parish

by Alan Ayckbourn

Emily Laing   Nicola Sloane

Director Nadia Fall

23 April – 16 May
Festival Theatre, Chichester

Jason Durr, Peter Forbes, Jill Halfpenny and Jason Hughes join the previously announced Sarah Parish in Way Upstream, a characteristically dark and funny Alan Ayckbourn comedy which opens Chichester’s Festival 2015.

Four old friends, one cruising boat, two weeks off work, and the perfect setting of the beautiful River Orb. What could possibly go wrong? Plenty can, and does, in typical Ayckbourn style, as relationships become frayed before the ignition key is even turned. Waters get even choppier when the troubled crew bump into enigmatic seadog Vince and his bohemian friend, Fleur. This exposé of the murky depths that lurk beneath the surfaces of friendship, love, desire and power is vintage Ayckbourn.

Following the successful completion of the Festival Theatre’s major redevelopment last year, its stage will be transformed into a river, complete with a real life-size boat.

Jason Durr plays Vince. His credits include Donkeys’ Years (Rose Theatre, Kingston), the West End production ofVolcano and the role of PC Mike Bradley in the television series Heartbeat.

Peter Forbes plays Keith. His theatre credits include How to Hold Your Breath (Royal Court Theatre) and The James Plays (National Theatre of Scotland and Edinburgh International Festival).

Jill Halfpenny plays Emma. Her credits include her award-winning performance in Legally Blonde, the West End production of Abigail’s Party and screen roles in Babylon and In The Club.

Jason Hughes plays Alistair. His theatre credits include In The Next Room, or the Vibrator Play (St James Theatre) and the US tour of 4.48 Psychosis. Television credits include the role of DS Ben Jones in Midsomer Murders.

Sarah Parish plays June. Her numerous television credits include W1A, Atlantis, Mistresses, Cutting It and Blackpool.Her film credits include The Wedding Date and The Holiday.

The cast also includes Emily Laing as Fleur, whose credits include Arcadia (Nottingham Playhouse) and Nicola Sloane as Mrs Hatfield whose credits include London Road (National Theatre, and forthcoming film).

Alan Ayckbourn is an Olivier and Tony award-winning playwright whose distinguished career has spanned over 50 years. His major successes include Relatively Speaking, How the Other Half Loves, Absurd Person Singular, Bedroom Farce, A Chorus of Disapproval and The Norman Conquests. He was Artistic Director of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, from 1972 to 2009, where the majority of his work continues to be premiered.

Nadia Fall makes her directorial debut at Chichester having recently directed Dara and Home for the National Theatre, and Hobson’s Choice at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.

The production is designed by Ben Stones, also making his Chichester debut. His credits include A Breakfast of Eels(Print Room), Smile (Sadler’s Wells) and Hobson’s Choice (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre).

Lighting Design is by Chichester Associate Tim Mitchell, whose credits include Festival 2014’s Olivier Award nominatedTaken at Midnight (also West End), Guys and Dolls and Amadeus, as well as The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui (also West End), Kiss Me, Kate (also West End) and Singin’ in the Rain (also West End, UK and international tours).

Sound Design is by Fergus O’Hare, whose credits include Festival 2014’s An Ideal Husband, as well as King Lear (and New York), Another Country (and West End/UK tour), as well as West End productions of Daytona (also UK tour),Relative Values and Passion Play.

Way Upstream is sponsored by Genesis and Zero C.

Director Nadia Fall and writer Alan Ayckbourn will be in conversation with author and broadcaster Paul Allen on Monday 27 April at 5.45pm. Tickets free but advance booking essential.

Join the technical crew, cast and creative teams for 90 minutes of insight, demonstration and discussion on the making of a production on Thursday 7 May at 10.30am. Tickets £5.

There will be the chance to meet some of the Way Upstream company at a post-show discussion hosted by author Simon Brett on Monday 11 May.

Booking information
Way Upstream is at the Festival Theatre, Chichester from 23 April – 16 May. Evenings 7.30pm (except for Press Night, Tuesday 28 April at 7pm), matinees 2.30pm. Tickets from £10. To book, go to or contact the Box Office on 01243 781312.

Special Prices for 16 – 25s
An allocation of tickets for 16 – 25 year olds priced at just £8.50 for all performances of Way Upstream will go on sale on 23 March. These may be booked on 01243 781312, online at or in person.


Olivier Awards 2015 : Nominations

2015 Olivier Award nominees announced!

The winners will be announced on 12 April 2015 at the Royal Opera House ceremony

Best Play Revival

  • A View from the Bridge at Young Vic and Wyndham’s Theatre
  • A Streetcar Named Desire at Young Vic
  • The Crucible at Old Vic
  • My Night With Reg at Donmar Warehouse and Apollo Theatre
  • Skylight at Wyndham’s Theatre


Best Actor in a Supporting Role

  • David Calder for The Nether at Duke of York’s Theatre
  • Richard Goulding for King Charles III at Almeida Theatre and Wyndham’s Theatre
  • John Light for Taken at Midnight at Theatre Royal Haymarket
  • Nathaniel Parker for Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies at Aldwych Theatre


Best Actress in a Supporting Role

  • Phoebe Fox for A View from the Bridge at Young Vic and Wyndham’s Theatre
  • The Girls playing Iris for The Nether at Duke of York’s Theatre
  • Angela Lansbury for Blithe Spirit at Gielgud Theatre
  • Lydia Wilson for King Charles III at Almeida Theatre and Wyndham’s Theatre


White Light Award for Best Lighting Design

  • Jon Clark for King Charles III at Almeida Theatre and Wyndham’s Theatre
  • Paule Constable and David Plater for Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies at Aldwych Theatre
  • Howard Harrison for City of Angels at Donmar Warehouse
  • Jan Versweyveld for A View from the Bridge at Young Vic and Wyndham’s Theatre


Best Sound Design

  • Tom Gibbons for A View from the Bridge at Young Vic and Wyndham’s Theatre
  • Matt McKenzie for Sunny Afternoon at Hampstead Theatre and Harold Pinter Theatre
  • Gareth Owen for Memphis The Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre
  • Brian Ronan for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Aldwych Theatre


Best Entertainment and Family

  • Dance ’Til Dawn at Aldwych Theatre
  • Hetty Feather at Vaudeville Theatre
  • La Soirée at La Soirée Spiegeltent


Best Costume Design

  • Rob Jones for City of Angels at Donmar Warehouse
  • Christopher Oram for Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies at Aldwych Theatre
  • Paul Tazewell for Memphis the Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre
  • Alejo Vietti for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Aldwych Theatre


XL Video Award for Best Set Design

  • Bunny Christie for Made in Dagenham at Adelphi Theatre
  • Es Devlin for The Nether at Duke of York’s Theatre
  • Rob Jones for City of Angels at Donmar Warehouse
  • Jan Versweyveld for A View from the Bridge at Young Vic and Wyndham’s Theatre


Best New Dance Production

  • 32 Rue Vandenbranden by Peeping Tom at Barbican
  • Mats Ek’s Juliet and Romeo by Royal Swedish Ballet at Sadler’s Wells
  • Tabac Rouge by Compagnie du Hanneton/James Thiérrée at Sadler’s Wells


Outstanding Achievement in Dance

  • Christopher Wheeldon for The Winter’s Tale at Royal Opera House
  • Crystal Pite for her choreography in the productions of The Associates – A Picture of You Falling, The Tempest Replica and Polaris at Sadler’s Wells
  • Rocio Molina for Bosque Ardora at Barbican
  • The Elders Project as part of the Elixir festival at Sadler’s Wells


Virgin Atlantic Best New Play

  • King Charles III at Almeida Theatre and Wyndham’s Theatre
  • The Nether at Duke of York’s Theatre
  • Taken at Midnight at Theatre Royal Haymarket
  • Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies at Aldwych Theatre


Best Actor in a Play

  • Richard Armitage for The Crucible at Old Vic
  • James McAvoy for The Ruling Class at Trafalgar Studio 1
  • Tim Pigott-Smith for King Charles III at Almeida Theatre and Wyndham’s Theatre
  • Mark Strong for A View from the Bridge at Young Vic and Wyndham’s Theatre


Best Actress in a Play

  • Gillian Anderson for A Streetcar Named Desire at Young Vic
  • Kristin Scott Thomas for Electra at Old Vic
  • Imelda Staunton for Good People at Hampstead Theatre and Noël Coward Theatre
  • Penelope Wilton for Taken at Midnight at Theatre Royal Haymarket


This Morning Audience Award

  • Billy Elliot the Musical at Victoria Palace Theatre
  • Jersey Boys at Piccadilly Theatre
  • Matilda the Musical at Cambridge Theatre
  • Wicked at Apollo Victoria Theatre


Best New Comedy

  • Handbagged at Vaudeville Theatre
  • The Play That Goes Wrong at Duchess Theatre
  • Shakespeare in Love at Noël Coward Theatre


Magic Radio Best Musical Revival

  • Cats at LondonPalladium
  • City of Angels at Donmar Warehouse
  • The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
  • Miss Saigon at Prince Edward Theatre


Best New Opera Production

  • Benvenuto Cellini at London Coliseum
  • Dialogues Des Carmélites at Royal Opera House
  • Die Frau Ohne Schatten at Royal Opera House
  • The Mastersingers of Nuremberg at London Coliseum


Outstanding Achievement in Opera

  • Jonas Kaufmann for Andrea Chénier and Manon Lescaut at Royal Opera House
  • Richard Jones for his direction of The Girl of the Golden West, The Mastersingers of Nuremberg and Rodelinda at London Coliseum
  • Royal Opera House and Early Opera Company for their offsite programme at Sam Wanamaker Playhouse and Roundhouse
  • Welsh National Opera Chorus for Moses und Aron at Royal Opera House


Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre

  • Bull at The Maria at Young Vic
  • Four Minutes Twelve Seconds at Hampstead Downstairs
  • Juma Sharkah for her performance in Liberian Girl at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court
  • Tanya Moodie for her performances in Intimate Apparel at Park Theatre and The House That Will Not Stand at Tricycle Theatre


Best Theatre Choreographer

  • Jerry Mitchell for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (musical) at Savoy Theatre
  • Annie-B Parson for Here Lies Love at National Theatre, Dorfman
  • Josh Prince for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Aldwych Theatre
  • Sergio Trujillo for Memphis the Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre


Best Director

  • Rupert Goold for King Charles III at Almeida Theatre and Wyndham’s Theatre
  • Jeremy Herrin for Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies at Aldwych Theatre
  • Josie Rourke for City of Angels at Donmar Warehouse
  • Ivo Van Hove for A View from the Bridge at Young Vic and Wyndham’s Theatre


Autograph Sound Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music

  • The orchestra for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Aldwych Theatre
  • David Byrne and Fatboy Slim for Here Lies Love at National Theatre, Dorfman
  • David Bryan, Joe DiPietro, Tim Sutton and the Memphis band for Memphis the Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre
  • Ray Davies for Sunny Afternoon at Hampstead Theatre and Harold Pinter Theatre


Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical

  • Rolan Bell for Memphis the Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre
  • George Maguire for Sunny Afternoon at Hampstead Theatre and Harold Pinter Theatre
  • Ian McIntosh for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Aldwych Theatre
  • Jason Pennycooke for Memphis the Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre


Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical

  • Samantha Bond for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (musical) at Savoy Theatre
  • Haydn Gwynne for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown the Musical at Playhouse Theatre
  • Nicole Scherzinger for Cats at London Palladium
  • Lorna Want for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Aldwych Theatre


Best Actor in a Musical

  • Jon Jon Briones for Miss Saigon at Prince Edward Theatre
  • John Dagleish for Sunny Afternoon at Hampstead Theatre and Harold Pinter Theatre
  • Killian Donnelly for Memphis the Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre
  • Brandon Victor Dixon for The Scottsboro Boys at Garrick Theatre


Best Actress in a Musical

  • Gemma Arterton for Made in Dagenham at Adelphi Theatre
  • Katie Brayben for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Aldwych Theatre
  • Tamsin Greig for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown the Musical at Playhouse Theatre
  • Beverley Knight for Memphis the Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre


Mastercard Best New Musical

  • Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at Aldwych Theatre
  • Here Lies Love at National Theatre, Dorfman
  • Memphis the Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre
  • Sunny Afternoon at Hampstead theatre and Harold Pinter Theatre

West Yorkshire Playhouse announce cast for Brining’s Little Voice

Vicky Entwistle, Chris Gascoyne & Nancy Sullivan to star in Jim Cartwright’s Award-winning The Rise and Fall of Little Voice

SS-15-Little-Voice press (1) 

Former Coronation Street actors Vicky Entwistle (Janice Battersby) and Chris Gascoyne (Peter Barlow) are taking leading roles along withNancy Sullivan in West Yorkshire Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining’s production of Jim Cartwright’s Olivier Award-winning THE RISE AND FALL OF LITTLE VOICE. This West Yorkshire Playhouse and Birmingham Repertory Theatre co-production opens in Birmingham on 15 May before transferring to the Playhouse on 5 June.


Nancy Sullivan stars as LV, a painfully shy girl with a bold and beautiful voice, whose blowsy mother Mari, played by Vicky Entwistle, shrieks and shouts her way around the house, all-the-while Chris Gascoyne’s Ray Say engineers his escape from small town show-biz to the bright lights of the big-time. They are joined on stage by Joanna Brookes, Brendan Charleson and Tendayi Jembere.


Artistic Director James Brining said…

There is a wonderful poetry to this play and the relationships Jim creates between his extraordinary characters are funny and moving. I can’t wait to explore this in the rehearsal room with a great company of actors. Nancy has an incredible voice that can transport you and Vicky and Chris have an intuitive understanding of Mari and Ray. I’m looking forward to getting started.



Nancy Sullivan has been seen at the Playhouse and The REP in THE WIZARD OF OZ and in Nikolai Foster’s recent production THE GOOD PERSON OF SICHUAN playing the Niece. Other credits include the role of Eponine in Trevor Nunn’s LES MISERABLES in the West End between 2008 – 2010.  Alongside playing Coronation Street’s infamous Janice Battersby Vicky Entwistle has also been seen in THE BILL, her credits for the stage have included roles in Eve Ensler’s THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES, Bill Kenwright’s FUNNY PECULIAR and Madame Thenardier in LES MISERABLES. Outside of Coronation Street Chris Gascoyne has been seen in the BBC’s long-running drama CASUALTY and NEW STREET LAW for Red Productions. On stage he has played Johnny in Mark Babych’s production of FRANKIE AND JOHNNY IN THE CLAIRE DE LUNE other credits include THE RIB CAGE (Royal Exchange Theatre), Simon Stephen’s first play BLUEBIRD (Royal Court) and The Changing Room (Royal Court and West End).


The show opens at Birmingham Repertory Theatre before transferring to West Yorkshire Playhouse,

Spandau Ballet Review

Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield – 5 March 2015

Spandau Ballet hold a lot of firsts for me.  True was my first slow dance and my first kiss, at a school disco in December 1984. And they were my first concert in the mid 80’s in Manchester with my friend Mel.  And 30 years later I was in Sheffield with my friend Mel to watch The Soul Boys of the Western World perform again.

The film on the backdrop proves that in the last 30 years nothing has changed.  Tony Hadley still has a voice of velvet richness like melted chocolate with honey poured over.  And, although Martin Kemp rocks the sexy silver fox look, no-one has aged at all.

There were all the classic hits intermingled with some new ones.  A nice touch was the medley of very early new romantic hits, set in the Blitz nightclub in homage to the late Steve Strange.

It was a very visual feast with a fabulous light show, nostalgic projections and wonderful close ups on the big screen of all 5 of the Soul Boys clearly enjoying themselves.  And the sound was excellent too, still managing to be heard over the noise of thousands of screaming fans, all the boys shined.  From Steve Norman’s sax to John Keebles drums via Martin and Gary Kemp’s guitars and Tony Hadley’s vocals.

And all too soon it was over, the last song being the iconic True and then an emotional and poignant version of Through The Barricades where they made mention of the huge falling out and court case, which is thankfully now behind them.  But, of course, it had to end with Gold

If you can grab a ticket, then go and see the tour, its a wonderful night out, lots wonderful songs with thought provoking good memories

Sat 07-March Liverpool Echo Arena
Sun 08-March Glasgow SSE Hydro
Tue 10-March Nottingham Capital FM Arena
Wed 11-March Brighton Centre
Fri 13-March Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
Sat 14-March Manchester Phones 4 U Arena
Sun 15-March Newcastle Metro Radio Arena
Tue 17-March London O2 Arena
Thu 19-March Birmingham LG Arena

20 Questions with ….. Alistair Barron


Up and coming musical theatre star, Alistair Barron, answered 20 questions

As always we start with some favourites

Favourite show (whether you have been in it or not)?

My favourite shows when I first became interested in becoming an actor were Phantom and Les Miserables and they inspired me to become a professional. One of the best shows I’ve ever seen has to be Newsies on Broadway. Those Kids are ridiculously talented!!!! I could give them a tip or two on their Backflips though!!!

Favourite book?

One of my favourite books has to be “Year of the of the king” Written by Sir Antony Sher, must read for all actors.

Favourite theatre?

I’ve been lucky to have performed in most of the Theatres in the UK!! Tough question… The Royal Albert Hall is amazing.

Favourite song?

Off the top of my head, She’s Always a Woman – Billy Joel.

Favourite music?

I Love classical music, musical theatre (of course), Loving Fleetwood Mac at the moment.

Favourite food?

Roast beef dinner, there has to be yorkshire puddings involved though.

Favourite line from any show?

Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics cannot be beaten. Two lyrics in the song stay with me from Into The Woods, it’s a song about a mother teaching her child the dangers of the world when she is eager to explore it, I feel that children are growing up too quickly nowadays. The lyrics are “Princes wait there in the world it’s true, Princes yes but wolves and humans too, stay with me” “Stay with me the world is dark and wild, stay a child while you can be a child, with me.”

What was your favourite role?

I loved playing Aslan in the world premiere of The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe. I had an amazing costume, and the music was beautiful, written by Stephen Luke Walker.

What role would you really love to play?

Valjean is the dream, getting closer to getting it.  Each year I audition for Les Mis, so I hope I’ll get it one day, Still a bit young at moment.

What was your first role?

Jean Valjean in the school edition of Les Mis at the York Grand Opera House 8 years ago now.

If you could be anyone else for the day, who would it be?

A Casting Director, if you know what happens in their head you are onto a winner.

If you weren’t a brilliant singer what would you be?

I’d love to be an architect. I am awestruck by architecture especially in London, old and new, I find it exciting that Londons skyline is completely transforming, lots of new skyscrapers.

What advice would you give 16 year old Alistair?

When you get a good job save money for when you don’t have a good job.

What was the last stage show you saw and really enjoyed?

I saw Memphis recently and I loved it! Great performances, great music and and all round amazing cast, got an invite to press night party as well which is always a bonus.

What are the nicest/weirdest things you have ever received from fans?

I have a lovely fan called Karen and she would bring me a single red rose and chocolate every time she came to see the show. She is a lovely lady.

How did you get involved with The Three Phantoms?

Earl Carpenter and Anthony Gabrielle asked me to do it! It was an amazing surprise. I am very grateful to both of them for the opportunity I learned so much from them, and the rest of the cast.

Have you considered doing a play or straight acting with no singing?

I would love to. I love cinema and it would be nice to do a film and get to go to the Oscars. But I did straight acting at school. I couldn’t sing whilst my voice was breaking.

What made you decide to be a performer?

I love performing so much. At the end of a performance there is no better feeling than knowing you have entertained people. I think a lot of people in the business forget it’s just about entertaining the audience but that’s why I was inspired to do it.

Will you be producing a CD of your songs?

There’s nothing planned in terms of doing a recording at all. I don’t really like working in a recording studio I prefer singing as a character in a musical.

Can you tell us what you will be up to next?

I am waiting to hear on a few things but nothing is coming up for definite yet.

Return To The Forbidden Planet Review

Civic Theatre, Darlington – 2 March 2015

Celebrating the 25th Anniversary of Return To The Forbidden Planet, the anniversary tour arrives at Darlington this week.  And what a celebration it is.

Billed as Shakespeare’s forgotten rock n roll masterpiece, RTTFP is based on The Tempest.  Now futuristically set on a spaceship under the command of Captain Tempest, played by pipe smoking Sean Needham.  The ship’s new Science Officer (Christine Holman), is a woman, causing an argument with Tempest about the importance of men and women. During their argument, the ship gets caught in a meteor shower. Captain Tempest insists on flying through the storm,but the Science Officer escapes the ship via shuttle craft. Drawn mysteriously to the planet D’Illyria the crew meet mad scientist Doctor Prospero (Jonathan Markwood), who has been marooned on the planet since his wife and science partner Gloria sent him and their daughter Miranda (Sarah Scowen) into space. Prospero offers to help repair the broken starship and he, his daughter, and their robot Ariel (Joseph Mann)come aboard. The ship’s cook, Cookie (Mark Newnham), falls in love with Miranda, but she has fallen in love with Captain Tempest, against her father wishes. During discussions about locating the missing Science Officer, Ariel reveals information about Doctor Prospero’s new formula ‘X Factor’, which can enhance the brain and mind. After an argument with his daughter Prospero takes the draught of ‘X Factor’. immediately, the ship is attacked by a tentacled space monster, but Ariel is in the airlock with the missing Science Officer. To save them both, Captain Tempest orders the airlock opened, which allows the monster to gain access to the ship. During the confusion of the attack it is revealed that the Science Officer is Doctor Prospero’s wife Gloria.

But ‘alls well that ends well’ and love’s labours are both lost and found in this incredible mishmash of Shakespeare, rock and roll and some psychedelic hippie-ness

The cast are incredibly talented, acting, singing and playing a myriad of different musical instruments whilst, at times, battling zero gravity.  In the midst of the spoken shakespearean prose and blank verse we are treated to cleverly linked songs and fabulous instrumentals.  Mark Newnhams epic guitar solo, linking The Zombies 1964 hit “She’s Not There” to Nirvana’s 1991 “Teen Spirit”was phenomenal . Worthy of narrator, Brian May’s, legendary guitar solo’s indeed.

It’s in a similar vein to Rocky Horror, not taking itself seriously and having great fun at the same time.  The audience have to play their part too, battling of ‘great balls of fire’ and protecting themselves from the reversal of the polarity of the neutron flow.  It plays  on every cheesy sci-fi cliche and draws on the classics of Star Trek, Dr Who and Phantom of the Opera. Don’t be put off by the Shakespeare, its very clever and a mismatch of some of the more famous quotes mismatched in between.  Its witty, clever and well written and a fitting tribute for its 25th year



Celebrating 25 years and a vibrant future for the Playhouse

Built to house exceptional theatre and to be rooted in the heart of Leeds’ communities, this March West Yorkshire Playhouse celebrates 25 years of inspirational work on Quarry Hill. In 1964 a group of 23 passionate drama lovers, headed by Doreen Newlyn, began a campaign to secure a permanent and professional producing theatre for the city. In 1969 the then ‘Leeds Playhouse’ moved into a temporary home at the University of Leeds. Determined to find something more lasting they continued to battle for a resident theatre in the city centre. On 8 March 1990 West Yorkshire Playhouse threw open its doors to the people of Leeds and since then more than 4 million people have seen a show on one of the Playhouse stages.  322 productions have been staged, and a far-reaching programme of education and outreach work has been created and delivered across the city and beyond.


25 years on and the Playhouse is a vital cultural hub for the city, a compelling creative force driven by the city’s desire to see original drama in Leeds. Today Artistic Director James Brining continues to challenge with a diverse programme of arresting theatre that reflects society today. Reworking classic texts for the 21st century such as the award-winning contemporary production of Sweeney Todd set in 1980s Thatcher Britain and his inventive take on Bennett’s Enjoy, which scrutinised reality TV, sit in tandem with new initiatives such as A Play, A Pie and A Pint performed in the bar and brand new plays which inspire and excite, such as Maxine Peake’s critically acclaimed Beryl which will tour the UK later this year and Zodwa Nyoni’s Boi Boi is Dead.


Collaboration has always been important and the Playhouse continues to partner innovative and exciting organisations across the country. On-going relationships with The Royal Exchange Theatre, Kneehigh, Headlong, Birmingham Rep and new associations with companies such as the egg in Bath and Tiata Fahodzi allow the work of the Playhouse to be seen outside of Yorkshire widening the reach of our own productions.


Artistic Director James Brining comments…

The significance of this theatre being built close to the city centre 25 years ago was huge. Moving the Playhouse from the intellectual grounds of Leeds University right into the heart of the city’s communities suddenly opened it up like never before. Cementing the relationship between great drama, accessibility and community outreach work has always been a driving force for West Yorkshire Playhouse. It is my vision as Artistic Director to open up what we do even further.  New initiatives include a Youth Theatre, a Community Ambassadors Scheme, Dementia Friendly productions, touring our work to community venues, establishing a third production space and a raft of artist development opportunities to sit alongside our programme of world class, cutting edge and popular theatre.


The next few years promise much as Brining and his team secure a dynamic future for the theatre. The implementation of a comprehensive talent development programme which includes supporting directors, writers, actors, designers, technicians and theatre makers to hone their practice, helps to discover upcoming creative talent. From simple initiatives such as free space to experiment to longer residencies in which artists are supported on all levels from grant applications to professional research & development advice. Alongside this a Capital Development project is planned in which the theatre would turn to face the city it continues to be inspired by.  Together with revamping the iconic stages, new spaces will be created for rehearsal and performance, as well as vibrant spaces for workshops, meetings and creative thinking. This significant redevelopment mirrors the determination set out 25 years ago for vibrant, forward thinking and accessible theatre in the city.


Alongside the on-stage work the Playhouse continues to offer an extraordinary programme of unique outreach work with communities from across Yorkshire. Year on year the theatre’s engagement programme has grown, from its pioneering access work to its inclusive creative arts projects for older and young participants (including the creation in 2009 of the award-winning First Floor, a space dedicated to work for young people), to the development of a brand new strand of work for people living with dementia, their families and carers.


Committed to deepening the Playhouse’s engagement across communities Brining continues to introduce and support new initiatives that cement relationships in the community. He began by introducing a Youth Theatre; now with over 160 attendees it is about to enter its 3rd year. Members have developed their own devised work, worked with professional writers to create and stage two new plays, they have performed and worked alongside  professional casts as well as regularly performing for friends and family. Last year a new community ambassador programme was created to cement the theatre’s relationships with its surrounding communities. Brining’s production of Talking Heads by Alan Bennett toured seven community venues playing to audiences who may not ordinarily engage with the Playhouse, championed by ambassadors from each community. This spring the second community tour will begin; Little Sure Shot is a family show full of theatrical magic found in a live theatre performance.


Community attendees commented,
Bringing theatre to the inner-city – Brilliant idea!’ ‘…this gives us all a chance to see plays on our own doorsteps’


From vast Quarry stage productions of major texts like James Brining’s The Crucible to individually tailored community projects like First Floor’s Buzz Art Awards West Yorkshire Playhouse at 25 is a vital artistic, a community hub for Leeds to be proud of with a vibrant and vital future ahead.


Playhouse Chairman Sir Rodney Brooke said,

The Playhouse has a long history of creating excellent theatre which stretches back to its days in its temporary home on the Leeds University campus. It was championed by the people of Leeds, and built out of a desire for access to great plays right here in the city centre. Today the Playhouse has even more to offer. It is a vibrant, exciting and endlessly creative company which champions everything from great classic drama to new writing, talent development to education and outreach work. It is full of vitality and we are looking forward to a bright and entertaining future.