Yorkshire's theatres have revealed their new season line-ups. Arts reporter Nick Ahad looks at the offerings of the county's stages big and small over the coming season.
Birthdays, festivals, tragedies, musicals – the coming theatre season is a smorgasbord of entertainment.
With all the new seasons now announced, it is the time of year that theatre fans sit down and start to flick through the brochures – but will they be salivating or sent into a slumber by what the region's theatres have to offer?
The bad news – well, we all know the bad news. Cuts, cuts, cuts. We have been warned ad infinitum by the Yorkshire theatre folk that the coalition Government's axe swinging poses serious risk of causing possibly irreversible damage to our cultural venues.
Fortunately, Yorkshire's theatres have come out fighting and the seasons ahead show inspiration in the face of the Arts Council's 6.9 per cent across the board budget cuts.
West Yorkshire Playhouse is celebrating its 21st birthday this year, which will give it a chance to look back to the days when it was unquestionably the county's leading theatre. Those spoils have been more evenly shared in recent years, but in 2011 the Playhouse promises to come out fighting by staging some big shows which will appeal to fans of serious theatre.
The Deep Blue Sea, which will feature Maxine Peake, is being staged in the centenary of Terence Rattigan's birth on the vast Quarry Stage. The play is the latest contemporary classic to be given the Sarah Esdaile treatment, the director having received high praise at the Playhouse last year with her production of the Arthur Miller classic The Death of a Salesman.
An all female team will then take on Lorca's Yerma, with Ursula Rani Sarma adapting and Roisin McBrinn directing. A possibly tough sell follows, with a new production of John Ford's 'Tis Pity She's a Whore. Acclaimed director Jonathan Munby takes on the controversial story of incest, which was written in 1633. At the launch of the Playhouse's new season, Munby called it a play "light years ahead of its time", which it undoubtedly is. However, the question will be if today's audiences are ready for such a controversial and uncomfortable show.
Josette Bushell-Mingo's production of The Wiz sees the Playhouse staging a big summer musical which should pull in the big crowds. More left field, and intriguing, is Transform. Curated by Alan Lane and Kully Thiarai, at the launch Lane was fuzzy at best on the details, but on previous form it should be definitely worth a watch.
"We can't tell you what it is," he said. "Because we don't know. It's going to be entirely dependent on the artists that come into the space and what the audience wants."
The Playhouse also receives a show that will be touring nationally and visiting several Yorkshire venues – Northern Broadsides' Hamlet. After John Simms' underwhelming turn as the troubled Prince of Denmark at Sheffield's Crucible this year, it is a disappointment to learn that Conrad Nelson won't be playing Shakespeare's Dane – he is one of the finest actors in Yorkshire.
That he is directing the production, however, is very exciting news and hopefully a highlight of the cultural calendar.
Leeds Grand and Bradford Alhambra, two of the region's big receiving houses, are staging some big shows to cheer people up in troubled times.
The Alhambra's big, high quality showing of To Kill A Mockingbird, starring Duncan Preston, will give West Yorkshire audiences a chance to see the show which first takes to the stage in York in February. Leeds Grand will also be staging crowd pleasers Yes, Prime Minister, Calendar Girls and The Sound of Music. However, it's big coup comes with the world premiere of Northern Ballet's Cleopatra. The production will be artistic director David Nixon's first new full-length work for three years, and will feature a new score by acclaimed composer Claude-Michel Schnberg.
The most exciting part of Sheffield's season is the first retrospective of the work of David Hare. Through February and March, the three theatres that make up Sheffield Theatres complex, the Crucible, the Studio and The Lyceum, will stage the first festival of the work of Hare, one of our most important and political playwrights.
Artistic director Daniel Evans, who will direct the festival opener Racing Demon, was so excited about the season that he announced it months ago, but now that it is nearly upon us, it's time to start booking tickets.
Wakefield Theatre Royal is one of the smaller of the region's theatres and often gets forgotten, but celebrating its 25th birthday is quite an achievement.
Its staging of Pilot Theatre's Romeo and Juliet will be well worth seeing. It also deserves praise for its ongoing commitment to the Wakefield Drama Festival which will run from May 30 to June 5.
Hull Truck Theatre is in a serious state of flux. New chief executive Andrew Smaje has shaken things up since he arrived in October, with artistic director Gareth Tudor Price having been away from the theatre for some time now and John Godber's relationship with the theatre in question.
It does, however, have some impressive looking productions and appears to be on the lookout for hot new writers. Tom Wainwright, who has written for both Peep Show and The Inbetweeners will see his play Muscle staged at the theatre and Lucinda Coxon's Happy Now? will be at the theatre in the new season as well as Alan Bennett's brilliant Lady in the Van, with two Alan Bennetts on stage, which hasn't been seen round these parts since the West Yorkshire Playhouse production in 2002. Headlong Theatre, one of British theatre's hottest properties, will be bringing its version of A Midsummer Night's Dream in March.
While Scarborough runs on a different time zone to other theatres, working around its summer season, it does have one big production announced for early next year, with William Inge's Bus Stop, a major Broadway hit coming in March.
Shows not to miss this season
Tis Pity She's a Whore: For fans of serious theatre. West Yorkshire Playhouse, May 7 to 28.
To Kill A Mockingbird: Plays York earlier in the year, it will look beautiful in this theatre. Bradford Alhambra, Mar 29 to Apr 2.
The Crucible: The director has been obsessed with this play for two decades – with good reason. York Theatre Royal, May 7 to 28.
Parlour Song: Jez Butterworth is theatre's hottest writer. York Theatre Royal, Jun 30 to July 23.
The Price: A traditional staging is likely for one of the world's great plays. Hull Truck Theatre, May 9 to 14.
Racing Demon: Serious theatre fans will love it. Sheffield Crucible, Feb 10 to Mar 5.