Nick Ahad: Why Yorkshire theatre is something we should be proud of

I have a confession to make.

A scene from Better Off Dead, Alan Ayckbourn's latest play at the Stephen Joseph Theatre.  (Tony Bartholomew).
A scene from Better Off Dead, Alan Ayckbourn's latest play at the Stephen Joseph Theatre. (Tony Bartholomew).

I am forever writing in these pages that as a region Yorkshire is the strongest in the country when it comes to the arts and certainly in terms of theatre.

Whenever I make the (completely justifiable) claim, I always add the caveat that Yorkshire is the strongest region ‘outside of London’. To not add this feels like quite an omission.

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So here’s the confession. I have often had a sense of inferiority when it comes to London.

I think the work we produce here in Yorkshire is brilliant. Great even. But it is hard to shake that feeling it is great in the frame of reference to the rest of the country. I always wonder if you put us toe to toe against London we might end up like Conor McGregor taking on Khabib Nurmagomedov.

It simply stands to reason: the critical mass in London, the concentration of work being made gives the power of its punch enormous pounds per square inches. We’re good in Yorkshire, but we can’t ever hope to match that kind of punching power.

That’s what I’ve often felt but never previously admitted in print. I’m glad to announce that I have been entirely wrong.

Last week I went to London to see the Bush Theatre’s production of An Adventure.

I wanted to see the play for several reasons: the writer Vinay Patel is a contemporary and I was delighted to see he was receiving such great reviews for his work. It is also the last piece that Madani Younis will direct at the theatre before he leaves for his new role at London’s Southbank Centre.

I was delighted to see An Adventure for so many reasons. A cast of six made up of entirely BAME actors is such a rarity, as is a story that is told from the point of view of an Indian-British woman. Vinay is one of life’s genuinely nice guys and I’m delighted that the five star reviews his play has received are entirely deserved. I’m also delighted that Madani, who learnt his theatre craft in Yorkshire, leaves the Bush on the highest of high notes.

However. What I also left London with was a sense of supreme pride in Yorkshire theatre.

Not long before I headed South I had seen Road at Leeds Playhouse, performed by the theatre’s rep company. I also saw Red Ladder’s Mother Courage, starring Pauline McLynn’s 
towering performance and earning every 
one of its five stars from Clare Brennan in the Guardian. I also saw Alan Ayckbourn’s 82nd play, a treatise on ageing and creating work in later life.

I realised there is no need to feel any sense of inferiority.

The Bush production of An Adventure is astoundingly good, important and beautiful. Just as good and beautiful, in fact, as an awful lot of the productions we make here in Yorkshire.