From The Crucible to Leeds Playhouse we look ahead to Yorkshire's autumn theatre season

I have an admission to make. It’s a confession that will strike fear into the hearts of every good Yorkshireman and Yorkshirewoman’s wallet. But I cannot deny it: this week I put the heating on.

Operation Crucible returns to the Crucible Studio.
Operation Crucible returns to the Crucible Studio.

And you know what, I did it before midweek – that is to say when the calendar still read ‘August’ – and I’m not even ashamed.

While I’m not wishing time away, the reason I don’t mind welcoming one of the first signs of autumn by way of a rising gas bill is because it heralds what feels like the first theatre season proper we’ve had in well over a year now.

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While theatres have been welcoming audiences back for a little while, the autumn season is the big one. As the nights draw in and the scarves come out, a night in a darkened room watching world-class entertainment somehow just makes more sense.

Brooklyn Melvin as Oliver in Leeds Playhouse's production of Oliver Twist returns to the theatre later this month. (Picture: Anthony Robling).

So what to book now that the theatres are gearing up to back to full speed?

I’m not going to pretend it’s going to be easy. There’s talk of an autumn lockdown on the way, whispers that shows could be cancelled if Covid brings down a cast, so while what I write is correct at publication, all I’ll really say is that if you get an opportunity to go to the theatre, take it. They need our support and, frankly, we all deserve a good night out.

Sheffield Theatres earlier this year found itself a test venue for capacity crowds as it played host to the World Snooker Championships. Seeing the Crucible full for the final was a surprisingly moving sight.

There are, as ever, so many things to recommend in the Sheffield Theatres season which continues to be led with nous and great wit by artistic director Robert Hastie. The autumn opens with Typical Girls by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm.

Typical Girls is the season opener at the Crucible Sheffield.

A new punk musical play set in a mental health unit inside a prison, it tells the story of a group of women who form a punk rock band as an outlet for their frustration.

If you saw Standing at the Sky’s Edge, the Richard Hawley musical and remember the explosion of energy that carried the production into the interval, you’ll get a good sense of what this show might deliver.

A show which returns to Sheffield and is becoming something of an old favourite and success story is Operation Crucible. Written by and starring Kieran Knowles, the play was first seen in the Sheffield Studio in 2016, before going to New York.

It tells the true story of how a group of four steelworkers were trapped beneath the rubble of Sheffield’s Marples Hotel following a Second World War bombing raid in December 1940. It returns to the studio tonight and runs at the theatre all month.

The big Christmas musical has become a real tradition in Sheffield, with increasingly interesting programming choices that always seem to hit the mark. Hastie looks to have done it again, directing himself the show She Loves Me.

Written by the same team behind Fiddler on the Roof, the story will be familiar to those who love their 90s romcoms – it’s based on the same story that brought Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan together in You’ve Got Mail.

It’s been an emotional time and coming back to theatres this autumn will, I suspect, be quite moving.

Hastie says: “We’re so excited to announce new productions. Making theatre again for our audiences and working with talented artists is what we’re here for and what everyone who loves theatre in Sheffield has striven to hard to protect.”

At Leeds Playhouse there is equal passion and it has been incredibly heartwarming to see on social media actors sharing their excitement to get back to rehearsing Oliver Twist, Amy Leach’s production that was cut short by Covid last year.

Leach has always been a special director, but the Playhouse’s associate has really built on her practice since working with integrated casts. Her Oliver Twist, back at the Playhouse later this month, is a great example of that.

Next week the Playhouse launches into its season with a new play from Luke Barnes that really couldn’t be more timely. Freedom Project looks at the stories of young people – minors – who take perilous journeys from their home countries in search of sanctuary.

While Sheffield has the big musical at Christmas, Leeds Playhouse has aimed a little more clearly at a family audience and this year is no exception with Wendy and Peter Pan. Wind in the Willows, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, The Wizard of Oz – the Playhouse knows how to create these big spectacular family shows and this year’s is the perfect way to welcome families back.

As ever, there is a premium on space here and there is barely time to scratch the surface of all that’s coming up at our various theatres.

The Bradford pantomime is back. Hull Truck is staging The Railway Children and York Theatre Royal continues its association with the uniquely talented Emma Rice as she brings her take on Wuthering Heights to the theatre. Lawrence Batley Theatre, led by the remarkable Henry Filloux-Bennett, continues its impressive commitment to contemporary dance and brings back the crowd-pleasing pantomime.

In Scarborough the Stephen Joseph Theatre is set to have an impressive season with highly anticipated shows, such as The Offing, the stage adaptation of Benjamin Myers’ novel. Directed by artistic director Paul Robinson, it’s at the theatre in October.

The point really is that theatre is back. It’s going to need our help and, fortunately, with the shows that theatres have decided to stage, it’s been made really easy for us to support it.