Highlights of the autumn seasons in the region's theatres, part two
However, turning attention to what’s coming up this autumn around the rest of the county, it’s easy to see why Yorkshire is one of the strongest region’s for theatre in the whole of the country. It’s a fact, we, as a region, have greater representation in the West End, in national theatres and in award ceremonies than we really have any right to have.
And that’s because of things like the seriously impressive Leeds Playhouse autumn season on the way.
Christmas has always been an important time of year for theatres, the time when most audiences who make only an annual visit to the theatre, make that annual visit. It feels as though the last decade that has gone into overdrive, with enormous resources being poured into the Christmas productions coming to our stages and Leeds Playhouse is an exemplar of that.
This year sees Lionel Bart’s Oliver! come to the stage under the direction of artistic director James Brining. It’s a tantalising prospect. Yorkshire was treated to a production of the musical a decade ago when Daniel Evans, now at the RSC, was in charge. Brining has shown himself over many productions now to be an absolute master of scale, from his Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to his Sweeney Todd, and the theatre playing host to The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, the combination of Brining with the Quarry theatre space and one of the greatest British musicals ever composed is a tantalising prospect.
Before we get the all important Christmas production, there is an impressive list of productions heading to the Leeds stage, perhaps the most iconic being a 30th anniversary revival of Jonathan Harvey’s Beautiful Thing, a love story that has charmed audiences for over three decades and which makes its way back to the stage in Leeds in the Courtyard Theatre, October 18 to 28.
Heading further North, there is a piece of theatre that will be truly unmissable at Stephen Joseph Theatre. As ever, the season is full of gems, with play number 89 from the maestro himself, Alan Ayckbourn. Constant Companions is Ayckbourn’s latest, telling the story of a lawyer, a lonely bachelor and a technician. There isn’t a much more than that to tell at the moment, but all you really need to know is that it’s an Ayckbourn and the master is only improving with age.
The event you really don’t want to miss – although you might already have to fight for a ticket, is Ayckbourn himself, appearing on stage. He will appear in a rehearsed reading of his play Truth Will Out, due to be produced at the theatre in 2020, but cancelled as a result of the pandemic. The rehearsed reading is part of a series of fundraising events for the theatre and is being staged on September 17.
Just down the road at Hull Truck, I’m intrigued to see artistic director Mark Babych’s newest project Pop Music, written by Anna Jordan. The play premiered in 2018, by Babych is bringing this crowd pleaser to the stage in Hull, turning the theatre into an in-the-round venue for a show which is full of ‘banging tunes’. Although there are different interpretations of that phrase – reviews of previous productions promise the kinds of songs that fill the dance floor at weddings. It’s on stage October 5 to 28. The season also contains the inevitable John Godber play, this time the Yorkshire playwright having some musical fun of his own with favourite Northern Soul classics with Do I Love You? October 31 to November 4.
In York, while there is much in the season to recommend, it continues to build much around its well loved panto, with Nina Wadia recently announced in the cast of Jack and the Beanstalk, from December 8 to January 7. I would also urge you to keep an eye out for The Merchant of Venice, a production touring from the RSC with Tracy Ann Oberman as Shylock (November 14 to 18). I haven’t yet touched on Leeds Grand (Calendar Girls, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie –another two productions that started their lives in Yorkshire) or the Bradford Alhambra (Alvin Ailey dance company, Shrek, Blood Brothers).
Last week I wrote about the difficult situation Yorkshire theatre faces, and that remains true. It also remains true that, with a line up such as this, the region’s theatres will surely continue to build back stronger than ever.