What to see at the theatre in Yorkshire this year

Some great shows head to Yorkshire's stages in 2019. Theatre correspondent Nick Ahad looks at some of the highlights.

Jack Lear starring Barrie Rutter at Hull Truck this year.
Jack Lear starring Barrie Rutter at Hull Truck this year.

Christmas, that pagan festival that provides a reason to keep going through the long, cold and dark nights when we start to wonder if we will ever see the sun again.

Here’s my own version, something to keep you looking ahead with optimism as you wonder if the heating will ever be switched off.

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The coming year in Yorkshire theatre looks set to be a bit of a belter. In Sheffield, the theatre has some really big productions, but I want to look first at an intriguing little visiting show. Good dog by Arinze Kene is heading out on a second national tour and comes to Sheffield (February 7, 8) and Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre (February 12, 13). A story of multicultural Britain, Kene’s stock has risen enormously following his triumphant run in the West End of Misty. See this. debbie tucker green’s hang (she eschews capital letters) is coming to the Sheffield Studio and having seen her coruscating ear for eye at the Royal Court, I can’t wait to see this Sheffield production (February 21-March 9). The big shows in Sheffield this coming year include Rutherford and Son (February 8-23). The Northern classic will see director Caroline Steinbeis at the helm. The really big show, one I expect to attract international interest, is Standing at the Sky’s Edge.Written by Chris Bush, with original music and lyrics by one of Sheffield’s favourite sons, Richard Hawley, this world premiere is going to pull in the audiences in the spring (March 15- April 6). Telling the story of Park Hill, from 1961 to the present day, this is going to be a heart-swelling love song to Sheffield.

At the Leeds Playhouse all eyes are on the re-opening of the theatre, due in the autumn, but there is also plenty of focus on the continued success of the wonderful rep company. There are a lot of highlights in the coming season, but the thing I am probably most excited about is Hamlet. The greatest play in the English language gets a contemporary makeover with Tessa Parr playing the lead as a woman.

Director Amy Leach has been turning out some genuinely brilliant work over the past few years and I am a big admirer of Parr. It’s quite the combination (March 1-30). That’s a personal diary highlight, but there will be others for you, I’m sure. In the 50th anniversary of the film of Kes the most Yorkshire of stories makes its way to the stage (January 25-February 16). Making another appearance on this list is debbie tucker green (sic) with random (February 4-16). All I can say is that she makes the most challenging – in a very good way – that is being made in Britain today. Finally, don’t miss what will be a hugely fun production Around the World in 80 Days (April 9-28).

Towards the end of last year there was a big announcement when Conrad Nelson told us that he would be stepping down as Northern Broadsides artistic director. His swansong is Much Ado About Nothing, touring from February. Starring one of the most likeable and watchable Yorkshire actors, Reece Dinsdale, I anticipate that this is a production I will see more than once.

Bradford’s Freedom Studios, led by Alex Chisholm and Aisha Khan, has a major production on the way of a new play from TV writer Lisa Holdsworth. Based on the brilliant novel by Adelle Stripe, Black Teeth and a Brilliant Smile tells the story of Andrea Dunbar. It opens at the Ambassador pub in Bradford (May 30-June 8) before touring.

Harrogate Theatre looks to have a really interesting studio season on the way. Odd Encounter is an exploration of matters of the heart (February 16) and Wild is a show that talks about birth in a way you definitely haven’t experienced before (February 22).

York Theatre Royal has a fascinating season on the way. Following last year’s Brighton Rock, the theatre combines with long-term collaborators Pilot to bring to the stage Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses. Angela Carter and Emma Rice is a heady combination that has worked spectacularly in the past. They come together again for a new production of Carter’s story Wise Children. It is at York (March 5-16) – if you want to see what theatre is capable of, make sure you see this.

In Hull Truck Barrie Rutter proves you can’t keep a good man down. After stepping away from Northern Broadsides, he returns to the stage in Hull with Jack Lear (January 17-February 2). The story of a wealthy trawlerman who is ready to retire and hand over his hard-earned fleet to his feisty trio of daughters. This will be compelling theatre and I will put money on Rutter being spectacularly irresistible in this.

Speaking of Hull Truck, I suppose it would be odd not to mention my own play. Glory is coming to Scarborough and Hull Truck.

See you at the theatre.

More highlights coming your way

Princess and the Hustler: Hull Truck is one of the producers, along with Sheffied’s Eclipse. Director Dawn Walton and 
writer Chinonyerem Odimba tell the story of what it means to be black and beautiful. Hull Truck, March 5-16.

Glory: A state of the nation play set in a wrestling ring. Yes, there will be wrestling. Stephen 
Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, March 4-6. Hull Truck Theatre, March 26.

Martha, Joseph and the 
Chinese Elvis: Last seen in Hull Truck about eight years ago, this is an hilarious play. Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, March 28-April 20.