Yorkshire's theatres taking centre stage

There's plenty to look forward to on Yorkshire's stages in the coming season, as Theatre correspondent Nick Ahad reports.

New season: An Inspector Calls will be at York Theatre Royal in September.
New season: An Inspector Calls will be at York Theatre Royal in September.

FOMO. Fear Of Missing Out, the very modern phenomenon of feeling like the party is happening Somewhere Else. I didn’t feel like the party was happening somewhere else this week – I knew it was.

The 71st edition of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival kicked off this week and, honestly, it appeared as though the whole of the Yorkshire arts scene decamped to north of the border. Twitter was alive with #FringeRecommendations and #FringeHereWeCome – while I was watching from a hashtag.

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So, to make all of us not heading North this week feel better, I’ve decided to look ahead to some of my highlights of the Yorkshire theatre year a little earlier than usual.

The good news is that the theatre cognoscenti might be in Edinburgh right now, but they will want to be in Yorkshire come next month.

I do wonder if I write this every year, but I honestly think that we might be heading towards one of the strongest theatre seasons I’ve seen in some time. The Bradford Alhambra has some major hit shows heading its way, Leeds Playhouse has got an extraordinary energy about it as it heads into a season of work in its temporary space, Hull is still riding the crest of that Year of Culture wave and Sheffield’s bosses must be struggling to find space for the awards it keeps winning with its hit Everybody’s Talking About Jamie.

Let’s start at one of the smaller venues in our patch: Harrogate Theatre. It doesn’t always get the attention it deserves, but it has recently announced the appointment of Reece Dinsdale, Natalie Gavin and Dawood Ghadami as patrons. These appointments are really significant – they demonstrate a theatre looking at ways it can become more relevant. It is also bringing back a rep company, who will perform in several plays from September 4 to 22. In all honesty, it would have been good to see more diversity in the rep, but any company that includes the brilliant Polly Lister gets my backing. They will perform Boeing Boeing, an hilarious farce, Dial M for Murder and Noel Coward’s Private Lives, all will be worth seeing.

In York Damian Cruden continues to do some great things with his newly refurbished venue. Stephen Daldry’s epic staging of JB Priestley’s An Inspector Calls is a theatrical event and that it opens in York (September 14-22) before a UK and US tour is a real feather in the cap. It’s also brilliant to see Alan Bennett’s The Habit of Art receiving its regional premiere at the theatre (August 30-September 8). An intelligent piece of work about a meeting between WH Auden and Benjamin Britten, this play should be high on the list of any theatre lover. In a smart move York is also co-producing with the beautiful Theatre by the Lake in Keswick to bring several plays to the stage, including another Alan Bennett – Single Spies (November 13-14). In Hull the theatre has recently announced a ‘new inclusive casting policy’. It’s a recognition that the theatre – like all theatres – could and should be doing more to reflect contemporary Britain. A spokesman for the theatre says: “The casting policy has been designed to ensure that the company casts the best actors for the roles available across a myriad of cultural groups and ethnicities. Actors will be seriously considered for any role – and not solely confined to those written with their own personal characteristics in mind.” Good. About time and all it will do is strengthen what we all get to enjoy on the stages that we all pay for through public funding. Amanda Huxtable directing Mike Leigh’s classic Abigail’s Party, will reflect this casting policy, and I suspect it will bring to new life a play that can feel a bit theatre museum-y (September 27-October 20). Leeds Playhouse will be in the spotlight in Culture in the coming weeks – its major undertaking is worthy of further comment – but for now I’ll say: it is going to be staging a female Hamlet (March 1-30), the first time I’ve seen that in this region and I cannot wait.

Bradford Alhambra, although not a producing theatre continues to be a vital part of the city’s cultural offer. It is bringing some big shows to the stage this autumn, but the one that is most exciting has to be Miss Saigon (September 19-October 20). The production was at the theatre back in 2004 and I salivated over it in The Yorkshire Post then. I’ll be doing the same when it flies into Bradford for the simple reason that it is one of the most spectacular pieces of theatre you will ever see.

Sheffield Crucible. Ivor Novello Award winner Dan Gillespie Sells. He wrote the music for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. He’s writing the music for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It will be directed by Robert Hastie. And that’s just one highlight of Sheffield’s coming season.

Who needs Edinburgh? The folk up there better get back to Yorkshire or risk a serious case of FOMO.

Highlights of the upcoming season

Road: Leeds Playhouse stages Jim Cartwright’s modern classic about Northern life. Corrie, it isn’t. September 5-29, 0113 2137700.

Windrush: Phoenix Dance’s newest work just keeps getting more and more relevant. York Theatre Royal, November 1 and 2, 01904 623568.

Windows of Displacement: I think Sheffield might have the best studio theatre in the region. This, a dance piece by Leeds-based Akeim Toussaint Buck, will be thought-provoking and powerful. Nov 20, 0114 2496000.

Boeing Boeing: Harrogate Theatre. If I’m only recommending one Harrogate Rep show, it’s this. September4-8. 01423 502116.