Seriousness rules as cuts come to theatres

Fans of drama are in for a real treat this coming season. Arts reporter Nick Ahad on a compelling year for Yorkshire's theatres.

Hello everybody who has been living under a rock. To briefly bring you up to date with what's been going on – Yorkshire's theatres are facing a bit of trouble.

Never mind Christmas – it's the cuts that are coming and no-one's getting fat – although there is plenty of concern about who might be up for the chop.

Reflecting the sombre state of affairs, the seasons we are about to see in Yorkshire theatres are a thoroughly serious crop.

The people behind the programmes might disagree, after all there's a big musical in Leeds, A Midsummer Night's Dream in Hull, an Alan Bennett in York, but taking in all the programmes at all the theatres in the region, there is an overwhelming sense of seriousness.

That, however, is not to be misconstrued as a bad thing. Sometimes it's good to have a really thought-provoking stage drama to get your teeth into. Step forward the Prince of Denmark.

In Sheffield last season and nationally for the past few years, the tortured Dane has been seen on stage with alarming regularity. The attraction has always been a star name – not so for Northern Broadsides.

In what is personally one of my most anticipated shows of the year, an unknown has landed the role of Hamlet. What's really exciting is the director: Northern Broadsides' associate Conrad Nelson. One of the most intelligent and skilled actors the region has to offer, I hoped he would be playing the lead, but he sees himself as too old. It's a shame not to see him on stage, but as director I can't wait to see what he's going to bring to arguably the greatest play ever written.

If that wasn't heavy enough for you, how about a season of David Hare's plays? One of contemporary theatre's most political playwrights, nobody does polemic quite like him – that is to say, he makes it interesting.

An Olivier Award winner, Hare's plays are incredibly important. His films include The Hours and The Reader – he's one of the best drama writers we have. And he's coming to Sheffield.

Artistic director in Sheffield, Daniel Evans, has pulled a masterstroke by programming the first season of work by Hare with three plays being staged simultaneously in the Crucible, Studio and Lyceum and more talks, masterclasses and workshops than you can shake a stick at. Plenty to get your teeth into.

Another visionary director is Damian Cruden in York. Everyone laments the loss of the rep system – by which a group of actors attach themselves to a theatre and perform in a repertory of plays – except for Cruden. He decided to not lament it, but bring it back. So we have a yet-to-be-announced group of actors who will work across several productions in both the theatre spaces at York Theatre Royal. The highlight is probably going to be The Crucible, which I think will be very special.

At the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds I can't wait for Yerma and I think 'Tis Pity She's a Whore is going to be an epic, sweeping production. Before those two productions, the centenary of Terence Rattigan's birth in 2011 is going to mean lots of productions of his work and The Deep Blue Sea, at the Playhouse in February, will be compelling – and not only because of director Sarah Esdaile and the lovely Maxine Peake leading the cast.

Hull Truck Theatre is going through change at the minute and will look very different this time next year. It does appear to have a strong season lined up, with Sarah Esdaile again taking the helm of a production which should be a lot of fun – Alan Bennett's The Lady in the Van, not produced in Yorkshire since the Playhouse did it a few years back. It will be a little light relief in a serious season that might prove challenging, but very rewarding for theatre fans.

Theatre Season Highlights 2011

Hamlet: It has to be. Not only the greatest play ever written, but in Conrad Nelson an actor of intelligence and wit as a director. Can't wait to see what he does with it. Northern Broadsides, various venues.

The Crucible: Damian Cruden is going to transform his theatre into an in-the-round for this cauldron of a play. York Theatre Royal, May 7-28. 01904 623568.

David Hare Season: Sheffield continues to lead the region. Brilliant thinking to stage a retrospective of Hare's work. Sheffield, February. 0114 249 6000.