Despite ongoing issues with funding, Yorkshire’s theatre lovers can anticipate another exciting year ahead. Theatre correspondent Nick Ahad previews the many stage highlights of the coming year.
The truth is that 2015 looks set to be a difficult year for theatres. Funding isn’t getting any easier to come by and the region’s playhouses will have to continue to be inventive if they are to survive a rocky period which everyone will be praying can’t last for much longer. That said, I do think this is going to be one heck of a year for Yorkshire theatre.
Sheffield Theatres has been so brave and bold in its programming of a season of work of a single writer in the past few years. The work of David Hare, Michael Frayn, Brian Friel has featured in the past – and now it is the turn of Sarah Kane. Kane, most famous for her “feast of filth” play (copyright the Daily Mail) Blasted, will have her work probed in a season of work from February to March.
Given that she had such a short career, it is going to be fascinating to take someone’s whole oeuvre and thoroughly examine it – and I have absolutely no doubt it will be superbly done by the brilliant people at Sheffield. There’s also an intriguing Leeds-Sheffield production, with Leeds company Slung Low taking its version of Camelot to Sheffield – expect it to be spectacular.
The region’s other big producing house, Leeds’s West Yorkshire Playhouse, continues to be ably led by James Brining. An inspiring leader, Brining’s decisions are sometimes mainstream, sometimes left-field, but he has an uncanny ability to get people to buy into his ideas.
It means the programming of plays like The Rise and Fall of Little Voice and Uncle Vanya which while seemingly safe and possibly even obvious still manage to intrigue. The other big production from which I expect great things is Boi Boi is Dead. Zodwa Nyoni, a Leeds-based, Zimbabwe-born poet, has been on the verge of this breakthrough for a number of years now and to see her debut full-length play on the stage of the Courtyard will be a thrill for her and for audiences.
In the region’s receiving houses, the theatres that don’t programme their own work, the Alhambra in Bradford and the Leeds Grand Theatre had an exceptionally good 2014.
At the Alhambra, once the pantomime has vacated the building, the season gets underway with Calamity Jane and the Sheffield Theatres’ production of Anything Goes.
In April, one of the highlights of the year will surely be the visit of the National Theatre’s The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time and in June the popular musical The Bodyguard will be visiting.
The first few months of 2015 sees high quality – as ever – at Leeds Grand Theatre, with Opera North’s La Traviata, The Marriage of Figaro and La Vida Breve, then in March it will host the premiere of Northern Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet. It then goes in to shows of exceptional quality, including the West End production of Twelve Angry Men starring Tom Conti, The King’s Speech starring Jason Donovan, and in June The Producers starring Ross Noble and Jason Manford.
The Spring 2015 programme of Huddersfield’s Lawrence Batley Theatre combines locally-produced work alongside three world premieres.
The theatre’s resident company Dark Horse Theatre will be following up the national tour of their acclaimed Sing Something Simple with the world premiere of their Western-inspired romp Snakebite.
LBT favourites Mikron Theatre celebrate a century of the Women’s Institute with another world first: Raising Agents, a tale of hobbyists, lobbyists and dust-ups at Bunnington WI, with music by Golcar folk heroes O’Hooley and Tidow.
Harrogate Theatre appears to be doing something really interesting with its new season. While the theatre has some decent productions, not least Jeeves and Wooster starring Robert Webb and musical drama United We Stand, which tackles the builders’ strike of 1972, the focus of the theatre appears to be elsewhere – comedy. In the space of just a few months the theatre will host Sara Pascoe, Simon Amstell, John Shuttleworth, Lloyd Langford, Lucy Beaumont, Henning Wehn, Tim Vine and Andy Parsons.
It’s an impressive line-up that puts Harrogate at the forefront of the region’s comedy venues. That said, Leeds City Varieties is still up there, bringing some great comedy to the region, with acts including Gina Yashere and the intriguing prospect of a one-man version of the popular TV series Breaking Bad.
Of all the theatres in our region, the one which will perhaps experience the most significant 2015 is York Theatre Royal. In March the theatre will close its doors and will undergo a major capital development.
The £4.1 million redevelopment project will transform the auditorium and the foyer and is the biggest renovation to happen to this historic building since 1967.
Following the closure of the theatre, performances will begin in the De Grey Ballroom, starting with Adam’s Apples from leading German theatre company Landesbuehnen Sachsen and Bodytalk, based on the 2005 German-Danish black comedy film. Performances in the De Grey Ballroom will continue throughout the theatre’s closure and include tutti frutti and York Theatre Royal’s Rapunzel, the first of three plays written by Mike Kenny. Work will also be performed and produced throughout the city, starting with 5 Soldiers from Rosie Kay Dance company, which will be performed in a military venue.
At Wakefield Theatre Royal the John Godber Company is teaming up with the theatre once again to bring back his ever popular Bouncers. On February 13 the theatre will celebrate a significant anniversary – its 120th – with an evening of variety. Wakefield’s favourite playwright son John Godber will be in conversation, music from The Voice contestants and magicians will all make up an evening compered by the incomparable Billy Pearce.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR IN 2015
* Sarah Kane Season, Sheffield Theatres: Blasted is one heck of a piece of theatre. Seeing it in the context of all of Kane’s work will give it a fascinating resonance.
* Boi Boi is Dead, West Yorkshire Playhouse: Zodwa Nyoni is a Leeds-raised, Zimbabwe-born writer who has been on the verge of a breakthrough for some years. This is her big break.
* One Man Breaking Bad, Cast Doncaster, Leeds City Varieties: If you haven’t seen the show, you won’t get this, but Breaking Bad addicts will lap this up when it comes to the region.
* Twelve Angry Men, Leeds Grand: A seriously high class production straight from the West End will be well worth seeing.