As Be My Baby draws to a close at Leeds Playhouse, the final production of the season marks preparations for a new beginning as the theatre plans to reopen its doors this autumn.
Whilst extensive £15.8m refurbishments took place across its building and stages this year, the drama continued at Leeds Playhouse in the unique pop-up space — an adapted storage area kitted out into a fully-working theatre.
There we experienced a programme of touring shows and Playhouse productions performed by the Leeds Playhouse Ensemble — a highly-talented, rigorous company who have almost become like family this past year.
It’s a year that won’t be forgotten. Here’s a swift glance at just some of the daring productions Leeds Playhouse delivered in their pop-up space and beyond, across a bold and exciting transitional period.
Around the World in 80 Days
Jules Verne’s classic is adapted into a frantic, fun-filled caper in the old pantomime tradition with a bit of music hall fanfare to boot. Providing plenty of practical gags with a perfect balance of whimsy and adventure, Around the World in 80 Days was an ideal family show and an inspiring example of what you can do with a small cast and a box of tricks.
Under masterful direction from Amy Leach, Kes earns its wings as a daring, poignant and brutal piece of theatre. Ultimately a coming-of-age story viewed through the lens of a haunted man, Kes succeeded in interrogating our relationship, empathy and duty of care to the lives of others around us.
A fearless and intense production full of grime and grit, Jim Cartwright’s Road was an alarm-call about the horrors of economic stagnation and depression. Less about political leanings and more about the long-term decline of Britain since the war, the play offered a farsighted lament for times when the North was a powerhouse of industry, sustained by people with purpose and pride.
The Things We Wouldn’t Otherwise Find
Set within the gem-like Leeds Library, this quaint little production was full of ideas — lightly touching on romance and politics with no shortage of humour along the way. Brilliantly bookish and a love letter to the printed word, this alluring piece reminded us of the importance of libraries as a safe and shared space, much like theatre itself.
A Christmas Carol
The pop-up theatre’s festive offering was a faithful yet fresh reinvention of Dickens’ much-loved classic. Heart-warming yet chilling, A Christmas Carol was a daring and dynamic theatrical experience — the perfect complement to the froth and fun of seasonal panto. It was expertly adapted, beautifully staged, smartly directed and sung to its audience in a local voice. One of the Playhouse’s best-ever Christmas shows.
An economic, impassioned solo which unpacked anxieties about belonging, identity and empathy whilst signposting catastrophic moments of grief in youth. Full of expressive, legitimate voices and troubling truths, Random was one of the most compact and impactful pieces of theatre of the year. It was also a fresh example of how a single-handed performance can captivate and command its audience.
Through monologue, dance, mime and music, Dinner 18:55 retold half-a-dozen true stories ranging from the fantastic to the tragic. The show brought together young people and seniors to explore their life experiences at the dinner table, using theatre as a platform to study and reflect on key moments in their lives. Inspiring work.
Much has been said about this bold staging of Hamlet, the Princess of Denmark. An invigorating, interrogating take on an established masterpiece, this version ranks as one of the most inventive and inspiring reimaginings of Shakespeare in recent years. It succeeded in being both accessible and engaging, whilst surfacing new ideas which relate to urgent, present-day anxieties. An expertly executed production which entertained and enthralled at a pace.