West Yorkshire Playhouse today announced it will change its name to Leeds Playhouse. The name change marks a new chapter in the theatre’s 50-year history, embracing its role at the heart of the cultural life in the Leeds City Region, and echoing the original name of the Playhouse which first opened in 1970.
The Playhouse’s renaming comes at a key time for the organisation, as it embarks on a capital redevelopment project resulting in a new city-facing entrance; improved access into and around the building; enhanced financial and environmental sustainability; and the opening of the Bramall Rock Void, a new third performance space within the foundations of the theatre.
The Playhouse’s history began in 1964, when a group of individuals campaigned for Leeds to have its own producing theatre. Leeds Playhouse artistic director James Brining said:
“The Playhouse has been, and will continue to be, a theatre for everyone, a philosophy which was written into the DNA of the organisation over 50 years ago by the theatre’s founding members.
“We remain as committed as we have always been to the audiences and communities who use this theatre. We love West Yorkshire, and for those familiar with the organisation we’re the same theatre in the same location we have been since moving to Quarry Hill in 1990. Changing our name to Leeds Playhouse is a progressive step forward for the organisation, reflecting and acknowledging our rich and fruitful history.
“Nationally, the name change locates us geographically in Leeds, a contemporary, dynamic and ambitious city striving for excellence and putting culture at the heart of its future growth. We can’t wait to welcome audiences old and new to the Pop-Up theatre on the existing Playhouse site which we’re creating whilst our main spaces are undergoing refurbishment, as well as back into the main building once it’s ready to receive them.”
The executive board of Leeds City Council will meet on 27 June to approve the £15.8m development project. Of that £15.8m, just under £800k is still needed. To date, the project has secured significant financial support from Arts Council England and Leeds City Council alongside other major donations. A public fundraising campaign has been launched today to help achieve the final 7% of the target.
From September the Leeds Playhouse will present its 2018/19 Pop-Up season. This season will take place in the Pop-Up theatre, a temporary space built in a workshop on the existing Playhouse site, and in venues across the city and the wider Leeds City Region.
The season features a broad range of modern classics, contemporary revivals and new commissions. A new ensemble company of Northern actors will join the Leeds Playhouse for the redevelopment year to perform many of the productions in the season. The ensemble includes Tessa Parr, Robert Pickavance, Jo Mousley, Elexi Walker, Susan Twist, Joseph Alessi, Darren Kuppan, Lladel Bryant, Simona Bitmate and Dan Parr.
The 2018/19 season includes:
- Tessa Parr takes on the lead role in Hamlet
- Road, Jim Cartwright’s poetic study of everyday lives set on a forgotten northern street on a raucous night.
- The return of Furnace Festival includes Selina Thompson’s critically acclaimed salt. and Yorkshire born Charley Miles’ Blackthorn.
- An exploration of changing identities in a contemporary society, David Greig’s Europe.
- A celebration of the 70th anniversary of the SS Empire Windrush, Airplays, co-produced with BBC Radio Leeds in association with Leeds College of Music.
- The Things We Wouldn’t Otherwise Find, a playfully provocative examination of the role libraries take in the age of the internet search engine by West Yorkshire writer Emma Adams, performed in The Leeds Library ahead of a citywide library tour.
- Nick Ahad’s Partition returns, before embarking on a tour of Leeds Schools and the Bradford Alhambra.
- A co-production with Opera North, Not Such Quiet Girls by Jess Wright transports audiences to the front line of WW1.
- Charles Dickens’ Victorian classic A Christmas Carol.
- Kes returns to the Playhouse ahead of a national UK tour.
- A bewildered family are caught up in a catastrophe in random by award-winning playwright and screenwriter debbie tucker green.
- Intergenerational performance Dinner 18:55 sees members of our older people’s and youth programmes make time for a meal and a conversation.
- Around the World in 80 Days, both in the Pop-Up and community venues across the city region.
- The season closes with Amanda Whittington’s Be My Baby, exploring shame, teenage pregnancy and female friendship the 1960s.