Archive | Theatre

Take a Journey with Me Through My Letters

 

An exhibition and performance at HEART, Headingley on 23rd/24th June celebrates written correspondence and personal connection.

Handwritten letters and shared passions bring young and old together, as exciting, new adventures beckon and unlikely friendships flourish. But will the stress of exams, fractured ankles and grieving for lost friends ruin their plans? Or will the sharing of life through letter writing bring them all together in the end?

The play ‘Spring Flowers and Autumn Fruit’ was inspired by letters exchanged between University of Leeds students and older, Yorkshire residents as part of the University’s ‘Writing Back’ programme, and is performed by younger and older people living in Leeds.

The performances coincide with the launch of an exhibition of letters, photographs, illustrations and poems sent during, and inspired by, Writing Back, and all proceeds will go to Fall into Place Theatre and Writing Back. Both projects foster new friendships and tackle social isolation through connecting differing generations.

Performances are at HEART, Bennett Road, Headingley on Friday 23rd June – doors open to view exhibition 6pm; introduction 6:30pm; performance 7pm. And on Saturday 24th June – doors open to view exhibition 2pm; introduction 2.15pm; performance 2.30pm.

This is a relaxed performance, all very welcome. Tickets (£7/£5) are available from HEART on 0113 275 4548 or www.heartcentre.org.uk/

 

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Shore to Shore at Oriental City

 

A play about Chinese people from Leeds, and staged at the Oriental City Restaurant on Cross Stamford Street, in Leeds was intriguing – a little drama accompanied by some tasty food.

Writers Mary Cooper and MW Sun had listened to and recorded the voices of dozens of Chinese people in Leeds. From these they wove together this wonderful, poignant play, bringing their stories and experiences to life. It was all the more touching because their experiences are echoed today. Here in our comfortable little bubbles we choose to ignore the fact that around the world people are dealing with similar experiences – being forced to flee because of war, famine, a better life…. just trying to survive.

Cheung Wing let go of his mother’s hand when they were fleeing the Japanese and subsequently was sold as a labourer in rural China. Years later he’s found by his uncle and reunited with his mother, then makes his way to Leeds to work in a restaurant.

Mei Lan’s parents run a takeaway and as children she and her brother worked long hours peeling potatoes and helping to run the business. When the business fails they join their father at another takeaway in the Dales – the only ‘Chinks’ in the village.

YiDi, born during the one-child policy in China and whose father had wanted a son, spends her life trying to gain his approval but, despite excelling academically, it’s never good enough. To escape she applies to do further study in Leeds where she discovers she has to add Yorkshire to her fluent English!

Presented by seven wonderful actors, these lives intertwine, back and forth. Each one a tale of love, loss, struggle and survival. All now happily living in Leeds surrounded by friends and family, none has forgotten their grueling journeys to get here – the hunger, the bullying, the lack of love, and the relentlessly hard work.

‘Shore to Shore’ at Oriental City started with a warming bowl of seaweed and tofu soup and soup made regular appearances throughout the play – first made with just roots and stems, then with vegetables, and finally with chicken! When the play finished we dived into more delicious dishes and somehow felt a new appreciation for this cuisine that so many of the Leeds Chinese community had contributed to.

‘Shore to Shore’ was presented by On The Wire in partnership with the Business Confucius Institute at the University of Leeds and Oriental City Restaurant. It is currently on tour and will play in Manchester, Oxford, London, Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and finishing at The Spurriergate Centre, York, on 9th/10th June.

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Community Chorus Rehearses Grapes of Wrath at WYP

A 40 strong community chorus is in rehearsals for the stage adaptation of John Steinbeck’s classic The Grapes of Wrath, at West Yorkshire Playhouse from 24th May.

Involving performers from across Yorkshire, the community ensemble pays homage to the play’s themes of community and migration, representing and reflecting the local community.

Recruited through open auditions held in March, some of the company are also involved in Playhouse activity such as the Theatre of Sanctuary refugee programme, the Youth Theatre and First Floor programmes for young people.

Following the run the community ensemble participants will have the chance to create a brand new piece of work piece with a professional writer and director, which will be performed as part of Open Season, West Yorkshire Playhouse’s annual festival of community performance.

“We are delighted to have found a group of 40 fantastic individuals to take part in this show, not to mention the six young people from our Youth Theatre”, said Alex Ferris, WYP’s Director of Creative Engagement. “This story is so pertinent  – it’s been fascinating to hear everyone’s take on the themes in rehearsals and how much they’ve taken the story to heart.”

Critiquing America’s Great Depression and brought into a contemporary light with a live band playing throughout, Steinbeck’s legendary The Grapes of Wrath is given a modern twist by director Abbey Wright.

The Grapes of Wrath, Quarry Theatre

Wed 24 May – Sat 10 June,

Box office 0113 213 7700. Book online wyp.org.uk

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Heartbreak Productions Come to Roundhay Park

 

Heartbreak Productions return to Leeds this summer with five open air shows in Roundhay Park.

Starting with a new adaptation of David Walliams’ ‘Billionaire Boy’ from 2nd – 4th June, in August they return with a quirky interpretation of ‘Northanger Abbey’ by Jane Austen, and a unique perspective on Shakespeare’s unconventional love story ‘The Taming of the Shrew’. Completing the line-up are the family favourite ‘The Secret Garden’, and their original murder-mystery spoof, ‘Murder on the Terrace’.

Heartbreak Productions are renowned for their unique style and tour each production with a small but multi-talented cast of actors  drawn from across the country.

Heartbreak has been touring shows for over 25 years but this is the first time they’ve taken so many productions out at one time.  “It’s a really exciting but hectic time for us”, said Executive Director Maddy Kerr. “Doing such a mix of shows ensures that there’s something for everyone, so audiences of all ages and tastes can get involved and experience outdoor theatre – and obviously it makes it very special for us that we’re able to perform somewhere as beautiful as Roundhay Park.”

For more details check www.heartbreakproductions.co.uk.

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Junior ‘Stepping Out’ in his West End Debut

 

Junior Frood (12) from Meanwood recently got to perform on a London West End Stage.

The opportunity came about when the Leeds West Academy student contacted ITV This Morning in support of their ‘Be Kind’ anti-bullying campaign. Junior, who is on the Diana Award National Anti-bullying Youth Board for England was invited to chat on the famous sofa with Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby and to tell his story of how he overcame the bullying that he suffered because of his love of dancing. Phillip Schofield asked “What’s the big dream?” to which Junior replied “to be in a West End Musical”.

Junior and Amanda Holden just before showtime

Following this, Britain’s Got Talent Judge Amanda Holden, who is currently starring in the musical ‘Stepping Out’ at the Vaudeville Theatre, contacted the show and offered to make his dream come true.

Junior spent the day with the show’s choreographer Tim Jackson, who taught Junior the finale dance that he would get to perform that night with the whole cast. Tim couldn’t believe how quickly he picked up the choreography. Junior was then introduced to the show’s costume designer Denny Evans who made Junior a costume to match the rest of the cast, complete with sparkly top hat and cane.

L-R: Choreographer Tim Jackson,Amanda Holden, Junior, his mum Kerry, and Maggie Paterson, Junior’s Principal from Pineapple Performing Arts.

 

The best moment came when he got to meet Amanda Holden, one of his idols. He got to rehearse with her and the rest of the cast and was interviewed with her by ITV This Morning, who were on hand to film Junior’s performance for a follow up story on the show.

 

Junior and his little brother Jake with Philip and Holly on This Morning

 

It was made all the more special as Maggie Paterson, principal of Pineapple Performing Arts School   where Junior has a full scholarship was in the audience to watch Junior’s West End debut.

 

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Alan Ayckbourn: Eighty Plays On

 

An interview with playwright Alan Ayckbourn, live-streamed from The British Library, can be seen at Leeds Central Library on Monday 22 May.

Alan Ayckbourn has been a playwright for 58 years, and to date has written 80 plays, including Relatively Speaking, How the Other Half Loves, Absurd Person Singular and The Norman Conquests. In 1997 he was knighted for services to theatre, and he has won numerous awards.

With Peter Kemp, Chief Fiction Reviewer for The Sunday Times, he explores the way his work combines comedy with underlying seriousness, and the way he uses humour to treat themes such as emotional inhibition, isolation, failures of communication and fraughtness within families. We also hear about influences on his writing, his working routines and his on-going fascination with technical experimentation.

Book your free ticket here

 

 

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Evita at The Grand

 

Telling the story of Eva Perón, the wife of former Argentine dictator Juan Perón, the classic musical Evita returns to Leeds Grand Theatre from Tuesday 16th May for one week only.

Evita follows Eva’s journey from humble beginnings through to extraordinary wealth, power and iconic status which ultimately lead her to be heralded as the ‘spiritual leader of the nation’ by the Argentine people.

Taking on the iconic role of Eva Perón is one of musical theatre’s most exciting leading ladies, Emma Hatton. She recently finished wowing audiences in the lead role of Elphaba in the West End’s production of Wicked. Prior to this she performed the principle roles of Scaramouche and Meatloaf in We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre, and Donna in the West End production of Dreamboats and Petticoats.

Making his UK debut is leading Italian performer Gian Marco Schiaretti taking the role of Che, a character who reflects the voice of the Argentine people – linked to Eva by destiny; he brings conflict to the story of Eva’s rise to fame.

Featuring some of the best loved songs in musical theatre, including Don’t Cry for Me Argentina, On This Night of a Thousand Stars, You Must Love Me, and Another Suitcase in Another Hall Evita continues to entertain audiences 40 years on.

Evita is at Leeds Grand Theatre from Tuesday 16th to Saturday 20th May

Tickets are priced from £20.50 to £41.50

Book online at leedsgrandtheatre.com or call Box Office on 0844 848 2700

 

 

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Play about Leeds Chinese Communities Premières at Oriental City

 

From Shore to Shore is a new play by Mary Cooper in collaboration with MW Sun that weaves together three revealing and moving stories drawn from different generations of people from the British Chinese community. The production will be performed at Oriental City Restaurant in Leeds from the 16-18 May at 7.30pm (16th at 6.30pm and Mat performance at 12.30pm on the 17th).

 

Directed by David K S Tse, From Shore to Shore spans a century of Chinese history through its stories of love and loss, struggle and survival.

Taking place in a restaurant, enhancing the themes of food and its relationship to love and survival, and accompanied by a Chinese meal, From Shore to Shore blends  English, Mandarin and Cantonese in an innovative way.

 

Playwright Mary Cooper, who has written for BBC Radio 4, Channel 4 and Granada, and multilingual collaborator M W Sun have spent three years researching and recording stories with people in the Chinese community.

“From Shore to Shore draws on the stories of interviewees from 14 to 84, stories often hidden even from family members,” said Mary. The play reveals the long-view of migration – one of toil, endurance and success in the UK.  It has been an extraordinary insight into an undiscovered side of Britain’s rich contemporary diversity reaffirming our common humanity in these divisive times.”

For more info visit www.fromshoretoshore.co.uk

 

 

 

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The Playhouse and Curve Theatre Present ‘The Graduate’

‘The Graduate’, adapted by Terry Johnson and based on the novel by Charles Webb, is currently at West Yorkshire Playhouse and running until Saturday 27th May, and I urge you to go and see it.

Directed by Lucy Bailey, it is a co-production by West Yorkshire Playhouse and Leicester’s Curve Theatre and captures 1960’s comfortable, suburban California so well. Benjamin has just graduated. He finds himself disillusioned by the world of his parents and is easily, if awkwardly and guiltily, seduced by their neighbour, Mrs Robinson, played to perfection by Catherine McCormack. She is a bored alcoholic, trapped in a loveless marriage and she delightedly plunges him into a world of sensual hedonistic pleasure which sets them both on a thrillingly destructive course.  Of course, Mrs Robinson has a lovely daughter and when Benjamin actually falls for her the gloves are off!

“The Graduate is a satire on the values and lifestyle of middle class suburban America”, said Lucy Bailey. “The world seen through Benjamin’s eyes is a heightened surreal version of reality, at times grotesques and absurd. It’s a coming of age play – painfully funny and deeply human.”

Catherine McCormack, best known for her roles in the ‘Braveheart’ with Mel Gibson, and ‘Spy Game’ with Brad Pitt, plays Mrs Robinson and is a joy to watch. In fact the entire cast is brilliant, though one criticism I heard was that perhaps Benjamin, played by Jack Monaghan, was a little overplayed, but I didn’t find that. Yes, he made you feel a little uncomfortable but he was meant to as he wrestled with his conscience, tried to avoid his parents questions, took Elaine (the daughter) on an excruciatingly awful date to a strip club (cue twirling nipple tassels!), found himself falling in love and having to explain that to Mrs Robinson….her husband….his parents….Elaine!

Very funny, sad and quite insightful. Don’t miss it!

 

Photos: Manuel Harlan

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The Hope Theatre Group Returns

 

The Hope Theatre Group is back up and running again, and will be presenting The Pleasure of the Fleeting Year at the HEART Centre, Headingley, on 20th, 26th and 27th May.

Founded in 2000 the group has staged no fewer than 13 productions of plays by Shakespeare plus plays by Christopher Marlowe, Sophocles and Christopher Fry, as well as a series of ‘words and music’ recitals.

The Hope Theatre Group presents The Pleasure of the Fleeting Year

 

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