The West Yorkshire Playhouse's new season programme puts the emphasis on the relationship between the global and local, with productions that include a new spin on an American classic and a season devoted to a Leeds-born writer who has achieved international acclaim.
The headline show for March will be Of Mice and Men, directed by the Playhouse's new associate director, Mark Rosenblatt, who was previously associate at the National Theatre Studio and ran Dumbfounded Theatre. Rosenblatt's take on the classic John Steinbeck novel aims to use the epic space available in the Playhouse's Quarry Theatre as a parallel to the epic landscape in which the tale of friendship and isolation is told. The production will feature music by American composer, Heather Christian, who collaborated on the award-winning Mission Drift.
Also receiving its premiere at the Playhouse in March will be a new version of Wedekind's controversial Spring Awakening, which examines awakening sexuality among teenagers and was first shown in 1906. This co-production between the Playhouse, Headlong and Nuffield Southampton was written by acclaimed young playwright, Anya Reiss, and directed by the up and coming Ben Kidd, who in 2012 directed David Mamet's The Shawl at the Young Vic.
The second half of the season will celebrate Alan Bennett, with a new version of Enjoy and a major revival of Untold Stories, which features a double-bill of Hymn and Cocktail Sticks. There will also be productions of three of Bennett's Talking Heads monologues: A Chip in the Sugar, Bed Among the Lentils and Lady of Letters. These will be performed in community centres across Leeds before transferring to the Playhouse in June. Finally, there will be a new co-production of Betty Blue Eyes, which is based on Bennett's film, A Private Function. The writing team behind the original West End production have revamped the show for the Playhouse premiere in June.
Other shows to keep an eye out for include acclaimed actress Maxine Peake's stage writing debut. Beryl tells of the extraordinary achievements of Leeds' cyclist Beryl Burton and has been commissioned to coincide with the 2014 Tour de France's diversion to Yorkshire. Refugee Boy also returns in February before embarking on a national tour, and the Playhouse teams up with Graeae, the UK foremost disabled-led theatre company, for a raucous version of Brecht's The Threepenny Opera that aims to examine the politics of disability.
Elsewhere, a streamlined Transform Festival takes place across the weekend of 27 to 30 March, and the successful A Play, A Pie & A Pint series returns with two original works. The Playhouse Youth Theatre explores issues relating to transgender teens in Pronoun, and The Tiger Lillies take to the Playhouse stage in a macabre co-production with Opera North. Visiting shows include Denise van Outen's one-woman outing, Some Girl I Used To Know, and Mike Kenny's new version of Red Riding Hood.
Introducing the programme for the first half of 2014, the Playhouse's artistic director, James Brining, said he hopes the shows on offer will "deliver the sense of an event" and comprise "work of international standard" that will be "in demand everywhere". He also emphasised the importance of collaboration, taking work out into the community and ensuring Playhouse audiences reflect the diversity of the city in which it is based. The Playhouse in currently undergoing a process of change, but Brining believes the venue has a "real sense of purpose", with shows that have "vitality and relevance" to the people of Leeds and beyond.
Full details of the Playhouse's upcoming programme can be found at www.wyp.org.uk/what's-on/
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