U.K. Review: "Hadestown" at the National Theatre

U.K. Review: "Hadestown" at the National Theatre

Some of my favourite reviews in the past have often been theatrical adaptations of works from a variety of sources, primarily film, television or literature. You can imagine my intrigue and excitement, then, when I had the opportunity to review a folk opera concept album adaptation from a respected and admired singer-songwriter. Any guesses? I am of course talking about Anaïs Mitchell’s ‘Hadestown’, the musical adapted from her 2010 album of the same name, recently reworked with director Rachel Chavkin and premiering at the National Theatre of Great Britain before heading to Broadway. 

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U.K. Review: ‘Rain Man’ at Leeds Grand Theatre

U.K. Review: ‘Rain Man’ at Leeds Grand Theatre

I’ve noticed a recent trend in the rise of pieces of theatre inspired by stories from across the States, as well as productions actually brought over from there too. It almost seems as if British directors are seeing the merit in finding and understanding the universal power of narratives from other cultures, and seeing how they interweave with our own narratives and culture. On that note, I popped into the Leeds Grand Theatre to check out The Classic Screen to Stage Theatre Company’s latest adaptation of the classic MGM film ‘Rain Man’.

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U.K. Review: "Cilla: the Musical" at Leeds Grand Theatre

U.K. Review: "Cilla: the Musical" at Leeds Grand Theatre

Back in 2014, Jeff Pope’s hit TV series Cilla caught the hearts of the nation in its touching telling of the early days of Cilla Black’s storied career. The humble beginnings and hardships encountered by the late and celebrated singer made for an inspiring dramatic narrative, which was also shaped by the defining sound of the 60s and changing societal attitudes towards gender. I couldn’t help but feel the inevitability of Pope’s TV series becoming a stage musical, and sure enough, I was delighted when it was announced that the musical was embarking on a new tour after a successful run earlier this year - and I looked forward to seeing how the performances had grown and developed over time.

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U.K. Review: "Mother Courage and her Children" at the Albion Electric Warehouse

U.K. Review: "Mother Courage and her Children" at the Albion Electric Warehouse

Red Ladder Theatre Company celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year. From their beginnings in street theatre to becoming one of the most respected theatre companies around today, there’s always been a sense of urgency and vitality with their pieces, primarily brought about by Artistic Director Rod Dixon. Whether it’s creating a new piece of work or finding the urgency in an existing text, Red Ladder has always been poised to accomplish the task. For Red Ladder’s 50th Anniversary, Dixon has made the decision to bring Bertolt Brecht’s classic anti-war play Mother Courage and Her Children to the Albion Electric Warehouse in Leeds, where they also fairly recently staged the critically acclaimed The Shed Crew. On a cold and drizzly autumn night, I huddled into the old warehouse to engage with Red Ladder’s latest offering. 

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U.K. Review: "Road" at Leeds Playhouse

U.K. Review: "Road" at Leeds Playhouse

Jim Cartwright’s acclaimed play Road has long been considered one of the greatest representations of a struggling 1980s Britain, where communities banded together to fight against the drudgery and monotony of the often bleak daily grind via the channel of whiling away the midnight hours with drinking, partying and sex. In short, Road marks a turning point in British history, where new cultural resilience gave rise to something greater, more developed and poised to tackle new challenges. The same can be said of the newly renamed Leeds Playhouse, which has now entered its brand new season, and while the old building is currently being refurbished, they’ve taken over one of the old scenery workshops and transformed it into a pop-up theatre space. Minting this new space is the aforementioned Road, directed by Amy Leach.

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U.K. Review: "Calendar Girls" at the Leeds Grand Theatre

U.K. Review: "Calendar Girls" at the Leeds Grand Theatre

The unforgettable, moving story of a group of members from one of the Women’s Institute’s Yorkshire branches has been inspiring viewers, and more recently audiences, for over fifteen years. I am of course talking about the story of Calendar Girls, which found life and widespread attention and success in the form of Nigel Cole’s 2003 film, with a screenplay by Tim Firth. In 2008, the film was adapted into a successful film, and ten years on, it’s found its way back onto the stage, this time in the form of a musical. With Firth returning to his work, the writer paired up with Gary Barlow to bring the vibrant story of the triumphant women to a theatre at the heart of Yorkshire: the Leeds Grand Theatre.

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UK Review: "Summer Holiday: The Musical"

UK Review: "Summer Holiday: The Musical"

The iconic 1963 film Summer Holiday, starring a young Cliff Richard, will have undoubtedly provided some relief to the rain-sodden Brits in the more than likely cold February of its release that year. In recent years, building on the success of the much-loved film, its story has found a new life on stage, having now been adapted into a musical. As I walked into the Leeds Grand Theatre, where I managed to catch it on its national tour, I looked forward to experiencing the summertime vibes the show promised to drench its audience with – I’m sure this would definitely make it the hottest summer we’ve had in England for a very long time…

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Review: "Searching for the Heart of Leeds" at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

Review: "Searching for the Heart of Leeds" at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

For those of you that have been reading my recent reviews, you’ll know that the West Yorkshire Playhouse is about to undergo major refurbishment and will be closed until later next year, and in the meantime, will be presenting a selection of work in a new pop up space. Last night I was invited to attend the unveiling of its new name and identity, Leeds Playhouse, along with its final show in the Quarry Theatre before the redevelopment, Searching for the Heart of Leeds.

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Review: "Talking Heads" at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

Review: "Talking Heads" at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads monologues were first broadcast on television in 1988, and, like all of Bennett’s pieces of work have been over the years, were praised for their wit and sensitive poeticism that perfectly bottled the essence of the human spirit. Talking Heads has since gone on to enjoy a life of many revivals on the stage, harking back to the early format that Bennett’s formative works took: a single storyteller offering us a glimpse into their life. For its final production in the Courtyard Theatre before undergoing major refurbishment, the West Yorkshire Playhouse has revived the monologues, presenting them as two separate shows on the same days.

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Review: "On Behalf of the People" at The Square Chapel, Halifax

Review: "On Behalf of the People" at The Square Chapel, Halifax

Yorkshire based theatre company The Melting Shop claim to deliver ‘real stories that matter’ as part of their mission, and make it their goal to visit established theatre venues and communities that don’t have as much access to live theatre. Their latest offering is Ray Castleton’s new play On Behalf of the People, which premiered last year as part of the National Coal Mining Museum for England’s schedule of events to mark 70 years since the nationalisation of Britain’s coal mining industry. Having been a fan of the museum itself for quite some time, and always on the lookout for powerful, relevant pieces of theatre, I looked forward to catching the play on its stop at Halifax’s Square Chapel during its new tour.

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U.K. Review: "Hard Times" by Northern Broadsides at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

U.K. Review: "Hard Times" by Northern Broadsides at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

Northern Broadsides Theatre Company has been around for quite some time. Its audiences are undoubtedly full of loyal fans that first began following them back when Barrie Rutter formed the company as an answer to the lack of regional voices performing classical and extant texts. In a bid to engage with new fans, the Broadsides have been commissioning new writing and adaptations of classic literary works. The latter is their latest offering, in the form Deborah McAndrew’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Hard Times, under the direction of Conrad Nelson.

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Review: "The Girl on the Train" at West Yorkshire Playhouse

Review: "The Girl on the Train" at West Yorkshire Playhouse

Paula Hawkins’ novel The Girl on the Train regularly sits atop worldwide bestseller lists, and since its publication in 2015, has embarked on an even greater journey to well and truly cement itself in popular culture as an unforgettable thriller. This journey began with its adaptation to film in 2016, which brought it to even wider audiences; the next logical step in this journey was a theatre adaptation. Over three years since the novel’s publication, the West Yorkshire Playhouse has taken on the task, with a new adaptation by Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel, prior to its imminent closure for major refurbishment.

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U.K. Review: "The River" at Wildgoose Theatre

U.K. Review: "The River" at Wildgoose Theatre

In recent years, Jez Butterworth’s plays, particularly Jerusalem and The Ferryman, have been causing a real stir in British theatre and cementing his status as a true stalwart of contemporary drama. Sitting in between these two plays is his dark, haunting drama The River, and luckily, I got the opportunity to review York-based company Wildgoose Theatre’s latest production of it.

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U.K Review: "Sunshine on Leith" at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

U.K Review: "Sunshine on Leith" at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

The Proclaimers’ musical Sunshine on Leith has been taking the world by storm, particularly after its adaptation to film in 2013. Now, around five years later, and in the run up to the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s closure for major refurbishment and redevelopment in the coming months, the theatre has mounted a brand new production of the musical. With the Playhouse’s Artistic Director James Brining directing, I looked forward to taking my seat in the Quarry Theatre and seeing his efforts to tell a story that timelessly stretches beyond the highland borders.

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U.K. Review: "Avenue Q" at Yeadon Town Hall

U.K. Review: "Avenue Q" at Yeadon Town Hall

Outside of your local theatre’s seasonal programme, there’s always a plethora of local companies mounting productions that can provide you with a highly varied theatre season. One such company that has been making a real name for itself in this sector is Futurist Theatre Productions, who bring musicals and local talent together to create memorable evenings of entertainment. On that note, I was very much looking forward to reviewing their latest production of the smash Broadway hit Avenue Q at Yeadon Town Hall.

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U.K. Review: "Our Country’s Good" at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

U.K. Review: "Our Country’s Good" at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

Since seeing their hit production of The Government Inspector a while back, I’ve really been enjoying the work of the pioneering Ramps on the Moon initiative, which aims to integrate more deaf and disabled performers and theatrical conventions into mainstream theatre. This includes innovative use of captioning and the integration of British Sign Language into the performance, ultimately creating a universal, accessible production for all audience members to enjoy. On that note, I was very much looking forward to seeing their latest collaboration with Nottingham Playhouse: a new production of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Our Country’s Good, which I managed to catch on its stop at the West Yorkshire Playhouse.

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U.K. Review: "The Damned United" at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

U.K. Review: "The Damned United" at the West Yorkshire Playhouse

In 2016, Red Ladder Theatre Company brought to life a story that took the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Courtyard Theatre, and subsequently stages around the country, by storm. That story, the story of the notoriously outspoken football manager Brian Clough, came in the form of their adaptation of David Peace’s acclaimed novel The Damned United. Now, almost two years later, and after achieving widespread success with their adaptation, Red Ladder have brought the production back to Leeds with a new cast and refreshed staging.

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U.K. Review: " If I Say Jump" at the Square Chapel Theatre

U.K. Review: " If I Say Jump" at the Square Chapel Theatre

I’m certainly starting to see an increase in the number of ‘pay what you can’ style shows popping up over the Yorkshire region. The term has a much more accessible ring to it than ‘pay what you think’ which forces audiences to quickly formulate a critical opinion with a subsequent monetary value after a show. Yet the ‘pay what you can’ model encourages more of a less critical, community feel amongst an audience, and perhaps places a higher experiential value on the show itself and provides a greater sense of accessibility to audiences. On this note, Common Chorus and Little Mighty’s latest offering, If I Say Jump, uses the latter payment method, and on its current regional tour, offers audiences with an evening of refreshingly simplistic storytelling.

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U.K. Review: "The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk" at West Yorkshire Playhouse

U.K. Review: "The Flying Lovers of Vitebsk" at West Yorkshire Playhouse

Love has often been the primary thematic centrepiece in Kneehigh Theatre’s work. It is a stimulus that provokes and inspires beautiful conjurations from the whole of their creative team, whether they’re adapting an existing narrative or crafting something new entirely, and when under the masterful direction of Kneehigh’s former Artistic Director Emma Rice, these pieces have always been nothing short of incredible. Rice has always had a gift when it comes to harnessing the vast facets of human experience that stem from love, whether that be with Kneehigh or in her recent creative ventures at Shakespeare’s Globe. On that note, I was very much looking forward to seeing Rice back to directing under Kneehigh’s banner in her latest piece of work.

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