Leeds Playhouse at 50

Alan Plater, playwrite, Tony Robinson and the Leeds Playhouse.
The very first performance was a play by Alan Plater, starring Tony Robinson.

Today it is the 50th birthday of the Leeds Playhouse. It officially opened on the 10 December 1970. This was in a different location to the current site that opened in 1990. The first performance was of Simon Says by Alan Plater*, starring a youthful Sir Tony Robinson who went on to play the wonderful Baldrick in Blackadder. He also wrote and starred in one of the best children’s tv programmes of all time, Maid Marion and her Merry Men and of course, Time Team

We never went to the original playhouse, but have visited the new building, opened in 1990 many times. The West Yorkshire Playhouse was purpose built on part of the site of the Quarry Hill flats that were the largest housing complex in Europe when they were built in the 1930s. They were a very sorry sight by the late 20th century although were host to the sitcom, Queenie’s Castle, in the 1970s starring the late ‘glamour girl’, Diana Dors. 

Reece Dinsdale as the Master Builder
Reece Dinsdale as The Master Builder

The new building opened its doors in 1990 and has seen a wealth of talented performances since then.  We have visited many times since.  I always buy a programme when we go to the theatre and having just gone to look at our collection, I think these deserve a blog post of their own. Notable performances include, The Master Builder by Ibsen, with Reece Dinsdale, Sir Lenny Henry as Othello and anything by the production company Ramps on the Moon. I have written about these before, when we went to see a fabulous version of Oliver Twist. 

Tobias Batley as Dracula and Martha Leebolt as Mina
Northern Ballet’s Dracula

The playhouse also hosts at least one series each year of performances from Northern Ballet. Their Dracula was featured as part of the national theatre online early in the start of the pandemic. To see it live was just sublime. 

*I took part in a weekend writing workshop with Alan Plater him back in the early 2000’s. He was so talented and forthcoming about his writing. His work catalogue is significant and he was a charming, witty, erudite and I am so pleased that I had the chance to learn from him. There is a fabulous quote from him on his Imdb page. Of the characters in The Beiderbecke Trilogy: “I ‘hear’ a scene in total and, although this might sound a bit barmy, I always say that I don’t make it up. I just put Trevor and Jill in a situation and listen to what they say, watch what they do, and then copy it all down onto the page.” If only it were that simple for the rest of us.

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