🗞️ February Best Shows to See
Well, if you thought that my preview for January was brief, you are in for a real treat this month. I realise that February is the shortest month of the year, although only by one day this leap year, but it is certainly the shortest in the board-treading department.
One of the reasons for the above is that Opera North takes over Leeds Grand Theatre to treat us to two of the best loved works in the genre; Così fan tutte from 2nd to 23rd February, and Cavalleria rusticana, from 15th to 24th, being on the short side the latter is paired with another work of brevity, Aleko. Before anyone gets on my case, or lower case, the Italians don’t use capital letters in titles so I haven’t made a few typos there. Cosī fan tutte is about a bloke called Don Alfonso who bets a couple of his mates that their fiancées will be unfaithful to them, and then sets out to prove it.
Cavalleria rusticana contains some of the most beautiful music ever written for opera, so good in fact, that it was used in The Godfather Part III, as well as many other non-operatic settings. This is another work about infidelity, as is Aleko so I should take your other half with you if you are planning to attend to put your mind at ease as to what they are up to whilst you are enjoying the operas.
There are a couple of events on 14th, 15th and 16th February especially designed to get the younger people, aged 8 and over into drama and circus skills. The first is sold out so I suggest you get the young ‘uns on the circus one asap. Just don’t blame me if they then use the chandelier as a trapeze or find that when you start the car, the doors and bonnet fly off and the engine drops out.
The end of the month gets back to normal with Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World. Another production aimed at those from 6 years and over based on the book by Kate Pankhurst, adapted by Chris Bush and staged by one of the producers of, appropriately, SIX. Subjects include Frida Kahlo, Rosa Parks, Mary Seacole and, to keep it in the family, Emmeline Pankhurst. It runs from 28th February until 3rd March.
Leeds Playhouse begins the month with Beautiful Octopus Festival, a series of events for those with learning disabilities, their families, carers and support workers. OK, I know it starts at the end of January but I feel it is worth inclusion.
It begins on 29th January with an Interaction Day where participants take part in sensory and creative sessions including drumming, yoga and storytelling. The day finishes with a Cub Night for adults, created by a group of learning disabled artists, musicians and DJs.
Tuesday, 30th January hosts friendly, creative sessions for artists and budding artists with learning disabilities.
Wednesday, 31st January and Thursday, 1st February sees My Life With The Wave, a sensory show by Interplay, a story of friendship, taking audiences on a journey beneath the waves. For more details see my January preview.
From 15th to 17th February we have Zog and the Flying Doctors, based on the book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. Zog, a student, and his flying doctor crew, Princess Pearl and Sir Gadabout, who rush to the aid of a sunburnt mermaid, a two-horned unicorn and a lion with the ‘flu. Pearl’s uncle, the king, is set against her medical career so can she persuade him otherwise?
15th to 24th February sees Frankenstein, from imitating the dog, more lower case titles, could they be Italian? It is a multimedia co-production with Leeds Playhouse, asking the question what it means to be human, using Mary Shelley’s novel as its basis. As with other imitating the dog shows there are many special effects and strange happenings.
The month’s events end with BELONGING: Loss. Legacy. Love. from Phoenix Dance Theatre, who are obviously not Italian. It is a triple bill exploring the nuances of human experience by three exciting international dance makers.
Loss is explored by former Phoenix Artistic Director, Dane Hurst’s Requiem, using Mozart’s choral lament in response to the grief experienced by so many during the pandemic. The work will be performed to recorded music.
Legacy is depicted by Cloudburst, a World Premiere by Miguel Altunaga, exploring mankind’s relationship with tribe and community, mythology and deity, ritual and surrealism and how choices made by our ancestors shape our cultures and our being. It is set to a new musical score by David Preston.
Love is by Marcus Jarrell Willis and is his first creation as Phoenix’s Artistic Director. It is the third work in his choreographic series, Terms and Conditions, exploring the meaning of true love. The music includes original compositions by Tomos O’Sullivan as well as music by various popular artists.
Finally to Carriageworks Theatre where, on 9th February, we have As She Likes It, a work inspired by the #MeToo pioneer, Patricia Douglas and is a darkly comedic explosion of multimedia, verbatim, cabaret and drag in a Brechtian-style play exploring how Hollywood has changed between the golden years and now. It is for one night on 9th February.
A couple of shows for the younger end ensue with Morgan and West’s Massive Magic Show for Kids, which is on 14th February and speaks for itself really, the age range is 5 years old and over.
At various times on 15th and 16th February we have The Selfish Giant for those aged 3+. It is inspired by the children’s story of the same name written by Oscar Wilde exploring an unusual friendship discovering how even the grumpiest giant’s heart can melt when spring arrives. It includes storytelling, puppetry, music and magic, so a bit of everything, then.
If you are happy to see your plays streamed then Leeds City Varieties have a couple of offerings in a filmed presentation of Dear England, the National Theatre production examining the failure of England’s football team to claim any silverware in years, with Joseph Fiennes as Gareth Southgate. It is being shown on 4th February.
The other is Vanya, a radical new version of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya starring Andrew Scott, who portrays multiple characters in this National Theatre production.
Whatever you see I hope that you enjoy it and a special Happy Birthday to those born on 29th February, I hope you enjoy celebrating on the actual date for a change.