Theatres of dreams: May’s best acts to catch
There is an old saying, ‘Ne’er cast a clout ’till May be out.’ If, like me, you get a bit fed up of planning your forthcoming clout casting, then why not pop along to one of the great theatres we have in Leeds for a bit of cultural relief in the form of a bout of drama, or perhaps something a little more challenging.
Let’s start at the Grand Theatre and Opera House which lives up to its full moniker this month.
From 3rd – 6th May we have the Peter James’s play Wish You Were Dead. This is the latest story in the Grace series, recently seen on tv. It stars George Rainsford, Clive Mantle and Katie McGlynn, all familiar faces from the box. Detective Superintendent Roy Grace and pathologist Cleo Morey decide to take a holiday, but, as there would be nothing to write a play about had it gone smoothly, it doesn’t turn out to be all Champagne, caviar and escargots.
The second half of the month sees the theatre play host to two works from Opera North; The Pearl Fishers by Bizet and Mozart’s Requiem. The two operas overlap with the first running from 16th May – 2nd June, and the second from 26th May – 4th June.
The Pearl Fishers stretches the friendship of Nadir and Zurga to breaking point when they both fall in love with the same woman. You just know that it is going to end badly, but it does contain what is probably my favourite operatic aria, Au Fond Du Temple Saint. I’m not getting all arty farty here, I only knew it as the duet until I just looked it up on YouTube and had a little weep while watching Bryn Terfel and Andrea Bocelli absolutely nail it.
Requiem is tragic in another way, in that it was the last thing Mozart wrote, in fact it was unfinished when he pre-empted the rock’n’roll exit by dying at the age of 36. Coupled with this is a new work by Neo Muyanga which is a collaboration with Phoenix Dance Theatre and performing artists from South Africa.
Leeds Playhouse gives us some light relief from the murder, jealousy and death with its offerings. The month kicks off with the continuation of 1001 Stories which is a festival of presentations in a takeover by older people, or younger people if you are my age!
Running until 5th may is Sinfonia, which kicked off on 27th April and is a new production combining moments of joy, humour and true stories from the people of Leeds. The other events in the series are; 2nd May, Moving with Joy which, as its name suggests is concerned with dance, and is choreographed by Tamara McLorg and David Hamilton; Am I Invisible Yet? A one hour play by Dunstan Bruce, ex-frontman of Chumbawamba is on 3rd; 4th May is Steel Pan Stories, a tale of the steel pan pioneer, St Clair Leroy Augustine Morris, with the Paradise Band performing calypso and soca narratives. The big finish is on 7th May when Leeds’ finest ever writer, my words, not from the press release, is in conversation with James Brining, Leeds Playhouse Artistic Director. Mam would be proud.
10th – 13th May sees Quality Street in The Courtyard. It is a farce concerning romance, scandal and an identity switch, from Northern Broadsides and New Vic made with help from the workers of the Mackintosh’s factory in Halifax where Quality Street chocolates are made.
I am being spoiled this month as, after my favourite aria, comes one of my favourite novels, Of Mice and Men. I came to John Steinbeck late but once I did I read the whole canon. The story is of a couple of migrants during the Depression in the USA. They get jobs on a farm where an incident leads to a life-changing decision. It is a Leeds Playhouse, Birmingham Rep and Fiery Angel production running in the Quarry from 11th – 27th May.
A Passionate Woman, the late, great Kay Mellor’s play which premiered at the Playhouse in 1993, runs at the Courtyard from 20th May – 10th June and Tess Seddon’s revival of it is dedicated to her memory. It is the story of a woman who takes refuge in her attic on the day of her son’s wedding where lost memories and feelings come flooding back. This will be the first of a series of events to mark the life and legacy of the Leeds legend.
To end the month, there are two productions; the Quarry hosts The Beekeeper of Aleppo, about a couple living an idyllic life in the eponymous Syrian city until it is destroyed by war. It is a story of connections between friends, family and strangers. The dates are 31st May – 3rd June.
Sharing those dates, but in Bramall Rock Void is Football Freddie, a play for 3-7 year-olds about a football mad little girl and her great-great-great uncle who comes to life out of an old photograph to help her overcome her nerves and play the game.
Finally, here is something completely different. Mikron Theatre Company who are based on a longboat in Marsden, are performing their new play A Force To Be Reckoned With, on 18th May. It is about the history of women in the police force and, I am sure will be as informative and hilarious as their previous productions. What’s so different about that, I hear you ask, well, it is being staged at the Wetherby Whaler Fish Restaurant in Guiseley with the ticket price including a pre-show feast of fish and chips – or veggie option. More details and tickets are available from the venue.
So, there you have it, all that is needed now is to get those clouts cast.