Some may think that London is the one and only place for theatre in England, and whilst the West End might be a shining beacon for live theatre it is not the only place with great talent and integrity for the stage. One only need to cast their eyes to the north to gaze upon the Leeds Playhouse, a cornerstone of live theatre and home to a whole host of huge productions and excellent shows.
Open since March 1990, the Playhouse grew out of the original Leeds Playhouse resting on the southern edge of the university campus, but its history stretches back as far as 1907.
The Leeds Playgoers’ Society formed as an off shoot of the Leeds Arts Club, and began to stage contemporary drama, lectures and discussions on theatre.
By the 60’s, the Arts Council saw the gap in Leeds for a home to modern and contemporary theatre in the city, and set to laying the foundation of that initial Leeds Playhouse in 1968.
Now, the theatre has since relocated to Quarry Hill under the name West Yorkshire Playhouse as part of the major regeneration scheme in Leeds during the 90’s, with Donald Sinden turning the first sod in November 1987 and Judi Dench laying the foundation stone in March 1989.
It’s promising start saw the Playhouse produce 93 of its own productions, garnering a reputation for “imaginative, vivid and progressive work on stage” through their excellent array of Artistic Directors from Jude Kelly, to Ian Brown and the current James Brining.
Today, Leeds is evolving beyond recognition with the new arrival of huge shopping malls and department stores, and Leeds Playhouse is eager to keep up with it. Quarry Hill is due to undergo some serious redevelopment via the Leeds City College and Leeds College of Music library, with Brining saying that “The Playhouse is undoubtedly beginning to show its age. We want to be able to welcome people from our region, our country and from across the world to a home of which we are proud.”
In June 2018, the playhouse rebranded under its old name ‘Leeds Playhouse’ in a move seeking to rejoin the cultural landscape of Leeds itself and further the city as a whole.
The Playhouse has two separate theatres, one in Quarry Theatre: a 750 capacity space, and another in the Courtyard Theatre: a 350 space.
The Courtyard is a flexible space with two gallery areas and a stalls, whilst the larger Quarry, laid out like an amphitheatre, means there’s not a bad seat in the house. It’s close, 180 degree proximity to the stage gives the audience multiple angles and a more immersed experience, as well as two accessibility entrances.
Now that you’ve planned a trip out to the Playhouse and locked down your tickets, it’s time to figure out how to get there.
Leeds Playhouse is on Quarry Hill, opposite the bus station in the centre of Leeds, easily accessible by car or public transport.
Trains: Leeds City Station is approximately a 20 minute walk away or 5 minute taxi ride.
Bus: The Playhouse is located opposite the bus and National Express coach stations.
By Car & Parking: Quarry Hill car park is right next the Playhouse. Blue Badge Holders can park in the car park for free. Disabled parking is also available on Playhouse Square, directly outside the main entrance. These car parks are operated by Leeds City Council and parking is only £3 after 6pm.
The Playhouse also offers discounted parking at the nearby Leeds The Markets – NCP on New York Street. To obtain your discount you need to ask for a voucher at the Box Office. The postcode for your Satnav is LS2 7EA. Please note that this car park closes at 11.00pm.
There is also extensive parking at the new John Lewis in Victoria Gate (only 5 minutes walk from the Playhouse). Parking after 5pm is only £3 and it is open until 6:00am.
Full Address: Leeds Playhouse, Playhouse Square, Quarry Hill, Leeds, LS2 7UP
If you’re travelling from out of the city, Leeds has plenty on offer for those looking for a roof for the night. The closest hotel to the Playhouse is the Ibis Budget just five minutes away, followed by the Holiday Inn Express, Jurys Inn, Travelodge and Leeds Marriott within a 10-15 minute radius.
Alternatively, many now opt for a potentially cheaper experience at a variety of homes on Airbnb, where they can get a lot more flexibility and personalisation from their overnight stay.
Leeds Playhouse claim to be passionate about bringing artists and participants together to affirm their humanity. This stance has also lead to a huge redevelopment to greatly improve accessibility for audiences and artists alike. They are also part of the Ramps on the Moon consortium, which helps to drive change in the industry by putting more D/deaf and disabled artists on stage.
Its accessible features include: