It’s now six months since live theatre was first locked down but Leeds Playhouse are back joining forces with Opera North for a series of socially distanced live events over three weekends.
Connecting Voices will take place across the various stages within the Playhouse bringing together artists and audiences safely to examine the power and expression of the solo voice as they re-engage people in communal creative activity.
Orpheus in the Record Store is a newly commissioned piece by Leeds based beatboxer Testament and director Aletta Collins fusing spoken word and beatboxing with players from the Orchestra of Opera North that gives the Greek myth of Orpheus a contemporary Yorkshire twist.
“There is much to say and share right now, and I passionately believe theatre has an almost spiritual role in making the direction we wish to go in as a society tangible,” notes Testament. “I can’t wait to be back in front of an actual audience – being together enjoying worlds that we make together in those moments of live connection.
“Right now, I’m in the lab creating, pushing buttons, and I’ve got something planned as a beatboxer that has never been seen this way before. I am also super excited about connecting with Opera North musicians – we are planning to take the crowd on an epic journey with music, spoken word and live theatre.”
Playing alongside this will be two ground-breaking pieces, which both premiered in 1958, that like in today’s lockdown world focus on characters isolated from others, and struggling to reconnect through technology.
The first is Samuel Beckett’s extraordinary monologue Krapp’s Last Tape with acclaimed actor Niall Buggy performing in the Bramall Rock Void, and directed by multiple award-winning Dominic Hill. In musical contrast is Francis Poulenc’s short opera La Voix Humaine performed by Opera North soprano Gillene Butterfield in the Barber Studio, directed by Leeds Playhouse RTYDS Director Sameena Hussain.
In the Courtyard Theatre, each of the three weekends will see a different and newly devised piece of work from Leeds-based spoken word artist Khadijah Ibrahiim, and two pieces by freelance director Matthew Eberhardt. He will work with singers, actors, young people and musicians including classically-trained singer Keertan Kaur Rehal, Amy J Payne and actor Robert Pickavance to create contemporary responses to the themes of remembrance, collaboration and the act of storytelling.
“Re-opening the Playhouse after six months of enforced closure and being separated from each other has made us value even more than before the act of live performance, and what that means,” says Leeds Playhouse Artistic Director James Brining
“Our beautifully refurbished building provides us with many opportunities to safely welcome audiences and artists back into the Playhouse. Connecting Voices is a carefully curated programme exploring isolation and connection, resilience and reflection as well as the relationship between performer and audience member in a shared space. We’re delighted to be working once again with Opera North, pooling our resources to help the city of Leeds to get back on its feet and bring joyous and powerful communal shared experiences back to the lives of its citizens.
“As we head into our 50th year at this challenging time it’s vital that we reconnect with audiences and communities. and collaborate with bold and diverse voices from across the region. We can’t wait to welcome back artists and participants into the building safely to create and experience live theatre once again.”
In line with current Government guidelines, audiences will be limited capacity and temperature checking will also be in place. Tickets are on sale to Playhouse Pass holders, Brooke club members and Opera North Patrons from Monday 14th September, with tickets on general sale from noon on Tuesday 15th September.
Connecting Voices, Leeds Playhouse 2nd – 17th October. Box office 0113 213 7700. Book online www.leedsplayhouse.org.uk