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The Ultimate Leeds Theatre Guide

· Emma Cooke · Culture

From intriguing plays to show-stopping opera, find out what’s on in Leeds’ theatres this month.

Kes, Leeds Playhouse

Want to know what the Leeds theatre scene has to offer in this new year? From family-friendly fun to unique productions, there’s something for everyone.

Deciding which Leeds theatre to go to in February won’t be easy, because this month is packed to bursting with opera, musicals and dance performances. So before you buy your tickets, let us tell you what’s on at Leeds’ most legendary and little-known theatres. Don’t forget to come back next month for even more ideas, because we’ll be updating this guide every month.

The ones everyone’s talking about

Opera North's Gianni Schicchi

Credit: Bill Cooper

Cool, unique and absolutely unmissable – there’s a reason why these productions have people talking.

The Rite of Spring & Gianni Schicchi

For the first time ever, Opera North and Phoenix Dance Theatre have joined forces to present an evening of unmissable entertainment. The Rite of Spring has been completely reimagined by critically acclaimed Haiti-born choreographer Jeanguy Saintus to create a new contemporary dance piece. That’s followed by the wickedly funny Gianni Schicchi, Puccini’s hilarious opera about a money-grabbing family who hatch a plot to get Buoso Donati’s fortune.

The Rite of Spring & Gianni Schicchi come to Leeds Grand Theatre and Opera House from Saturday 16th February to Saturday 2nd March 2019.


Random is the new one-woman play from Olivier Award-winning writer Debbie Tucker Green. It follows a perfectly normal family on the brink of disaster and offers an insightful look at the aftermath of tragedy. Mum, dad, sister and brother are all played by Kiza Deen, and you’ll see them go through their usual morning rituals before a random act of violence wrenches them apart. It’s an eye-opening reality-check that will stay with you long after the curtain has come down.

Random comes to Leeds Playhouse from Monday 4th to Saturday 16th February 2019.


Old book collector Samuel Ireland can’t believe his luck when his son William brings home an unknown play written by Shakespeare – but there’s a catch, it’s from an anonymous source. When the play is performed at Drury Lane, it all comes tumbling down – doubt from scholars lead to accusations of fraud and chaos ensues as the family become tragically and comically caught up in their own drama.

Fakespeare is at Treasures of the Brotherton Gallery at University of Leeds on Wednesday 20th February 2019.

VERVE – Premiere

You can watch in awe as 14 extraordinary dancers from across the globe perform their annual Premiere at The Riley Theatre. Expect striking, contemporary dances from award-winning choreographers Joan Clevillé, Maxine Doyle and Ben Wright, as well as a new take on Shutdown by Moa Zuk and Ohad Fishof. VERVE is the postgraduate school of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, so this performance will showcase the best of the best.

VERVE comes to The Riley Theatre on Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd February 2019.

In Other Words

Tied together by the music of Frank Sinatra, the story of Arthur and Jane is an emotional rollercoaster. From their very first meeting, which Arthur assures you was all part of his dashing plan to whisk her off her feet, to the modern day and the effect that Alzheimer’s has had on their relationship, this is one of those rare love stories without a happy ending, but it’s certainly not without hope.

In Other Words comes to The Carriageworks on Wednesday 27th February 2019.

Innovative theatre productions

Dinner 18:55

Credit: Nick Singleton

Fancy something a little bit different this month? You’ll find plenty of options in Leeds’ theatres.


A heart-warming story best known from the 1969 Ken Loach film, Leeds Playhouse will start off 2019 with a knockout production of Kes, the tale of one boy and his bird. When troubled youth Billy Casper finds an injured kestrel, he’s determined to nurse it back to health – but can their friendship survive the hard realities of the world?

Kes is at Leeds Playhouse until Saturday 16th February 2019.

The King of Scotland Born in Leeds

This is the story of how local lad Henry Stuart (born at Temple Newsam) ended up as King Consort of Scotland, brought to you with words and music by The Leeds Waits. From a whirlwind romance with Mary Queen of Scots to his eventual assassination just after claiming his new title, this is your chance to discover the ups and downs of Henry’s life through a unique piece of theatre.

The King of Scotland Born in Leeds is at Leeds City Museum on Friday 8th February 2019.

Bird la Bird’s Travelling Queer People’s History Show

Leeds City Museum hosts a special guest this February – Bird la Bird. Brought to you by West Yorkshire Queer Stories as part of LGBTIQ+ History Month, this eclectic show is full of true stories that will give you an insight into the past, but also make you laugh. Bird draws on the experiences of queer prisoners through history, in a way that will reconstruct society’s perception of LGBTIQ+ history.

Bird la Bird’s Travelling Queer People’s History Show comes to Leeds City Museum on Saturday 9th February 2019.

Cheshire Cats

In their brashly decorated bras, Hilary, Vicky, Siobhan, Yvonne and Maggie will set off on a 13-mile speed-walking journey to raise money. You can watch the hilarious interactions between them unfold in this wonderfully light-hearted play. It’s underpinned by laughter and tears as they soldier on through The London Moonwalk and you’ll be with them every step of the way.

Cheshire Cats is at The Carriageworks from Wednesday 13th to Saturday 16th February 2019.

Dinner 18:55

Two generations, one just beginning, the other with a whole lifetime of experience under their belt, will come together for Dinner 18:55. This innovative new production will showcase the real stories and experiences of 18 community actors from Leeds Playhouse’s older and younger people’s programmes. Set in the most natural place, over the dinner table, this is a chance to see the world from two very different points of view.

Dinner 18:55 is at Leeds Playhouse on Friday 22nd and Saturday 23rd February 2019.

Unmissable music and dance

The Magic Flute, Opera North, Leeds Grand Theatre

Credit: Alastair Muir

Dance and opera fans have a quartet of incredible shows to look forward to in Leeds this month.

NÄSS (People) | Massala Dance Company

You can watch seven male dancers explore the roots of hip-hop, street and breakdance in the streets of Morocco in this dynamic show in Leeds. It’s a display of masculinity and a fusion of dance technique, old and new. The distinctive urban style of Massala Dance Company runs through this mesmerising production, and if you want to try it yourself, they’re putting on a workshop earlier in the day where you can hone your own dance skills.

Näss (People) is at The Riley Theatre on Saturday 2nd February 2019.

The Reveal

Voguing is a distinctive style of dance that emerged in the 1980s, but took inspiration from the Harlem drag balls of the 1960s – and it lives on today in vogue houses across the country, including our very own, which will step out onto the vogue circuit for the first time at The Reveal. This unique showcase hosted by Darren Pritchard, Mother of the House of Ghetto promises a high-energy show filled to the brim with sass.

The Reveal is at Yorkshire Dance on Friday 8th February 2019.


Testament’s life has changed forever. The MC, world-record breaking beatboxer and theatre-maker has turned his experience of becoming a dad into an acclaimed one-man show. Before the birth of his daughter, he thought he was a cool, open-minded guy, but now he’s not sure. After she’s safely in bed, he finds himself talking about it on the internet until the early hours, and now, using spoken word, music and a fair bit of self-deprecation, he’s ready to unpick his prejudices and discover who he really is.

Woke is at Chapel FM Arts Centre on Sunday 17th February 2019.

The Magic Flute

Dark fantasy, adventure and comedy all rolled up into one, The Magic Flute has been enchanting audiences for centuries. Set in an alternate reality, Tamino sets off on a mission to rescue the princess from the evil Priest of the Sun at the bequest of her mother, but as the action unfolds on stage, you’ll find yourself questioning who is good and who is bad. The story is brought to life with Mozart’s incredible score, making the story all the more moving.

The Magic Flute is at Leeds Grand Theatre until Friday 1st March 2019.

Family-friendly theatre

Treat the family to a day out at the theatre in Leeds this month, with a duo of must-see shows to choose from.

Bird’s Nest Billy

If you’re looking for a child-friendly show in Leeds, why not join Billy and his magical bird on a wild adventure? When his big brother Bo goes to school, poor Billy doesn’t have a friend to play with. But then a mysterious bird pops out of his hair and grants him three wishes. Aimed at kids, it’s the perfect family show, with audience interaction and puppetry scattered throughout.

Birds Nest Billy comes to The Carriageworks, from Tuesday 19th to Wednesday 20th February 2019.

Jack and the Beanstalk

As narrator, CBeebies star Patrick Lynch will take you through this well-loved fairytale, but be prepared for lots of surprises. After Jack sells his cow for five magic beans, he enters a whirlwind adventure where he meets a giant in the clouds and has to run for his life. Expect enormous shoes, tiny houses and a big, leafy explosion!

Jack and the Beanstalk comes to The Carriageworks on Sunday 24th February 2019.

Feature image credit Anthony Robling