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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.

The House on Cold Hill

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 May 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

Aida

Credit: Guy Farrow.

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

A House on Cold Hill

The spine-chilling stage production A House on Cold Hill is based on the book by best-selling author Peter James. With Holby City’s Joe McFadden and Eastenders’ Rita Simons as the leads, you’ll be plunged into the horrors experienced by the Harcourt family, who have just moved into their dream home, only to find that they are not the only residents at Cold Hill. If you love a classic thriller, this is a must-see at Leeds Grand Theatre.

A House on Cold Hill comes to Leeds Grand Theatre from Monday 29th April to Saturday 4th May 2019.

Aida

This is your chance to see Opera North’s new concert staging of Verdi’s timeless opera Aida at Leeds Town Hall. The heartbreaking tale sees two lovers caught up in a treacherous conflict – Aida is a prisoner of war who falls for Ramadès, the general of the enemy’s armies. Will she choose her country or follow her heart? Expect Verdi’s magnificent score performed by a full orchestra on stage, complete with dramatic video installations.

Aida comes to Leeds Town Hall on Wednesday 1st, Wednesday 8th, Tuesday 28th and Thursday 30th May 2019.

Blood Brothers

The multi-award winning musical Blood Brothers will take to the stage at Leeds Grand Theatre this month. Set in 1960s Liverpool, Willy Russell’s masterpiece follows twin brothers Mickey and Edward, who were separated at birth, before they later reunite after a strikingly different upbringing. It’s a moving tale complete with a spectacular score with songs like ‘Marilyn Monroe’ and the touching ‘Tell Me It’s Not True’.

Blood Brothers comes to Leeds Grand Theatre from Tuesday 7th May to Saturday 18th May 2019.

Freeman

The critically acclaimed Freeman has already sold out shows at Edinburgh Fringe Festival and you can catch it here in Leeds this month. Writer Camilla Whitehall and Strictly Arts Theatre bring together six different stories underpinned by the relationship between racism and mental health, to question whether anything has actually changed. Expect the tales to be brought to life using physical theatre, gospel singing and shadow puppetry.

Freeman comes to Carriageworks Theatre from Tuesday 14th May to Wednesday 15th May 2019.

Showstopper

This month, you can catch an all-singing, all-dancing musical created completely from scratch on the night. Fresh from the West End, Showstopper has delighted audiences from all over the world with a never-ending supply of fresh material and witty audience interaction. You suggest it and they’ll bring it to life in one of the most spontaneous and daring pieces of theatre you’ll see in Leeds this month – no two shows are the same.

Showstopper comes to City Varieties on Thursday 16th March 2019.

Innovative theatre productions

Just Don't Do It

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

Transform Festival 2019

Transform is back for another city-wide theatre takeover from Friday 26th April to Saturday 4th May 2019. This is a festival that reimagines what theatre can be, so expect the unexpected. They’ve lined up 13 events across 9 days, including Tamago, a dynamic solo performance that explores madness and loneliness. Or you can check out What We’re Made Of, which brings musicians, poets and comedians under one roof for three separate performances.

Transform Festival comes to Leeds across various venues from Friday 26th April to Saturday 4th May 2019.

Guys and Dolls

Legendary musical comedy Guys and Dolls hit the big time on Broadway in the 1950s, and this month you can catch a brand new version at Carriageworks Theatre. Set in New York City, you’ll be taken all over the shop, as gambler Nathan Detroit attempts to set up the biggest craps game in town with the authorities hot on his tail. As the chaos unfolds, you’ll encounter unimpressed girlfriends and shifty deals with hits like ‘Take Back Your Mink’.

Guys and Dolls comes to Carriageworks Theatre on Wednesday 1st May to Saturday 4th May 2019.

The Man Without a Past

Based on the award-winning film by Aki Kaurismäki, The Man Without a Past is a story about a curious man who arrives into a brand new community. He has no memory of his previous life, but with kindness and care, he soon remembers everything, which leads to a spanner in the works. Romance, comedy and sadness will go hand-in-hand, complete with a soundtrack that ranges from songs of praise to sultry jazz.

The Man Without a Past comes to Carriageworks Theatre on Monday 6th May 2019.

Be My Baby

The heart-warming Be My Baby tells the story of 19 year old Mary, who is seven months pregnant during the less forgiving 1960s. She’s sent to live in a church-run maternity home for unmarried women, where she meets Dolores, Queen and Norma. The four of them laugh, cry and ultimately learn to fight for what they believe in. It’s one of the most endearing plays in Leeds this month and is backed by a cracking soundtrack of 60s pop.

Be My Baby comes to Leeds Playhouse from Saturday 11th May to Saturday 1st June 2019.

Just Don’t Do It

Just Don’t Do It delves into the taboos of American purity culture in the form of a hilarious theatre production. The play takes place at Soul Harvest Christian summer camp, where youth leaders Trish and Tash preach constantly against pre-marital sex. But with a few spiritual encounters and some angry goddesses, will they change their mind? Expect hymns and even vagina puppets in one of most bizarre yet hilarious shows in Leeds this May.

Just Don’t Do It comes to Carriageworks Theatre on Thursday 23rd May to Friday 24th May 2019.

Unmissable music and dance

Epilogues

Credit: James Cousins Company

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

Epilogues

James Cousins Company will return to Leeds for the first time since 2015 with three visually striking dance duets. Epilogues is a show that explores stories of division and separation, brought to life with intense and emotive movement. You’ll see the acclaimed ‘Within Her Eyes’ duet, in which the female dancer never touches the floor, alongside two unseen pieces and each will showcase something completely unique.

Epilogues comes to Stanley and Audrey Burton Theatre on Thursday 2nd May 2019.

EDGE – Mixed Bill

This Mixed Bill from EDGE Dance Company is your chance to see 13 spectacular dancers from the London Contemporary Dance School right before they embark on their professional careers. The show is made up of three cutting-edge performances with routines by award-winning choreographers Hagit Yakiri, Jorge Crecis and Fabio Liberti. Each one will be hugely different from the one before, but they all touch on life, death and the challenges in between.

Mixed Bill comes to Riley Theatre on Wednesday 8th May 2019.

The Mountain and Other Tales of She Transformed

The talented dancer and choreographer Hannah Buckley will take to the stage this month, with an expressive solo performance that focuses on female experiences across space. The Mountain and Other Tales of She Transformed will place the female form in different scenarios and explore how this could manifest. Her work is known for its subtle political notes, so you can expect the performance to question existing social structures.

The Mountain and Other Tales of She Transformed comes to Leeds Arts University on Wednesday 8th May 2019.

Page 127

The eccentric dance performance Page 127 is designed to make you question time and space as you know it. Freelance dance artist Maria Popova will head to Leeds perform using hoards of crisp white paper and her own body. But with these limited props, she’ll explore the boundaries between reality and imagination as she transforms the space around her in a truly unique show.

Page 127 comes to The Leeds Library on Sunday 12th May 2019.

Family-friendly theatre

Around the World in 80 Days

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

Around the World in 80 Days – Community Tour

In this all-time classic, Phileas Fogg and his trusty servant Passepartout take on an almighty challenge to travel the world in just 80 days and all to impress his fellows at the Reform Club. Along the way, he’ll fall in love, overcome dangers and outwit his dastardly foes as he sets off on the trip of a lifetime during a fast-paced production filled with chaos. Will they make it back in time? This month you can catch the play in a range of smaller venues all all over the city, after a successful run at Leeds Playhouse in April.

Around the World in 80 Days will come to various around Leeds from Wednesday 1st to Saturday 11th May 2019.

Yellow is the Colour of Sunshine

From the award-winning writer Brendan Murray, Yellow is the Colour of Sunshine is a colourful performance about the highs and lows of Yoshi and Hani’s friendship. They’re polar opposites, but that doesn’t stop them from dancing together under the yellow sunshine. But one day, the sky turns grey and everything changes. Will the sun come out again? Expect words, sign language and dance to take you through this charming show.

Yellow is the Colour of Sunshine comes to Carriageworks Theatre on Saturday 18th May 2019.

Cover image credit: Helen Maybanks