New stages, styles, and scenery are now open to the public after Leeds Playhouses’ new £15.8m makeover.
By Katie Lyons
The theatre, formerly known as West Yorkshire Playhouse, is the largest producing theatre outside of London.
“There were four factors when considering the redevelopment: Studio space, improved accessibility, financial stability and finally the entrance.” Said theatre manager, Graham Inch.
After taking over a year to complete, accessibility was one of their most substantial changes, as before in the Quarry, their main theatre, there were only four wheelchair spaces. Since the redevelopment, Leeds Playhouse can accommodate ten wheelchair users.
Mr. Inch said: “Before in the old building it was difficult for wheelchair users and those with low mobility to get around the building on their own, they needed assistance from a member of staff.
“Particularly to take a seat in the Quarry we had to take them around this horrible long corridor to get them to their seats and they were always pushed to the side.
“So to improve the accessibility around the building we have got more accessible toilets, new routes into the Quarry as before we only had two entrances to the Quarry, whereas now we have four and a brand new wheelchair base.”
Another major factor that the money was vitally spent on was financial stability, Graham said: “We needed to sustain ourselves for the future and the same with any building, over time it does get to a stage where you think, is it safe for people to work in? Is it safe for people to come into?”
They rebranded and changed their name from West Yorkshire to Leeds Playhouse last June due to mixed responses. Graham said: “Whenever we said ‘West Yorkshire Playhouse’, people would say ‘well where’s that’ so, It was important to stamp that name on it”.
They have a brand-new extension front-facing of the city which was an important aspect as before the old building was not facing the city. The black tiles have been made to look like a figure at the bottom, representing actors looking out from the stage and as the colours rise, it is made to look like the audience.
The Playhouse expects that this new upgrade will bring more tourism to Leeds. Graham also said: “It’s all eyes on us at the minute in the theatre world, particularly in this country.”
Emma Wilson and her daughter Alex Wilson visited the Playhouse for its celebration opening weekend said: “We think it is beautiful, I just like how clean everything is and how everything carries your eye across everything instead of it being more chopped up.”
There are different types of theatre spaces, the largest being the Quarry which can seat a maximum of 750 people.
They also have the Bramall Rock Void which is for more intense and intimate productions. It is built into a rock void that currently sits underneath the theatre’s box office.
Finally, they have the Courtyard which has a capacity of 350 people and also has single seats on the top tier. In the old building, they had the seats facing into the audience, and now they have rotated them to face the stage to prevent leaning over.
The playhouse is nearly 30 years of age and the theatre manager said: “Theatres tend to go in the direction of visiting companies rather than producing their own work as it can be quite expensive and labour-intensive.”