Beryl by Maxine Peake

Beryl by Maxine Peake. Photo: Keith Pattison

Founded in

1964

Leeds Playhouse was founded in 1964. It moved to the Quarry Hill site and became West Yorkshire Playhouse in 1990.

Artistic Director

James Brining

Since 2012

West Yorkshire Playhouse logo

Profile

West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds is one of the UK’s leading producing theatres. We are a cultural hub, a place where people gather to tell and share stories and to engage in world class theatre. We make work which is pioneering and relevant, seeking out the best companies and artists to create inspirational theatre in the heart of Yorkshire. From large scale spectacle, to intimate performance we develop and make work for our stages, for found spaces, for touring, for schools and community centres. We create work to entertain and inspire.

As dedicated collaborators, we work regularly with other theatres from across the UK, independent producers, and some of the most distinctive, original voices in theatre today. We develop work with established practitioners and find, nurture and support new voices that ought to be heard. We cultivate new talent by providing creative space for new writers, emerging directors, companies and individual theatre makers to refine their practice.

Alongside our work for the stage we are dedicated to providing creative engagement opportunities that excite and stimulate. We build, run and sustain projects which reach out to everyone from refugee communities, to young people and students, to older communities and people with learning difficulties. At the Playhouse there is always a way to get involved.

West Yorkshire Playhouse – Vital theatre.

+ www.wyp.org.uk

Company type: building based

Company Type

Building based

2 auditoriums:
Quarry: 750 seats
Courtyard: 350 seats
We also present work in our studio and other areas on-site.

Public funding graph

Public Funding

£1,533,901

Arts Council England subsidy for the 2013/14 financial year.

Location: Leeds, West Yorkshire

Location

Leeds,
West Yorkshire

Our Question

What do we mean when talk about female-centred stories and what are the ways in which we can get more of them on our stages?

We wanted to ask this because it provokes a whole series of further questions which we wanted to interrogate properly. Like what do we mean by a female-centred story? Or, at least, what kinds of female-centred stories are full of cliches and how, when engaging writers to work with these kinds of stories, can we ourselves avoid allowing cliched representations of women’s experiences to creep back in, even when we’re trying not to. Looking at story form and genre became a key part of spotting those traps.

It also enabled us to refine a possible model of producing new plays for WYP. We don’t have a small studio which would enable consistent high-risk programming of new work. The Courtyard is 350 seats so the risk on a new play is greater. So our question enabled us to think about developing this work more collaboratively and explore ways of giving a riskier new play a chance to perform well at box office.

What We Did

“As a man, there is a slight apprehensiveness about talking about these issues, a feeling perhaps that you are part of the problem, but for me this was also Advance’s greatest value. It’s really important that men are in these conversations as much as possible, otherwise it can feel equally excluding and difficult to contribute, to tune in and contribute to progress.”
Mark Rosenblatt,
Associate Director

Investigation

Tonic really helped us answer some of these subsidiary questions and also pushed us to commit the ideas to an action plan which produced some helpful timelines and real frameworks for moving forward.

We also found that, simply by exploring our question in the context of other organisations’ questions, that opportunities to partner and co-produce with our colleagues started to emerge.

What Did We Learn?

That female-centred stories mean female characters driving narrative, and that narrative, and who’s driving it, is a powerful, political choice. That the kinds of stories you tell can change the gender balance of the teams telling them, let alone the audiences watching them. That, in effect, story can significantly influence the gender-balance of the workforce in our sector. And that, if we are focused in how we commission and develop, these kinds of stories can also make sense at box-office.

In practice, Advance has helped focus our recruitment processes for creative teams as it is imperative that we improve the gender imbalances in our own figures. We now work harder to identify and recruit outstanding female directors, designers and writers. We also have an action plan in place for the delivery of new work by female writers and/or about female protagonists and intend to implement this over the next three years.

What We’re Doing in Response to What We Learned

We want to get commissioning and continue to keep these ideas at the centre of our focus. To hand over this learning to new team members as part of our induction processes and programming criteria.

Is This Work a Step Towards a Bigger Goal?

Yes, to create confidence across our theatre in the value and importance of this work.

Watch the interview with Mark Rosenblatt, Associate Director at West Yorkshire Playhouse.

I was not the only WYP team member to attend Advance away days, but I enjoyed working with the other group members at the Royal Exchange and the NT Studio, and it was illuminating to hear where others stood on a single focused issue. I really enjoyed the sessions as an opportunity for consciousness-raising and for scrutinising one’s current raft of work, practice and processes through a very specific lens. As a man, there is a slight apprehensiveness about talking about these issues, a feeling perhaps that you are part of the problem, but for me this was also Advance’s greatest value. It’s really important that men are in these conversations as much as possible, otherwise it can feel equally excluding and difficult to contribute, to tune in and contribute to progress. I also found it enormously creatively stimulating and it reminded me again and again how much talent remains untapped and invisible and how many untold stories there are out there waiting to be explored and given theatrical form. The Swedish checklist session proved a very concrete tool for us to use in our own work and it was useful to be inspired by standard practice in another country. Guest speaker Moira Buffini’s insights will stay with me, especially given how closely they touched upon our question.

Mark Rosenblatt, Associate Director

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