Raise the curtain on your Leeds cultural city break in style, by booking tickets for a show at the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Forget stuffy, elitist theatres - the WYP is designed to be a place for everyone, whether you like cutting-edge dramas or prefer the pure escapism of a big, family spectacular. Enjoy a pre-show meal at the WYP restaurant or just go for a cuppa and a slice of cake at the coffee shop. There’s also an award winning bar if you fancied something grapey in the interval - if you can tear yourself away from the comfortable theatre seats.
The largest regional repertory theatre in the UK outside London and Stratford, the West Yorkshire Playhouse started life in 1990. It was built to replace the well-respected (if high-brow) Leeds Playhouse that was housed at Leeds University. With its new location in the rundown Quarry Hill area and a more modern and welcoming design, came a new vision for the WYP - to be a theatre that engages the whole community, not just the cultural elite. Its modified production of White Christmas was the first dementia-friendly performance in the UK and it frequently holds activities for those with learning difficulties, asylum seekers and the elderly.
But alongside its dedication to providing a welcoming space for all, the theatre is well-respected for its exciting theatre, including the 2002 production of Hamlet, starring Christopher Ecclestone.
Don’t bother taking your camera. The West Yorkshire Playhouse operates a strictly no-photographs policy for all of its shows - even if you’re just taking a photo of each other or the kids.
Hosting regular workshops during the day along with its evening performances, the West Yorkshire Playhouse buzzes with life both day and night. Here’s all the information you need to find your way round.
The West Yorkshire Playhouse has two auditoriums. The main Quarry Theatre is a semi-circular amphitheatre that seats 750 people. The Courtyard Theatre seats approximately 350 people and you’ll find it downstairs on the left. There is also the smaller Barber Studio and the Third Space, a performance area opposite the main bar.
Besides the bar, coffee shop and restaurant, the WYP also offers people the chance to go backstage for a theatre tour. These take place once a month on Saturday mornings at 10.30am and last for an hour and a half. A friendly guide will take you for a behind -the-scenes look at what goes into putting on the show - and an insight into WYP’s history.
As it’s a modern theatre, the WYP has comfy seats with plenty of legroom in both of its theatre spaces. All seats have a great view, but if you’re going to see a show in the smaller Courtyard Theatre, booking a seat in row C is a great idea. It’s an intimate theatre anyway, but a seat here means you’ll be at eye-level with the actors.
With ramps, lifts, level access and disabled toilets coming out of its ears, the theatre is well-equipped for those in wheelchairs or mobility issues. It also holds special performances with sign language and closed captions for people who are hard of hearing, and audio-described performances for those who are visually impaired.
With a comfortable bar, cafe and coffee shop, the West Yorkshire Playhouse has plenty of options if you fancied a coffee - or something stronger. But where’s the best place for your pre-theatre meal? Have a look at the options to find out.
The theatre has its own restaurant where you can enjoy a pre-show dinner from 5pm. Last orders are 45 minutes before the start of the performance. With a good menu of locally sourced food, such as roast lamb and baked cod loin, the food is tasty, but not cheap, with most main courses costing around £14. Its served canteen-style, so if you fancied something a bit more special, it’s worth looking further afield.
If you’ve got a bit of time, you’re in luck as the WYP is a two-minute walk from St Peter’s Square, home to many of Leeds’ finest eateries. There’s Kendells Bistro, the city’s best French restaurant, with a menu that changes daily depending on the produce available. There’s also Estabulo, a Brazilian restaurant serving the most delectable freshly skewered meat. Look out for the chef’s special cuts.
Getting to the West Yorkshire Playhouse is easy as it’s just outside the city centre, and handily located directly opposite Leeds bus station. Alternatively, Leeds train station is only a 15-minute walk away. Here’s all the details you need to make your journey go smoothly.
The West Yorkshire Playhouse is close to motorway links and easy to find if you arrive in the city via the Leeds loop road. Its well-signposted from the city centre. Use the postcode LS2 7UP for your sat nav.
Most buses stop at the bus station. Once you get off, there are two busy roads to cross with pelican crossings. Over the other side, you’ll find steps or a ramp leading you right to the main entrance.
If you’re coming from further afield, Leeds railway station is about a 15-minute walk away or a five minute taxi ride. Or just jump on a bus going to the bus station - the theatre is just opposite.
From the city centre to its leafy suburbs and beautiful surrounding countryside, you'll find lots of great hotels in Leeds. If you need to be central, try the First Direct Arena Hotel and Trinity Leeds Hotel, or Leeds City West for Elland Road. For those jetting in, check out Leeds/Bradford Airport hotel.
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