Leeds has a good theatre offering, from headline venues like the Grand Theatre & Opera House, which plays host to big shows and operas, right through to a healthy student theatre scene, supported by venues like Leeds University’s stage@leeds.
The Grand Theatre & Opera House is home to Opera North, the only national English opera company outside of London. A commissioning theatre that also sends productions to The Lowry in Salford and other major venues around the country, Opera North is a pioneering organisation staging a broad range of work, from new productions of La Traviata and The Marriage of Figaro to Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Carousel. Also housed in the Grand Theatre, the small Victorian performance space of Howard Assembly Room presents some of the finest classical and world musicians.
For contemporary theatre and daring set design, the West Yorkshire Playhouse is the place to go. Set just beyond Leeds city bus station on a modernist-style estate, it may look like a brick monolith but inside it houses one of the most fearless performance venues in the North. From scratch nights and fledgling plays to major international touring productions, the WYP smoothly combines mainstream and fringe theatre. Top tip: actors and crew can often be spotted chilling out over pre-theatre dinner or a post-theatre drink at The Wardrobe, just over the road.
And if it’s fringe theatre that you’re after, don’t miss West Yorkshire Playhouse’s annual Transform theatre festival, which has been running each April since 2011 and brings cutting-edge contemporary theatre and performance to Leeds.
Finally, don’t assume stage@leeds is only for student theatre: the professional-level theatre space is also used for performances by local and international talent, welcoming plays from touring theatre companies and groups preparing for a run at the Edinburgh Fringe.