Vibrant, cosmopolitan, and increasingly up-and-coming, the north of England is fast turning into something of a theatre Mecca. In the midst of a wider cultural revolution, the ‘powerhouses of the north’ – Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull, and Newcastle – are putting on some fantastic productions, and 2019 promises to showcase some of their most exciting offerings yet.
So, wondering which shows to add to your itinerary as the new year rolls around? Then, here are a few to choose from.
The Betting Shop (The Lowry, Manchester)
Written by Stevie Helps, this exciting new production will embody the rushes and the thrills, the highs and the lows, of life within the walls of a bookmakers. Bet and Fred’s is an enterprise that attracts people from all walks of life, but it’s far from your run of the mill London betting shop, as those who pop in and pay it a visit will see. Delving deep beneath the surface, the play explores the intricate lives of those whose very fortunes are tied up with fickle fate. Should it induce some deep-seated desire in you to have a flutter of your own, you may want to visit a site like Oddschecker, where you’ll find that the drama and excitement off-stage rival anything you’ll see on it.
Kes (Leeds Playhouse, Leeds)
Produced as part of the pop-up theatre event currently taking place at Leeds Playhouse, Kes has been adapted for the stage by the talented Robert Alan Evans. Playing between the 25th January and 16th February 2019, it follows Billy Casper, who at first glance appears to be just another kid from the estate. Living with his absentee mother and bullying brother Jud, Billy is a lonely young boy in need of a friend – and then he finds Kes. A scruffy and browbeaten kestrel, this brilliant bird of prey gives him a purpose in life, becoming all Billy needs or wants from the world around him until he makes a fatal decision that changes the course of things forever. Based on the much-loved 1960s story by Barry Hines, this is a tale of one thing above all: enduring love and abiding friendship.
Les Misérables (Palace Theatre, Manchester)
Almost a decade after its last sell-out UK tour, Les Misérables will also be returning to the north, with a run at the Palace Theatre, Manchester between the 19th February and 30th March 2019. Bringing to life a brilliant new staging which has already taken much of the world by storm, this ‘Les Mis for the 21st century’ breathes a fresh vitality into this greatest of musicals – one that theatre nuts everywhere will want to see. With the talented Killian Donnelly cast in the pivotal role of Jean Valjean, prepare to see favourites like I Dreamed a Dream, On My Own, Bring Him Home, and One Day More as you’ve never seen them done before. We’ll be storming the barricades to get our own tickets before they sell out!
Romeo and Juliet (Theatre Royal, Newcastle)
Another one to look forward to is The Royal Shakespeare Company’s up-and-coming production of Romeo and Juliet, which will play at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle between the 5th February and 9th February 2019. Starring Bally Gill and Karen Fishwick in the titular roles, this age-old tale of love, rivalry, and blood feuds in the 15thcentury will transport you from the everyday to another place and time entirely. It’s sumptuous, romantic, and promises to be beautifully acted. The promo pictures have us excited already.
Victorian Ghostly and Theatrical Tales (Playhouse, Liverpool)
If you fancy diverging from the norm and trying an entirely new sort of theatrical foray, we recommend attending the Playhouse’s Victorian Ghostly and Theatrical Tales on Thursday 10th January 2019. Emulating the antique tradition of telling ghoulish stories at Christmas time, this unique event invites you to attend the Playhouse for an evening of cautionary tales about things that go bump in the night. With characters from the theatre’s past promising to pop up throughout the evening to join the storytellers, it costs just £4, and is sure to give you some fun thrills along the way.
Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap (Lyceum Theatre, Sheffield)
If you’re a fan of thrilling crime stories and clever murder mysteries, then The Mousetrap will be right up your alley. The longest running show of its kind in the history of theatre, it sees a group of people gathered in a country house and stranded by the snow. But lo and behold, it’s never as simple as it first seems, and they soon discover they have a killer in their midst. With time running short, and a host of suspicious characters with sordid pasts to suspect, it keeps us in suspense until the very last moment, when the identity and motive of the murderer are finally revealed. If spine-tingling scenes and an intricate story are your sort of thing, you’re sure to be hooked.
Macbeth (Hull New Theatre, Hull)
Charting the bloody aftermath of a civil war, Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s greatest masterpieces. The piece de resistance of the legendary penman’s portfolio, it follows the story of a ruthless husband and wife duo as they struggle to not only gain the crown but keep it too. Combining magic and witchcraft, war and strife, this epic and visually daring production is one of the best to date, innovatively transforming the iconic title into a modern-day tale of anarchy and uncertainty. It really is a must watch for those who like to see the classic and the contemporary combined.
Grease (The Grand Theatre and Opera House, Leeds)
If you’re willing to wait until summer rolls around again, how about booking tickets to see an all new production of Grease? Starring Peter Andre as the brilliant Teen Angel, this take on the world’s best-loved musical arguably takes it to new and dizzying heights, making it grittier and more glamorous than ever before. Directed by Nikolai Foster, it tells the enchanting tale of a whirlwind holiday romance, a fateful move, and the many trials and tribulations that come with being a teenager. If you’re looking for energetic performances, fantastic vocals, and a story that will sweep you along for the ride, we can’t think of a better choice.
Fast catching up to its more southerly counterparts in terms of the quality and quantity of its theatrical offerings, the Northern Powerhouse is changing the face of theatre forever. With gritty new productions, clever takes on old classics, and talent to rival that found anywhere else in the country, it has some truly incredible things lined up for 2019. Also with Manchester’s hugely popular Hope Mill Theatre announcing productions including Rags the Musical, Mame and Club Mex next year, make sure you experience the best of its big new billings for yourself.
FOLLOW WEST END WILMA