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Looking ahead to the new season at Ilkley Playhouse

Caroline Mutton takes a look at the productions and shows in the 2023 Spring/Summer season at Ilkley Playhouse.

Powerful, moving and affecting play ‘Three Mothers’ marked the first play of our new season and was performed in the Wildman Studio to full audiences who left feeling deeply moved. This is a modern play, described as ‘a play of our time’. At Ilkley Playhouse you can always expect to see a varied programme of plays: modern plays like this one, classics, farce, comedy, musicals, all carefully selected by Ilkley Playhouse’s Casting Committee to suit all ages and interests. Our 2023 Spring/Summer Season is no exception. We offer you six Wharfeside and Wildman productions, along with three fringe productions, all performed by Ilkley Players. Ilkley Playhouse is also a venue for touring theatre companies, musicians, comedians, writers and singers so in addition to our main plays, we have an exciting and varied line up of events to keep you entertained this season.

Our first Wharfeside production of the 2023 Spring/Summer season is The Revlon Girl, opening on 9th March. Eight months after one of Britain's most appalling disasters - the catastrophe at Aberfan that left 144 people dead, 116 of them children - a group of bereaved mothers meet regularly to grieve and support each other. At one of their meetings, they secretly invite a representative from Revlon to provide them with some beauty advice. The women are conflicted over their desire to turn their attention to their own wellbeing after so many months of soul searching. It is this conflict that forms the focus of this new play charting the emotional struggles, tears and laughter, of the community that a tragedy left behind. The play runs until Saturday 18th March.

On 20th April Jessica Swale's exhilarating play Nell Gwynn opens in the Wharfeside Theatre. King Charles ll has ascended to the English throne and restores theatre and performance following the Puritanical reign of Oliver Cromwell. He lives a hedonistic lifestyle, with a love of all things flamboyant, extravagant and sexy. At the playhouse in Drury Lane, orange-hawker Nell Gwynn is making waves of her own. When she takes to the stage as one of the first female actors, she causes bawdy havoc in a male dominated world and soon comes to the attention of the King. Rising from her roots in the slums, she becomes the nation's most celebrated actress and infamously, the favourite mistress of the King. However her rise to fame comes with its dangers. With her family and friends at risk, Nell must decide where her future lies....on the stage or at the Palace. The play runs until Saturday 29th April.

You can expect a truly original play, opening on 8th May in the Wildman Studio. A History of Falling Things is funny, touching, thought-provoking and hugely entertaining, a 21st Century love story. Robin writes children's books. He hasn't left the house since he was seven. Jacqui has 'an important job in the city' but these days she's power dressing at home. Then they find each other online and fall in love. It must have been written in the stars - their houses are just five minutes apart. Only there's a problem, neither is able to walk through their front door. But if they can't find the courage to confront their fear and embrace what's real, how are they ever going to stay together? The play runs until Saturday 13th May.

Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit is a play that needs no introduction. Opening on 8th June, the sumptuous, witty dialogue of Noel Coward is delivered in a crazy and chaotic set of ghostly circumstances. You will laugh until you cry. Novelist Charles Condomine and his second wife Ruth are literally haunted by a past relationship when an eccentric medium - Madame Arcati - inadvertently conjures up the ghost of his first wife, Elvira, at a séance. When she appears, visible only to Charles, and determined to sabotage his current marriage, life - and the afterlife - get complicated. The play runs in the Wharfeside Theatre until Saturday 17th June. This play will also travel to The Minack Theatre in Cornwall from 23rd to 27th July. Take a holiday and see both versions!

Our final production of the season is Abi Morgan's Lovesong, running from 6th to the 15th July. Lovesong is the story of one couple, told from two different points in their lives: as young lovers in their twenties and as worldly companions looking back on their relationship from old age. Time is fluid as their past and present selves collide in this emotional drama. Love is a leap of faith and the optimism of youth becomes the wisdom of experience. Abi Morgan is an award winning writer whose plays have been performed across the country.

Our first fringe production of the season involves our talented Greenroom actors. Performed as part of the National Theatre Connections Festival by a cast of twenty-two young people, (Circle Dreams Around) The Terrible Terrible Past is about expectations of life and the circularity of human existence. Poetic, funny, surreal and disturbing in equal measure, it is a play about being young in the fields and towns that feel far away from where things might be happening. Every year since 1995 around three hundred companies of teenagers nationwide have participated in the National Theatre Connections project. This year, for the third time, Ilkley Playhouse will be taking part and this is our designated play. A piece of brand new, specially commissioned writing, it is truly immersive theatre. Come and support our young people and explore the circularity of life as you have never seen it before. The play runs from 2nd to 4th March in the Wildman Studio.

Flying Visits runs from 23rd to 25th March in the Wildman Studio. Based on the award winning BBC Radio 4 drama series, Flying Visits has been adapted for the Ilkley Playhouse stage as a fringe production. It is a love letter to care workers, the unsung heroes of our time. The Council allocates fifteen minutes for a home care visit – “flying visits” they call them. Care worker Hayleigh thinks fifteen minutes is not nearly enough. This play is tender, heart-warming and occasionally heart-stopping. The play runs from 23rd to the 25th March.

After a hugely successful fringe festival in 2020, Ilkley Playhouse is again hosting their playwriting competition for short plays. Eight plays by eight different playwrights, all eight minutes long, will be presented from 13th to 15th April in the Wildman Studio. This year the theme is about something unusual occurring and is entitled ‘Once in a Blue Moon’.

We have a wonderful new event lined up on 8th March in the Wildman Studio. Argentine Tango dancers Celeste Cimino and Luciano Millaqueo make a debut appearance in An Evening in Buenos Aires. Supported by dancers from the British tango community, this intimate production celebrates the history and music of Argentina’s iconic dance. In a program of live dance, music, film and images, you will be transported from the birth of tango in the first decade of the twentieth century to the golden age of the 1930s and 1940s.

Our popular Stagefright Comedy Clubs continue to feature throughout the Spring/Summer season, filling the Wildman Studio with laughter on Saturday nights. You don’t have to wait too long for the first comedy club of the season. On Saturday 1st April the event will be frontlined by Scott Bennett, El Baldiniho, Eddy Midgley and Rich Austin. Stagefright Comedy Clubs have become a regular favourite here at Ilkley Playhouse and showcase the finest comedy acts on the UK and international comedy circuits. Over the years, the club has featured the likes of Joe Lycett, Chris Ramsey, Gary Delaney, Shazia Mirza and Justin Moorhouse. Keep a look out for more details of the forthcoming Stagefright Comedy Clubs on 27th May and 24th June.

Ilkley Playhouse is now well-known for the quality and variety of music events it hosts and this season is no exception. On Friday 31st March we celebrate the music of Roy Orbison, with the amazing Oliver Harris, whose vocal talent has been compared to legends such as Roy, Elvis and Elton. With a live band of talented musicians, The Roy Orbison Experience will take some of you down memory lane with hits including Pretty Woman, In Dreams, Blue Bayou, Only the Lonely and I Drove All Night. This is not a look-a-like tribute act, but rather a special live performance faithfully replicating the unique unrivalled sound of Roy Orbison.

On Friday 19th May Chris Bannister returns to Ilkley Playhouse with his show 'The Music of John Denver' for what promises to be a very special evening. He will perform favourites including Sunshine On My Shoulders, Take Me Home Country Roads, Leaving On A Jet Plane and of course Annie's Song. This is sure to be a sell-out show so book your tickets early to avoid disappointment.

On Saturday 20th May former West End singer Sandy Smith brings you A Night of the Stars. This show will take you on a journey through the decades from some of the legendary artistes of all time. From Shirley Bassey and Tom Jones, Cilla Black and Dusty Springfield, Barbara Streisland and Elaine Paige, right up to Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and many more. Each track is handpicked to wow and entertain you. This sell-out tour has something for everyone so book your tickets early.

On Friday 26th May Brotherhood of Troubadours return to Ilkley Playhouse. Three acclaimed singer/songwriters share the stage. Each has an established pedigree of performing solo, and with bands. When they share the stage to sing their own songs, a kind of magic happens which doesn't occur in a solo performance. Spontaneous backing vocals and accompaniment break forth, as well as a fair amount of banter and anecdotes, and possibly a rousing, foot-stomping ensemble number at the end. It's certainly a great way to experience their music.

The final musical event of the season, Laurel Canyon Union, performs on Friday 23rd June. Formed in 2015 by US Grammy Nominated ex Acoustic Alchemy drummer John Shepard, this union of fully professional and experienced musicians, play well-known songs from artists such as Jackson Browne, Neil Young, The Eagles, The Byrds, James Taylor and Buffalo Springfield. The band is supported by Waiting for Wednesday – a duo that harmonise distinctively in their stirring songs about living, loving and losing. They write stories in the folk tradition and play them with a rock passion and country twang.

Looking ahead to our Autumn/Winter 2023 - 2024 Season, we have a feast of plays in store including Home I’m Darling, Girls Like That, The Incident Room, The Vicar of Dibley, The Haunting and Things I Know To Be True. Our 2023-2024 Season Ticket will be on sale from May 2023. Buy tickets for all seven Ilkley Players’ Wharfeside productions at the same time and get one free. Save up to £13!

For the latest plays and events please check our website, Facebook page and Instagram account.. You can also find out more on our website about hiring our venue, costume and prop hire, our Greenroom drama classes and how you can get involved. To book tickets for all our plays and events visit or contact Ilkley Playhouse box office on 01943 609539.


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