Caroline Mutton looks to the new Ilkley Playhouse season which offers something for everyone.
Ilkley Playhouse has been producing high-quality drama in our beautiful town since 1928. We are a community theatre tucked away on the banks of the River Wharfe but we are very much at the heart of Ilkley’s thriving community arts scene.
Ilkley Playhouse offers audiences a wide range of excellent and affordable plays: modern dramas, comedies, classics, musicals, farce and productions that the whole family can enjoy. This Spring/Summer season, seven plays will be performed in the Wharfeside Theatre and Wildman Studio, all carefully selected to suit all ages and interests. 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 coming season.
The first play of the season is Things I Know to be True, opening on 13th February in the Wildman Studio. As beautifully touching as it is bold, the play tells the story of a family and marriage through the eyes of four grown siblings struggling to define themselves beyond their parents’ love and expectations. Parents Bob and Fran have worked hard all their lives and with their four children grown and ready to fly the nest, it might be time to relax and smell the roses. But some shattering truths emerge, leaving us to wonder whether it is possible to love too much. The play runs until Saturday 17th February.
On 7th March Jeeves and Wooster in ‘Perfect Nonsense’ opens in the Wharfeside Theatre. When a perfectly delightful trip to the countryside takes a turn for the worse, Bertie Wooster is unwittingly called on to play matchmaker. If Bertie, ably assisted by the ever-dependable Jeeves, can’t pull off the wedding of the season, he’ll be forced to abandon his cherished bachelor status and marry the girl himself! The play runs until Saturday 16th March.
You can expect a moving comedy about friendship, growing older and seizing the day in Amanda Whittington’s Ladies Unleashed, opening in the Wharfeside Theatre on 11th April. The play tells the story of Pearl, Jan and Linda, who are enjoying a long-awaited break on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, when a surprise visitor turns up. A lot has changed since the ladies last met and cut off from the mainland, tensions rise with the tide. As the sky darkens, the island grows restless with echoes of the past. Will the four still be friends when the dawn breaks? Ladies unleashed runs until Saturday 20th April.
Award-winning Class opens in the Wildman Studio on 13th May. Brian and Donna’s son, Jayden, is nine years old, and he’s struggling. That’s what his teacher says. But Brian and Donna never liked school, never liked teachers. So are they going to trust this one? A parent-teacher meeting goes very, very wrong. An explosive, triple confrontation that is funny, heart-breaking and beautifully observed. The play runs until Saturday 18th May.
Opening in the Wharfeside Theatre on 20th June is Glorious! The play pays homage to the surprisingly successful career of the late Florence Foster Jenkins. Based on a true story, playwright Peter Quilter journeys through the later part of her success in the 1940s leading up to her sell-out show at Carnegie Hall. What makes Jenkins’ story so unique is the enthusiasm and confidence she possessed despite her lack of talent; she is remembered by many as ‘the worst opera singer who ever lived’. Glorious! runs until Saturday 29th June.
The final play of the season, Honour, opens on 8th July in the Wharfeside Theatre. After 32 years of marriage, George suddenly announces to Honour that he is leaving her for a younger woman. What unfolds is a story of three women; wife, mistress, daughter and the quality of the relationships that ensue. Honour paints an unflinching portrait of what happens when a secure marriage suddenly stalls, and when the opportunity arises for one life to be revived at the expense of another. The play runs until Saturday 13th July.
The first of our two fringe productions of the Spring/Summer season is The IT by Vivienne Franzmann. A teenage girl has something growing inside her. She knows it’s not a baby. It expands. It has claws. Eventually it takes over the entirety of her body. No one must know about it. She pulls away from her friends, she refuses to speak, but she can’t contain it forever. Sooner or later something’s got to give….This is a darkly comic piece, exploring mental health and the rage within. The IT will be performed by our senior Greenroom students from 21st to 23rd March in the Wildman Studio.
Our second fringe production is the popular Bard in the Yard, featuring two contrasting Shakespeare plays, cleverly re-written to last just 30-40 minutes each and played in minimalist style. Performances will take place on Saturday 24th August in the Wildman Theatre at 7.30pm and on Sunday 25th and Monday 26th August (Bank Holiday) at 2pm in the Manor House Yard.
This season we have three new courses available for you to enjoy. Firstly, a 10-week poetry and short fiction course starts at Ilkley Playhouse on Thursday 11th January where you can study and enjoy poems and short stories by pioneering figures like TS Eliot, DH Lawrence, Virginia Woolf, Katherine Mansfield, WB Yeats, Siegfried Sassoon, Edmund Blunden, Amy Lowell, among others.
If you have ever thought about reading Proust but worried about feeling overwhelmed and intimidated, then this five-week course is just for you. Starting on Thursday 25th January, the course takes place in a friendly, supportive and encouraging environment where along with Dr Robert Hemmings, you will work through Swann’s Way - the first volume of In Search of Lost Time.
A 6-week History of Modern Art course starts on Wednesday 31st January. The course focuses on major artists who are less well known and offers a selective introduction to the history of modern art. Each week examines a major movement in twentieth-century art and addresses specific themes, contexts and artists.
Stagefright Comedy Clubs have become a regular favourite at Ilkley Playhouse and showcase the finest comedy acts on the UK and international comedy circuits. Over the years, the club has featured well-known comedians Joe Lycett, Chris Ramsey, Gary Delaney, Shazia Mirza and Justin Moorhouse. Stagefright Comedy Clubs continue to feature throughout the coming season and on Saturday 3rd February the event will be frontlined by Gavin Webster and supported by Tom Little, Melina Fiol and Kie Carson. Keep a look out for more details of the Stagefright Comedy Clubs on 27th April and 15th June.
Back by popular demand, The Rob Dylan Band perform in the Wildman Studio on Friday 23rd February. Formed by a group of musicians who share a passion for the music of Bob Dylan, their performance captures the spirit of the Rolling Thunder Revue with exciting and dynamic playing and powerful vocals.
The Jon Palmer Acoustic Band returns to Ilkley Playhouse on Saturday 24th February. This high energy, folk, roots and rock and roll band is best described as “exploding out of the same box as The Pogues, The Saw Doctors and The Waterboys.” They have a great reputation for finishing off the night in a joyful, energetic and chorus filled way.
On Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd March you can enjoy An Evening in Buenos Aires where rising stars of the Argentine tango, Celeste Cimino and Luciano Millaqueo, will recreate the ambience of a Buenos Aires nightclub. This intimate production will celebrate the history and music of Argentina’s iconic dance: the tango.
On Friday 26th April 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 you down memory lane with hits including Pretty Woman, In Dreams, Blue Bayou, Only the Lonely and I Drove All Night.
Cilla and the Swinging Sixties come to Ilkley Playhouse on Friday 3rd May. This is a highly entertaining show, stylishly celebrating the life and music of the legendary Cilla Black, as well as some of her well-known contemporaries including Dusty Springfield, Lulu, Petula Clark, The Beatles and more.
Yorkshire’s very own Celtic folk rock band, Gaelforce, will be returning to Ilkley Playhouse on Friday 31st May. Winners at the 2023 Great British Folk Festival, they are currently taking the folk scene by storm. You can expect traditional and original songs in a folk rock style with rocked up jigs and reels.
Laurel Canyon Union return to Ilkley Playhouse on Saturday 8th June. This union of fully professional, experienced musicians take their inspiration from the late 60s/early 70s American West Coast singer songwriter era, playing well know songs from artists such as Jackson Browne, Neil Young, Eagles, James Taylor and Buffalo Springfield.
Always popular with Ilkley Playhouse audiences, Chris Bannister returns on Friday 14th June to perform the music of John Denver. He will perform favourites including Sunshine On My Shoulders, Take Me Home Country Road, Leaving On A Jet Plane and of course Annie's Song. He has played to sell-out performances across Europe and is recognised as one of the best performers of Denver’s music in the world.
Prepare to be transported on a remarkable musical journey as Fleetwood Shack delivers an extraordinary performance on Friday 5th July. The show features an impressive repertoire of the biggest and most beloved Fleetwood Mac hits, Don’t Stop, Go Your Own Way, Little Lies, Everywhere and many more.
On Saturday 6th July Lee Newsome performs Elvis ‘Up Close and Personal’. Lee has been performing his tribute to the King for the past four years and is currently touring the UK, wowing audiences with his stunning powerhouse vocals. The show is an unforgettable, jaw-dropping experience from start to finish with customised projection visuals and special effects.
Paying tribute to some of the greatest names in rock history: Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Cream, Voodoo Room perform at Ilkley Playhouse for the first time on Friday 19th July. Voodoo Room is a stunning power-house trio featuring some of the UK’s finest musicians. Enjoy all the classics including Strange Brew, Hey Joe, Sunshine of Your Love, Fire, Watchtower, Layla, Purple Haze, Foxy Lady and many more.
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 volunteer with us. To book tickets for all our plays and events visit www.ilkleyplayhouse.co.uk or contact Ilkley Playhouse box office on 01943 609539.