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Connecting Voices at Leeds Playhouse

This October, six months since live theatre was locked down, Opera North is collaborating with Leeds Playhouse to present Connecting Voices – a series of live indoor performances bringing together artists and audiences safely to explore the themes of isolation and connection, of resilience and reflection.

Staged over the first three weekends in October, this festival of new and classic work will examine the power and expression of the solo voice and explore responses to people re-engaging in communal creative activity, whilst interrogating the relationship between the audience and the performer.

Testament in WOKE at Leeds Playhouse © Ant Robling

Orpheus in the Record Shop, a newly commissioned piece by Leeds-based beatboxer Testament and director Aletta Collins, will fuse spoken word and beatboxing with players from the Orchestra of Opera North to explore the challenges of human interaction, in an exciting new collaboration that gives the Greek myth of Orpheus a contemporary Yorkshire twist.

Playing alongside this will be two seminal pieces which both premiered in 1958 and present characters isolated from others and struggling to connect again through technology.

Gillene Butterfield in Into the Woods at Leeds Playhouse © Manuel Harlan

The first is Samuel Beckett’s extraordinary monologue Krapp’s Last Tape with acclaimed actor Niall Buggy performing in the Bramall Rock Void and directed by multiple award-winning director Dominic Hill. This will be counterpointed by Francis Poulenc’s short opera La voix humaine performed by Opera North soprano Gillene Butterfield (Rose Maurrant, Street Scene; Julie Jordan, Carousel) in the Barber Studio, directed by Leeds Playhouse RTYDS Director Sameena Hussain.

In the Courtyard Theatre, each of the three weekends will see a different and newly devised piece of work created with singers, actors, young people and musicians as a contemporary response to the themes of Connecting Voices. Leeds-based spoken word artist Khadijah Ibrahiim (Another Crossing) will be directing a new work Dead and Wake in which she explores Jamaican culture, ritual and funeral rites, while Matthew Eberhardt (Street Scene, Opera North) will be directing two pieces which reflect on Poulenc’s and Beckett’s works.

Spoken word artist Khadijah Ibrahiim

Richard Mantle, General Director:

“Connecting Voices is a compelling exploration of the power of the human voice and the profound desire to establish meaningful ties out of experiences of isolation and loss. We are delighted that we are able to begin the process of welcoming audiences safely back to live performance through this collection of work in partnership with Leeds Playhouse.

“The festival brings together voices spoken and sung from across the city and wider region, and we are especially thrilled to be collaborating with such a diverse and talented group of freelance artists, singers, musicians, poets and directors who all share artistic ties to both Opera North and to Leeds Playhouse. Now, more than ever, it is apparent how strongly intertwined the artistic and cultural community in our region is, and how important collaboration will be in ensuring a vibrant future for the arts and audiences across the city.”

Actor Niall Buggy will perform Beckett's monologue Krapp's Last Tape © Robert Workman

In line with current government guidelines, audiences will be of limited capacity with social distancing in place. Tickets go on general sale from midday on Tuesday 15 September.


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