16 for 2016: James Brining

Leeds’ West Yorkshire Playhouse is one of our leading venues, with its productions receiving acclaim far beyond Yorkshire. Their production of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is about to tour the UK after a nine-week run in Leeds and their production of Maxine Peake’s Beryl receives its London premiere later this year.

The venue has just announced its received £6.6m towards a £14m redevelopment plan and forthcoming productions include The Damned United, Kes and an Opera North co-production of Into The Woods directed by the Playhouse’s Artistic Director, James Brining.

Brining spoke to Glen Pearce as part of our 16 For 2016 series about the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s success.

What have been your theatrical highlights (and challenges) of 2015?

On a personal level directing three major productions (The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Sweeney Todd and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang) in six months was a huge challenge – including my first full-scale show with an opera company and being away from Leeds to open two of these shows.

What do you see as the highlights (and challenges) for your organisation in 2016?

Taking forward the opportunity of the capital refurbishment is hugely exciting. The Playhouse is undoubtedly beginning to show its age. We want to be able to welcome people from our region, our country and from across the world to a home of which we are proud. This project marks a step change for theatre in Leeds and feels especially appropriate as we move towards the 50th anniversary of the Playhouse’s inception in 1968.

What is your theatrical New Year’s resolution?

Keep striving to create relevant urgent work.

Excluding funding, if you were Minister for Culture what is the one aspect of the arts sector you’d like to change?

I’d want to ensure that theatre and arts more generally were embedded as a core part of children and young people’s learning within formal education, rather than, as at present, they are being systematically stripped out, undervalued and sidelined within the curriculum. It’s a really backward step.

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