Connecting Voices is a series of new and existing pieces of live performance to be co-produced by Opera North and Leeds Playhouse this month, the Leeds-based opera company has revealed.

This October, some six months since live theatre was locked down, Leeds Playhouse will reopen with a season of works that explores the themes of isolation and connection, resilience and reflection.

Staged over the first three weekends in October, this unique programme of events will fuse classic and contemporary theatre in a series of live indoor performances safely bringing together artists and audiences.

Richard Mantle, Opera North’s general director, commented: “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.”

Orpheus in the Record Store is a newly commissioned piece by acclaimed rapper, writer and world-record-holding beatboxer Testament and director Aletta Collins. It will bring together spoken word and beatboxing along with players from the Orchestra of Opera North in an exciting new collaboration that gives the Greek myth of Orpheus a contemporary Yorkshire twist.

“I’m so excited to be back at Leeds Playhouse with Opera North, especially after this turbulent period,” Testament said. “To be commissioned to create a new piece of work is a massive honour. The playhouse was one of the first organisations to take a chance on me as a theatre-maker and it feels like home; their help and support has been invaluable to my growth as an artist. And only last year I got to work with Opera North as an artist on their Resonance programme, which opened my eyes to new possibilities as a composer.”

Playing alongside this will be Samuel Beckett’s monologue Krapp’s Last Tape (1958), with acclaimed actor Niall Buggy performing in the Bramall Rock Void and directed by multiple award-winning director Dominic Hill. Looking back on his loves, failures and losses, Krapp rewinds through his life with humour and heartache.

Francis Poulenc’s La voix humaine (The Human Voice, 1958) will be performed by Opera North soprano Gillene Butterfield in the Barber Studio, directed by Leeds Playhouse RTYDS Director Sameena Hussain. This devastating short opera explores the pain and fear of rejection through the lone voice of one woman.

Each of the three weekends will also see a different and newly devised piece of work from Leeds-based spoken word artist Khadijah Ibrahiim, and two pieces by freelance director Matthew Eberhardt, who will work with singers, actors, young people and musicians to create contemporary responses to the themes of remembrance, collaboration and the act of storytelling.

James Brining, artistic director at Leeds Playhouse, added: “Re-opening the playhouse after six months of enforced closure and being separated from each other has made us value even more than before the act of live performance and what that means. Our beautifully refurbished building provides us with many opportunities to safely welcome audiences and artists back into the playhouse.

“Connecting Voices is a carefully curated programme exploring isolation and connection, resilience and reflection as well as the relationship between performer and audience member in a shared space. We’re delighted to be working once again with Opera North, pooling our resources to help the city of Leeds to get back on its feet and bring joyous and powerful communal shared experiences back to the lives of its citizens.”

In line with current government guidelines, audiences will be of limited capacity with social distancing in place. Performances take place at Leeds Playhouse from 2-17 October. For dates, times and booking, visit the Leeds Playhouse website



Spoken word artist Khadijah Ibrahiim will be creating brand new work for Connecting Voices (Leeds Playhouse).