Happy 21st Birthday Lawrence Batley!
The Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield
Louise Halliwell | Thursday, September 17, 2015
Standing in the sunshine of the Lawrence Batley Theatre’s courtyard with a nice glass of chilled white wine in hand, I’d be forgiven for forgetting that it is in fact early Autumn in Yorkshire.
I was there for the preview of the Autumn/ Winter 2015 programme, and it's a special season launch as the theatre celebrated its 21st anniversary that week. Yes, the Lawrence Batley Theatre is 21 years young, it opened the same week in history that Wet Wet Wet’s “Love is All Around” was finally booted off the top of the charts after 15 weeks at number 1 by the Whigfield classic “Saturday Night” (I remember it well!). Staying true to its roots of encouraging new talent, the Lawrence Batley is running a series of pieces by new, up and coming, performers.Bad chart music and dodgy dance moves aside, the evening opened with a film sequence from the year that the theatre was built and it is genuinely hard to imagine a time when Huddersfield didn’t have a theatre.
When the Lawrence Batley Theatre first opened its doors, it aimed to bring a broad mix and diversity of artists and performances to the locality - including both mainstream and more experimental, newer pieces. As I watched the opening film sequence I was intrigued to find out whether, 21 years later, the Lawrence Batley had stayed faithful to its original intentions.
I was pleased to see that the programme offers a great mix of both the familiar and not so familiar. Staying true to its roots of encouraging new talent, the Lawrence Batley is running a series of pieces by new, up and coming, performers. The twist is that the audience pays what they feel the performance is worth, giving these new artists an opportunity to showcase their talents and ‘sing for their supper’. These productions appear to be very diverse and different so it’s just a case of picking one that you like the look of (or maybe taking a risk and watching something that you wouldn’t usually) and paying what you feel is appropriate at the end of the production.
Participation in the Arts
Building on the ethos of encouraging participation in the arts is a series of events that will be held in the wider community. A partnership with Creative Scene will be running a number of outdoor experiences throughout the autumn including “Carnival of Light” in the nearby town of Heckmondwike, and an outdoor production of “Spellbound” that promises to be a night of puppetry, fireworks and dance as part of the Batley Autumn Festival.
Overall, the programme offers a variety of productions. The main stage offers work ranging from "Nosferatu" by Proper Job Theatre Company, through to comedy nights with household names like Ed Byrne, and a handful of familiar productions such as Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale” (incidentally, the discussion with the director about the importance of keeping it simple makes me wonder how they plan to tackle the play’s famous stage direction, “exit pursued by a bear”…).
There’s also a sprinkling of seasonal productions that you’d expect at this time of year. A variety of artists and musicians will be taking over the building as part of Hallowe’en Happening (for over 18’s only, fancy dress or funeral attire encouraged!) to provide an evening of entertainment and frights. Closer to Christmas there’s a stage adaptation of the classic film “It’s a Beautiful Life”, and a Yorkshire take on the fairytale classic “Snow White” (I’m told to expect coal miners and brass bands!).
It’s a bit of a cliché to say that there is something for everyone, but there genuinely is –from circus to music from dance to comedy. It’s a broad programme that offers more than enough to entice you away from hibernating at home in front of the fire on those cold, dark nights. The preview has certainly whet my appetite - there’s plenty on the menu to help celebrate the Lawrence Batley Theatre’s 21st birthday. I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to Winter. Happy Birthday Lawrence Batley!
(Image shows 'Suffragette' - a film to be screened at the Lawrence Batley on Sunday 11th October. Preceding the screening, an immersive promenade performance following the Huddersfield Suffragette Trail begins at St George’s Square at 6pm. Audiences will be greeted by characters including Emmeline Pankhurst and Huddersfield’s own Dora Thewlis, the ‘Baby Suffragette’, walking in the footsteps of Emmeline Pankhurst herself, who made a prominent visit to the town in 1906 at the start of the Suffragette movement.)
For further details, head to http://www.thelbt.org/ or call the theatre on 01484 430528.
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