Symphony & Speech

Last week I had two nights out seeing live events in Leeds. 

Leeds Skyline Dusk

It's rare I do nights out when I'm visiting my parents but two things that I wanted to see were on during a period when I was planning to visit and my mum loves theatre and music, so I bought her tickets too as her birthday was coming up and thought they'd make a fun gift. 

First up: Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular at Leeds Arena.

DWSS UK Tour Tshirt

This was my first trip to this relatively new venue in Leeds, which was really easy to find (20 mins walk from the train station). As the name suggests it's an arena venue, but it's quite small so it doesn't feel like a huge arena, it feels more like a big theatre space. 

Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular is currently on a bit of a world tour. Fresh from Australia & NZ, it landed in the UK at the end of May for a week of shows before it moves on the New York City next. That's a lot of Whovians reached, isn't it?

Having seen the Doctor Who Proms on various boxsets, I had a good indication of what I was in for (my mum didn't, and I wanted to keep it that way, hahaha) and the show didn't disappoint. It's lovely to sit in a room with a huge, live orchestra playing such powerful and emotive pieces from Doctor Who, they're accompanied by video from the relevant episodes and - of course - monsters! 

My mum rarely watches Doctor Who, so I was unsure as to whether she'd enjoy it as much as I did but she had such a good time that she told me it was one the best birthday gifts she's ever had! 

Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular Leeds Arena 2015

Oh, she did appreciate Peter Davison, though, but I think that was more from All Creatures Great & Small. 

Second up: The Kings Speech at Leeds Grand

The King's Speech Leeds Grand 2015

Again, this is a new venue to me (clearly I spent all my youth in City Varieties watching comedians) which is a really well utilised theatre in the area for opera, ballet, comedy and theatre. It's beautiful traditional theatre really similar to many you'd find in the West End but ... as it's Leeds, the tickets are cheaper. Hooray!

I'll level with you; I was in this for the actor cast to play Lionel - Jason Donovan. This was the first week of the show and it happened to be in the city near where my folks lived, the day after DWSS and close to Mum's birthday  - the stars aligned. I got quite used to seeing plays before they hit the West End when I lived in Worcester (the Malvern Theatre is a great way to see things cheaper before they hit London) and you can see them in a slightly more 'raw' state than what they'd be by the time they reached the West End. Some people won't like that but I do, I like seeing the craft behind executing a piece of theatre. 

Now, I've not seen the film that this play has fed from, but I think that's put in me in a good place. I've a habit of watching films and then reading the books, as I then I'm rarely disappointed - the book 'fleshes' out the film for me and allows easy characterisation in my head. This production was only a couple of hours in length, which was a cut down version of the film (if you allow for staging and sets, which were minimal, changed quickly and smoothly throughout) and felt perfectly paced. My mum had seen the film previously and said it would flesh out the story more for me when I do watch it, she felt there was detail missing from the plot but it wasn't detrimental to the play.  

I may have fangirl bias, but I think Donovan was good casting for this production. Yes, he's an Aussie, so that's the accent work done but he also brings a very soothing and calm feel to the role, which I think is essential to the characterisation. Lionel is unconventional in his therapeutic style and a bit direct with his words, but also kind with Bertie (played excellently by Raymond Coulthard), which allowed the audience to see and feel the relationship of trust to develop between them. It was concise, but it was a really enjoyable watch. 

Both these events made a nice change from my usual choices of theatre and music; this month I'm straight back to loud music and comedy gigs, but it's encouraged me to remember that theatre does exist outside London. From now on when I go see my folks I'll be sure to check what is playing in the area when I book my train tickets just in case anything catches my eye. 
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