Reporter 463, 12 March 2001


Dream start for theatre


Gala opening – students join Vice-Chancellor Professor Alan Wilson and Emeritus Professor Martin Banham at the opening of the University Workshop Theatre

A special gala evening saw the official opening of the University Workshop Theatre’s exciting new premises.

Part of the School of English, the theatre has expanded into the ground floor of the former chaplaincy, in the Emmanuel Institute. The new premises represent a £500,000 investment, transforming theatrical provision in the University for teaching, research and performance. The facilities now include a high-standard lighting system, a flexible seating area for up to 84, as well as changing rooms, a props area and offices.

The Workshop’s deputy director Dr Richard Boon says the new base provides facilities to present productions to professional standards. "Theatre study students are able to experience all aspects of a major production from back stage to performing," he said.

The school hopes to mount 12 large-scale productions a year, and another 30 smaller presentations. Its first was a stunning production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


Stunning – a scene from the début production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Although the initial impetus to develop drama at the University came from Freddie May, Professor of Italian in the 1960s, the Workshop Theatre itself was created by Martin Banham, now Emeritus Professor, and after whom one of the theatres is named.

The University of Leeds runs the oldest established MA in Theatre Studies in the UK. It is multinational in character, a legacy of the Nobel Laureate for Literature, Wole Soyinka who took the course in the 1950s. As well as mounting productions from European, Asian and African repertoires, the theatre exchanges productions with groups from around the world, and runs theatre based projects in East Africa, with a further project planned for India.

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