How Theatre Royal, Wakefield, is helping raise the city's profile - new National Theatre visiting production is latest boost

Romeo and Julie
Romeo and Julie

The National Theatre, in a co-production with Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, is bringing Romeo and Julie, a new play inspired by Shakespeare’s romantic tragedy, to Theatre Royal, Wakefield, for the first time.

The cultural occasion follows Wakefield being ranked - by its own residents - as the ‘eighth worst place to live in the UK’ (iLiveHere.co.uk).

In the survey, inhabitants of Wakefield said the best thing about the city is the train station - the way out.

City pride is not at the forefront of Wakefield’s collective consensus despite important and exciting cultural events happening in the city.

Katie Town, executive director of Theatre Royal Wakefield, said: "Everyone at Theatre Royal Wakefield is delighted to be welcoming work by the National Theatre at a time when city pride seems to be at an all-time low.

"This is the perfect example of the many exciting cultural offerings that Wakefield has to offer. Not only are we receiving an exciting new play from the National Theatre, but we are also proving that there are lots of reasons for people to be proud about living in Wakefield."

Theatre Royal Wakefield are Theatre Nation Partners, which the National Theatre has been working closely with for the past three years on a nationwide project to broaden and grow local audiences for drama in England.

For example, tours of Macbeth and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by the National Theatre recently visited secondary schools in and around Wakefield, allowing the Theatre to forge strong relationships with local schools, so that quality drama performances could reach young pupils who might not otherwise have the chance to see it.

TV Comedian Tom Allen filmed a pilot TV show at the Theatre, where he celebrated everything Wakefield has to offer.

Last year Sir Ian McKellen delivered anecdotes and monologues from his favourite Shakespeare plays in an effort to raise money for the Theatre and the Learning and Participatory work it delivers.

The Theatre, along with the Wakefield Cultural Consortium offered a free customer service training programme, Yorkshire Passion, written by John Godber, to help employees in the district to promote a positive image of the area and all it has to offer.

Romeo and Julie is another reason to fill the city with pride. It is a world premiere; a powerful, funny and poignant new play about the hope and heartbreak of two young people in Britain today

.Romeo, pronounced Ro-May-oh, like the car, is a teenage single dad hanging on tight. Julie is fighting to follow her dream of studying at Cambridge.

Two eighteen year-olds raised a few streets apart, but from entirely different worlds, crash into first love.

But at this crossroads to the rest of their lives, both families fear the worst in a world of unequal opportunity.

Lisa Burger, National Theatre executive director said, ‘We’re so pleased to be bringing Romeo and Julie to Theatre Royal Wakefield, a brand new play which is shaping up to be bold, touching and funny.

"It’s been a joy for the past three years to work with Theatre Royal’s team; sharing ideas, collaborating on projects and reaching new audiences - including lots of young people - as part of the NT’s Theatre Nation Partnerships.

"Theatre Royal Wakefield is an important partner in our endeavour to encourage audiences to visit their local theatre and to reach as many people as possible. With its beautiful Matcham auditorium and diverse programme, Theatre Royal Wakefield is a fantastic building at the heart of its community.

"From its status as a Theatre of Sanctuary to its dedication to throwing open its doors to support community performances, we feel privileged to both partner with Theatre Royal, Wakefield, and to tour work to Wakefield, and we look forward to returning to the city in June’.

Rufus Norris, director of the National Theatre said: Rachel O’Riordan directs Gary Owen’s new play Romeo and Julie, which takes inspiration from Shakespeare’s play to create a funny and poignant look at the hope and heartbreak of two working class teenagers.

"A co-production with Sherman Theatre, we’re delighted to be able to tour this production to four of the brilliant Theatre Nation Partnership venues that we have been working closely with to build audiences over the last three years’.

Theatre Nation Partnerships is a multi-year collaboration between the National Theatre and partner organisations in six areas around the country. It aims to broaden and grow local audiences for drama through touring, working with schools, and creating theatre with local communities. Drawing on combined expertise, resources and each partner’s deep community links, the project has engaged with over 100,000 people since 2017.

Romeo and Julie will run from June 30 to July 4. Tickets are on sale now at Theatre Royal, Wakefield, at theatreroyalwakefield.co.uk in person at the box office or at 01924 211 311.