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This is not the official site of the Workshop Theatre, and anyone looking for Theatre Studies course information should head over to the University of Leeds site, or just click here.

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Osbomb, Love and Supershop: Community screening in Jinja

Jane Plastow & Katie McQuaid

On a Saturday August afternoon in Walukuba, Jinja, 62 people settled into plastic chairs, focused on the film playing across the back wall of the community centre. With shutters closed against first the bright sunshine and later thunder and driving rain, there was hushed concentration in the assembled audience. This intergenerational community of men and women from a working-class neighbourhood of Jinja, Uganda were gathered to watch the Ugandan premiere of Osbomb, Love and Supershop; a film produced by Gravel and Sugar Productions of  theatre work led by Jane, in Jinja, Nanjing and Sheffield as part of a wider investigation with geographers and anthropologists about urban understandings of environment. We were joined by many of the original participants of the community performance event seen in the film, their appearance on camera inciting excited gesturing, whoops and cheers. The community event in June 2015 –  of eight pieces of promenade theatre performed across the football pitch to over 400 community members in the heart of Walukuba – lent its name to the community based organization (CBO) formed by our participants out of this work: ‘We are Walukuba’ (WAW). This was the culmination of, and Katie and Jane’s final trip to visit INTERSECTION’s Ugandan theatre work, an engagement with this community that has spanned a colourful 18 months and taken in five performance events (from rapping about swamp degradation, a comedic exploration of corruption in land ownership, to promoting environmental responsibility using the medium of giant animal masks), the founding of a CBO, and the creation of an intergenerational women’s alternative fuel co-operative.


Members of WAW – old and new – now sat enraptured by scenes of the theatre work and cities in all three nations. Welcomed warmly by members delighted at an international visitor,  our Chinese Research Associate Canny spoke at the beginning of Nanjing; introducing the city, outlining the theatre workshops and performance, and the key intergenerational and environmental concerns participants raised. Osbomb, Love and Supershop then brought to life a complex story, documenting the delights, tensions and fun unfolding across three generations as they worked creatively independently and then together in three different countries. We watched strangers come together across generational divides to share and express ideas as they developed and later performed their creative take on issues sparked by discussions of environmental, consumption and intergenerational concerns.Jinja-screening_2

Our screening ended with rapturous applause before the audience broke away into six groups to animatedly discuss what they had seen. A mix of young and old stood to present their responses to the film, varyingly inviting laughter, applause and serious reflection. Nearly all lauded the power of creative work in bringing people together across social divides, with several participants spontaneously standing to share their testimonies of what this intergenerational practice had meant to them in Walukuba. Both old and young repeatedly emphasized the critical and ongoing need for intergenerational solidarity in tackling local – and now demonstrably international – social and environmental issues. People were shocked at the lack of green space in the urban environments presented in Nanjing and Sheffield and spoke with pride of the green environment portrayed in Jinja. Perhaps, suggested one participant, WAW ought to raise funds to encourage tree-planting in these other cities!

Our audience were fascinated by seeing the concerns of people in Nanjing and Sheffield, recognizing their own experiences in the scenes of an oppressive British political leader being combatted by a group of ordinary people and environmental pollution in China. The Chinese shadow puppets went down a storm with many begging Canny to return immediately to train WAW, the ‘Supershop’ provoked a mixture of excitement and fear, with concerns about how shopping could kill. The inequality of performance space was of key concern, with groups remarking on the significant difference between facilities available to British and Chinese participants in both rehearsals and performances, and the open-air compound in which we had worked and performed.

Perhaps most poignant for Katie  was a final encounter the following afternoon. Sheltering from another storm a group of women waited for me under a narrow ledge, huddled in blankets against the wind and rain. They had called me to Walukuba to thank us for coming back and bringing the film. It is all too common for researchers and practitioners to all too quickly disappear from participants’ lives, yet here we had come to share with them our film, a copy of which they each took away. They were keen to impress on me the personal impact of watching it. It had, they said, given them strength to continue to build their work, reinforcing for each of them the importance of unity and coming together across the community. Moreover they were now known in these far off places by people who may never meet them, but at least would know that in Walukuba there was a group of men and women working together to help their communities.Jinja-screening_3-(002)




by Jane Plastow

Saturday April 2nd. It is 3pm and I am pouring sweat, picking out hundreds of old plastic bags, broken sandals, plastic bottles and empty pill cases from around Works Village, one of the poorest areas of the very poor suburb of Walukuba, in the city of Jinja, Uganda. On the upside I am not alone in my efforts. In fact I am surrounded by about a dozen children carrying a large red plastic drum, who are all helping me collect old plastic as though it’s the most fun thing in the world. And we in turn are but a microcosm of We Are Walukuba, the community organisation leading this Community Clean Up, which has mobilised about 20 members and around a hundred Works Village residents for one of its regular efforts at drawing attention to the problem of waste disposal.

1Walukuba children collecting organic waste

This is my last day of a month’s work with We Are Walukuba, the group that decided to constitute itself last year after an eleven month engagement with anthropologist Katie McQuaid and myself (I was only there on and off, Katie was there all the time). There’s not time to explain it all here, but the work is heavily indebted to the ideas of the great Paulo Friere about relevant, dialogic learning through a sustained circle of action and reflection. We are obviously currently involved in a bit of action, as part of what I have somewhat pretentiously called a day of Interactive Waste Management.

Walukuba’s waste management is truly rubbish. The council is supposed to collect garbage from commercial sites, but due to endemic corruption only does so on a laughably sporadic basis. (The group is trying to impact this by demanding that officials act on their responsibilities but it’s an uphill battle.) Household waste is left entirely to the community. People sporadically burn their own stuff, both organic and plastics, but much is left, as we are finding, embedded throughout the tiny plots surrounding one and two room shacks and houses, where people try to grow some of the food they need to feed often very large families.

We are collecting waste which we divide into two kinds. Organic material is being heaped in a pile for use in our alternative fuel project. Plastics – and there are unending amounts because of course it never rots – are being heaped in piles around Works Village, and despite the pollution, for want of any better solution, are being burnt. We have an eye to future recycling possibilities here but we simply can’t address everything at once.

The Community Action goes on for a very sweaty, stinky hour and a half with massive popular engagement, and then everyone gradually congregates at our impromptu theatre space. This is just an open area, ringed by trees and banana plants where Works Village has its local meetings. But today it is immaculate. We Are Walukuba (WAW) members who live here have brought out benches and plastic chairs, and there is even a top table with a table cloth. Backstage is behind one of the metal pod-like houses where so many community members live. And here are stacked our mega-masks which are central to our play, The Kingfisher’s Story.

This is the sixth piece of theatre WAW has made, five with me, and one by themselves. The theatre has used many styles: verbatim, comedy, poetry, rap and breakdance, to promote discussion about issues the group has identified as key to their lives: poverty, environment, relationships, the treatment of women – and today the problem of rubbish. The intention is always not to preach, not to hand out messages, but to inform, entertain and above all promote debate.

We’ve made the play over the last two weeks, with a somewhat floating cast of around 15 people – timekeeping is seldom great in Uganda and then all sorts of personal problems come up. We’ve met most days for around two hours in the afternoon, devising and rehearsing in the grounds of the ramshackle community centre. The play opens with half a dozen women coming on stage carrying out a community clean-up, who are then successively challenged by passers-by who say they are stupid to work for no money, that it is the council’s responsibility to deal with rubbish, that garbage is not a big issue, etc, etc. This then segues into a sing off between the ‘rubbish deniers’ and community activist group, which culminates in the threat of violence. At which point the storyteller breaks in and says they should all listen to her.

2The play: featuring Snake, Giraffe, Elephant, Lion and Eagle in Works Village, Walukuba

I got The Kingfisher’s Story that follows from an old Ugandan MA student of mine, who in turn got it from a Kenyan environmental activist, and we created an adaptation for our purposes, complete with beautiful huge animal masks made by an artist belonging to the group, Abdulla. The story tells of animals meeting in the forest when it is very, very hot. They debate the causes until interrupted by a very stupid King Lion who threatens to eat everyone. At this point an Eagle (clamped to the back of the wheelchair of George our local disabled councillor) flies in and tells everyone to run for their lives because there is a forest fire. The animals panic and head for the Nile. They worry about the smaller animals who won’t be able to cross but the Lion says the strong must look after themselves and dives in – whereupon he gets eaten by a huge crocodile. While the animals are still reeling with shock a small black and white Kingfisher flies across the Nile and stoops to pick up a beak full of water before heading towards the fire. The Eagle asks what she is doing and she says she is going to put out the fire. When the other animals challenge her, saying she is only one tiny bird, she calmly replies that she knows this, but at least she is trying to do something to save all their homes. At this point the storyteller steps back in and asks the audience for their advice about what the animals should do and what the play means to them.

Lots of Theatre for Development plays in Africa end with what is called community discussion; ours is a community-based play and our discussion, led by one our most committed members, Brenda, slowly seeks to tease out community views about attitudes to garbage, views on responsibility, and possibilities for community action. Brenda emphasises that WAW does not have the answers, we need to share our thoughts. The audience of around 120 have nearly all stuck around for this discussion that goes on for some half an hour. At first only the same three or four people contribute, but gradually more join in, and they include men, women and boys and girls. Our two note-takers write down the content of all the interventions. These will be typed up and used to collate ideas and evidence of local concerns for future actions at both community level and to put pressure on the council. WAW plans to hold similar days in all 15 local ‘villages’ of Walukuba in the coming months as part of a sustained initiative.

4The briquette making machine

At the end of the discussion Jouret comes forward. She is one of a six member cooperative drawn from WAW members who have just begun a briquette making project, and she has come to tell the community about it. In Walukuba electricity is far too expensive to use for cooking, so most people buy charcoal, which is also a major expenditure and is environmentally damaging. So we are making briquettes. These are large pellets, about six inches long and three round, which are made from organic waste which we collect from the area – vegetable peelings, maize cobs, weeds and scythed grass; there is plenty of such material just lying around. The material is charred, pounded, compressed in our manual briquette press, and then left to dry out for around 4 days. It is then an environmentally sustainable, cheap fuel source which provides income for both WAW and the ladies of the cooperative. Our project has only just begun with the help of our engineer volunteer, Ciaran Powell, so Jouret is informing the people and passing out free samples. There is lots of interest.

My final action of the day is to round up 6 young boys who volunteer to cart wheelbarrows and large bins of organic material we collected in the clean-up operation down to our briquette making site. The impact of all this work will be seen in the coming months – but it was a very good rubbish day. I did also need a long and soapy shower when I finally got home.

Performing the Past 2015

For this year’s Performing the Past module, six groups of second year students once again tackled Moliere’s Imaginary Invalid (we last saw Moliere on stage in 2013). Each group used the play as a jumping off point and this ultimately led us to six diverse and original pieces, set variously in an office, a game show, a bar, a doctor’s surgery, a hospital and a bath tub from the 1950s!

It was a fine end to the year and the six shows formed part of a busy period on the Leeds campus. Theatre Studies students were involved in numerous other shows, such as LUU Theatre Group’s Boys, staged in the Banham Theatre. This was followed by Posh and Arcadia in the same Workshop Theatre venue. There was The Boat over at stage@leeds and West Side Story by the Stage Musicals Society in the soon-to-be-renovated Riley Smith Hall.

We’ll be back in January when the Practical Essay process starts in earnest and it looks like another packed programme, with twenty-six potential shows to be presented over one weekend in March.

Until then… Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

montage of theatre studies productions

The Great Gatsby

We’d like to take this opportunity to offer our congratulations to the cast, the production team and everyone involved in The Great Gatsby (this year’s Workshop Theatre student show). Their production of F.Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel (directed by Ruth Parker) completely sold out in 24 hours and we wish them all the best for tonight’s opening performance!

For those of you without a ticket, we’ll be posting some video and photos of the show later this week. For now, here’s a brief taster:

The Return of the Weekender


At 7.30pm this Sunday (11th October), first-year students from the W.T. will perform a one-off piece of theatre. Nothing out of the ordinary in that you might think… but the reality is that they will start devising and rehearsing for this performance at 10.00am the day before.

Using Harold Pinter’s Mountain Language as a jumping off point, they will devise their own response to the play and create an entirely new piece of work.

Working from first thing in the morning to last thing at night, this intense theatrical experience will be organised and directed by Rita Marcalo (Instant Dissidence). The performance itself will be open to all members of the University and admission is free.

Come along and see what happens…


The Weekender

Workshop Theatre, Studio 1

Sunday 11 October 2015

Doors open 6:30pm – Performance starts 7:00pm


Admission Free


Mouths of LionsChloe, Georgia, Louise and Rimi have been reading fantasy novels… and watching fantasy films… and getting into Dungeons and Dragons.

London based theatre company (and University of Leeds graduates) Mouths of Lions, bring their latest devised show to Leeds.

SUPERFUNADVENTURETIMES is a high-energy, fantasy fiction inspired adventure, blurring lines between make-believe and reality, asking us to consider the epic quality of every day life. Expect death defying- battle scenes and excellent dancing. This is a show about friendship and fantasy, where Mouths of Lions explore the personal journeys of four real-life, real-time friends alongside the epic tale of four unlikely sisters-in-arms as they try to defend the land of Forswornia from utmost evil and peril.

 ‘A joyous life-affirming ride‘ says PlaystoSee

‘High-octane, hilarious hour of action-packed theatre’ Camden People’s Theatre

£6 (£4.50)


Things we missed in the rush #2

Just before the Easter break in 2014/15, the main theatrical event of our academic year took place. The Practical Essays are the final performance pieces by our third year students and, in years past, we would normally see around twenty performances presented over one weekend.  This year was a little different in a couple of ways: we had a record number of students (37) putting on a record number of performances (29) and, for the first time ever, we saw group collaborations being assessed as opposed to just individual  presentations.

As with Performing the Past, everything was staged between the Banham Theatre and Studio 1… one show immediately following another. It was a very busy weekend, not to mention the incredibly busy seven-week production period that led up to it. I like to think of the Practical Essays as a mini theatre festival that represents the culmination of our student’s practical work at Leeds. It offers them the chance to work as “critical practitioners” in the creation of a theatrical statement that explores an issue, a debate, or a question of particular importance to them. It can be stressful, but it’s also great fun – and my favourite time of the year.

It would take up way too much space to show you an image from each show, so there’s a video below that might give you a quick insight in to what went on.


Things we missed in the rush #1

It occurred to me, as it does every year at this time, that there were many WT performances and staged works from the last academic year that never received any attention here. It’s not because they weren’t worthy of recording… just that we were bloody busy at the time! So, in an effort to put this right (retrospectively at least – I can make no reliable promises about the future) I had a little dig through my hard-drive and selected a few images that might give you a flavour of what we were so busy with… starting with Performing the Past 2014.

Working in small groups, our second year students (returning on Monday as the third year) created six individual pieces based on their own research into Antonin Artaud’s To Have Done with the Judgement of God and Van Gogh, Suicided by Society.  These diverse interpretations were performed, back-to-back, in Studio 1 and the Banham Theatre in early December and provided us with a theatrical highpoint ahead of the winter break.

PTP1406 PTP1405 PTP1404 PTP1403 PTP1402


Aireborne Theatre at the Fringe

If you’re up in Edinburgh this month (or planning a visit) there’s still chance to see work by LUU Theatre Group’s ‘Aireborne Theatre’. As in previous years, Airborne have taken two plays to the fringe and both spent most of July in production here at the Workshop Theatre.

Utilising comedy and puppetry, The Worry Monster will be on stage on alternate days.

Worry Monster Since he was a little boy, Raymond has been followed everywhere by his Worry Monster, a purple blob that one day he always hoped would pop but never did. He wants desperately to paint and to be free, but wherever he goes, his purple companion is never too far away. This fast-paced show uses comedy, puppetry and lots of cardboard to portray one man’s struggle with anxiety and paranoia.



Five Drinks is an original play about the unique experience of gay dating.

Five Drinks

Dylan is on a drinks date with Archie but recalls a series of drinks in which he learns how to date, who to date, and the limitations of one’s own personal progress. It’s a comparison of different journeys towards a gay identity, a reverse exploration of a move between experience and innocence of an entire adult world. This is a story of Dylan Moon; his experience of being underwhelmed by others, understood by himself, and surprised by time.


Both shows are at Paradise in Augustines (Venue 152) 41 George IV Bridge, EH1 1EL

Box office: 0131 510 0022​

Performances start at 17:50


Get Seen!

GET-SEEN-200-x-799Call out for Yorkshire performers to ‘Get Seen’

Sustained Theatre Artists Yorkshire (STAY) have announced details of a showcase event, ‘Get Seen’ on 20th July at West Yorkshire Playhouse which will give up and coming performers/artists the opportunity to perform a 10 minute snapshot of their work in front of casting agents and influential industry figures.

The event is part of the wider Open Season at West Yorkshire Playhouse and STAY are proud to be highlighting the professional talent they’re cultivating during West Yorkshire Playhouse’s season of youth and community performances.

Influential industry figures already confirmed include Nicci Topping – Yorkshire-born experienced casting agent who has cast for films such as Northern Soul amongst others, numerous TV commercials, short films, dramas and theatre performances.

There are 8-10 slots available for artists/groups to apply for via an application form which can be found on the website. The deadline for applications is Friday 19th June at 5pm.

Those who are successful with their written applications will be invited to audition on Thursday 25th June and the chosen performers will be notified the following day and offered access to a rehearsal space from 1st – 19th July.

STAY is an organisation created to celebrate cultural diversity, therefore they strongly encourage minority artists to apply for the opportunity.

For full information please visit

This event is made possible with public funding distributed through Arts Council England.

Listing information:
‘Get Seen’
Monday 20th July, 7pm
Quarry Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse
Audience tickets: £8
Booking: / 0113 217 7700
Event URL:
Ticketing URL:

About Sustained Theatre Artists Yorkshire (STAY):
Sustained Theatre Artists Yorkshire (STAY) is one of the hubs linked with the National Sustained Theatre. We exist to enable, support and promote culturally diverse and minority artists so that they can make and tour great theatre, engaging diverse audiences regionally, nationally and internationally. STAY aims to keep issues relating to culturally diverse and minority Theatre artists and practitioners alive and in the national debate, raise the profile of culturally diverse and minority Theatre artists in the region by increasing opportunities to network and share work, develop partnerships with venues and relevant agencies to increase diversity across the artistic landscape and work with Sustained Theatre to assist in delivering the strategic theatre agenda nationally.

Table @ the Workshop Theatre

IMG_1274 croppedCongratulations to Scarlett Mulraine-Simkin and Lydia Paulett on the opening of their production of Table, by Tanya Ronder. A packed house watched a fantastic performance by the ensemble cast of eleven performers, taking on thirty roles and coming up with a thoroughly enjoyable evening of theatre. Extra seats have been squeezed in to Studio 1 for tonight as the initial offering of tickets sold out quickly. If you’d like to catch tonight’s show (the last performance) come along to the Workshop Theatre and come early. Strictly first come first served!


David/Julian Rex Russell
Gideon/Jack Alex Maxwell
Elizabeth/Babette/Jess Chloe Beddoes
Lulu/Aisha Bella Speight
Michelle/Mother Superior Amy O’Loughlin
Anthony/Finley Richard Wells
Sarah Emma Tachard-Mackey
Albert/Orion Emily Kennedy
Margaret/Stacey Lily Hall
Sister Ruth India Plummer
Sister Hope Philippa-Lois Anamoah


With thanks to Lily Pinto, Catherine de Mello, Cesca Ilvaldi and Georgia Currell

Table tickets on sale now

‘Go on then, table, speak. You tell us, you were there, you’ve always been there.’

Tickets are now on sale for the Workshop Theatre production of Table by Tanya Ronder.Table

Directed by Scarlett Mulraine-Simkin and Lydia Paulett, Table crosses six generations and features eleven performers, thirty characters and one very special piece of furniture. Crossing oceans and time Tanya Ronder’s thrilling play is a story of love, loss, life and death, seen through many eyes but with one constant that anchors these stories and ties them all together. Telling the story of one family over 200 years, Table is a collaborative exploration of belonging, identity and the things we pass on.


Wednesday 12th and Thursday 13th November 2014

  • VENUE: Workshop Theatre Studio 1
  • DOORS:
  • PRICE(S): Full £4.50 – Prices include an online booking fee of £0.50 per ticket
  • AGE: No age restriction

Tickets for Wednesday available here:

Tickets for Thursday available here:

DugOut Theatre in Leeds 1 night only!

dugout theatre pic

An accomplished piece of theatre; beautifully executed, go see. These are very, very funny men.’ ★★★★★ (Broadway baby)


DugOut Theatre, formed a few years ago by students in the School of English, are bringing their latest production, Inheritance Blues, to the West Yorkshire Playhouse on Saturday 11 Oct (for one night only). 5 years on from their days at the University of Leeds, DugOut Theatre have produced 8 shows and won 7 awards and become Edinburgh Fringe veterans!

Those of you who remember George Chilcott, Ed Smith and others will know what a talented bunch they are. Their work on the Edinburgh Fringe and elsewhere has been receiving commendations all round, and this production was seen in Edinburgh this summer. Warmly recommended!!

A comedy about familial debt, heavy drinking, sibling rivalry and a blues cover band. Join this exciting company for a night of laugh-out-loud comedy and exhilarating live music.

‘We’re a blues cover band. Why are we playing a wake in Dorset?’

The Fenwick brothers (most of them, anyway) are trying to hold a quiet, respectable wake for their father. Not helping matters are familial debt, decade-old rivalries, a blizzard and a blues band that have turned up unannounced.

Join The Hot Air Ballues for a night that has a bit of everything: storytelling, live music, a cappella singing, arguments, laughs, tears and a kazoo. Allow them to take you back in time to their first gig and become immersed in the trials, tribulations and trivialities of three young men suffering from the inheritance blues.


‘A lot of fun ‘ The Scotsman ★★★★

Inheritance Blues offers laughter in abundance and pleasure in the music.’  (The Stage)

 ‘With brilliant acting and superb music.’ ★★★★★ (Three Weeks)

West Yorkshire Playhouse – Saturday 11th October

7:45pm – £12

Join us in the bar afterwards for a pint and a chat!

TO BOOK CALL 0113 2137700’s-on/2014/inheritance-blues/

WT Production 2014: Auditions 6th & 7th October

TableTable by Tanya Ronder

Six generations, nine performers, thirty characters and one very special piece of furniture. Crossing oceans and time Tanya Ronder’s thrilling play is a story of love, loss, life and death, seen through many eyes but with one constant that anchors these stories and ties them all together.

We will be holding Auditions for this year’s Workshop Theatre student production in Studio 1 on Monday 6th and Tuesday 7th October. Both sessions will start at 5pm with callbacks taking place on Wednesday of the same week.

Auditions are open to all University of Leeds students and we would especially welcome auditions from students of the Workshop Theatre or School of English. We are also looking for: production staff, set, sound and lighting designers, wardrobe, stage management… you name it.

Please come along.

Next Week at the WT: Concientious

Pillbox Theatre

by Adam Z Robinson

Rebekah has just landed her first job. Young, keen and conscientious, she’s everything they should want. but Rebekah’s dream job is turning into a nightmare. Desperate, she turns for help to the ideals of her hero, her great-grandfather, a First World War conscientious objector.

When pushed right to the edge what wins out? Ideals? Or survival? This new play by Adam Z Robinson finds the humour, and the horror, of office politics taken to extremes.


7:30pm / Workshop Theatre / £10.00 (£8.00)