‘Ode to Leeds’ – a stirring new play inspired by the power of poetry and strength of local voices

Written by Zodwa Nyoni Directed by James Brining

West Yorkshire Playhouse, Courtyard Theatre

Press Night Wednesday 14 June, 7.45pm Sat 10 June – Sat 1 July 2017

Ode to Leeds is a powerful new play by Zodwa Nyoni (Boi Boi Is Dead, West Yorkshire Playhouse), inspired by the city’s renowned spoken word poetry group, Leeds Young Authors.

Spoken word, music and movement are celebrated as five young people find their voices and forge new friendships as they pursue their dream of reaching America’s “Brave New Voices” slam poetry competition in New York. But their route to success is undermined by personal rivalries and inner demons which threaten the team’s very foundations.

Powerful, passionate, angry and open-hearted, Ode to Leeds is an inspiring portrait of young people who care about their world and want to change it through art.

James Brining, Artistic Director, West Yorkshire Playhouse, said:

“When I heard about Leeds Young Authors’ annual trips to the US’s top slam poetry competition, I knew this was a story I wanted us to tell. Zodwa’s play takes the city we love in all of its diversity and finds in it the passion, anger and hope of youth. Its energy and vitality as well as the power of its language make this a poetic love letter to Leeds, where there are limitless stories and where its stories have no limits. Zodwa Nyoni is an exceptional talent whose rhythmic, lyrical writing makes this tale of the everyday into something epic. It inspires you to see the city anew; a moving portrayal of Leeds, language and love.”

Writer of Ode to Leeds, Zodwa Nyoni, said: “Having a platform where you feel safe enough to express yourself is vital for young people. When I was 17, Leeds Young Authors was that platform for me.

From there, I moved into theatre, exploring writing in a different form. My first full length play, Boi Boi is Dead won the Channel 4 Playwright’s Scheme and I was made Writer in Residence at West Yorkshire Playhouse in 2014.

Ode to Leeds connects where I began [poetry] with where I am now [theatre]. It’s the story of a group of young people trying to make sense of the world, who find themselves and become the voice of their city.”

In January, West Yorkshire Playhouse held open auditions for poets, spoken word artists, performers, beatboxers and other exciting young artists, to appear in Ode to Leeds.

A range of creative activity in partnership with schools and local spoken word artists is being developed by the Playhouse to support, inspire and offer opportunities for people across Leeds to engage with spoken word poetry.

This includes workshops, activities and talks both for schools and young people across the City, Pop Up Poetry events in Leeds, and a mixture of open mic and professional slam poetry nights at the Playhouse with leading performance poets.

Ode to Leeds will be designed by Lucy Sierra with Movement Direction by Natasha Harrison, Lighting Design by Katharine Williams and Composition and Sound Design by Harry Blake.

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