ENTICING green shoots are springing up around Ilkley. They can be found brightening up the desk in the Library, peeking between the brochures in the tourist office, and resting near tills and information stands in businesses throughout town; and there are vast quantities of them popping up in Ilkley Playhouse.

There’s nothing horticultural about these tokens of Springtime promise though. They are in fact the new green Ilkley Playhouse brochure, burgeoning with entertainment for spring and summer 2019.

Bill Naughton’s classic Spring and Port Wine opens the spring season. Running from March 7th to the 16th, this is the story of the Crompton family, living in a early 1960’s Bolton and led by patriarch Rafe who lives by his high ideals and integrity. His values are unbending, which inflexibility causes personal friction within the family. It’s an oft-studied text, so brilliantly written it bears re-examination.

Returning to Ilkley Playhouse on March 10th are musical humourists Simon Mayor and Hilary James: a fascinating act featuring virtuoso mandolin performances, sensational songs, hot swing fiddle and a good dose of comedy. They’ve been described by Radio 3 as ‘Fantastic to go and see live’, and by the World Service as ‘sheer musical brilliance’.

The live music scene at Ilkley Playhouse has taken off since Theatre Manager Justine Sowden joined the team, especially in the Wildman Studio. Later in March, Laurel Canyon Union will be filling the studio with their tribute to 60s/70s West Coast Americana, playing well-known songs from artists such as Jackson Browne, Neil Young, The Eagles, The Byrds, and James Taylor.

The Playhouse sometimes likes to bring audiences something completely different; the next act in the line-up fits that bill perfectly. Magicians Forster & Smith bring their show Inevitable to the Wildman Studio on March 23rd. Inevitable melds magic, mind reading, suggestion and comedy, and is sure to entertain and delight audiences. The show may not be suitable for under 14s, although the decision to attend is down to the parental discretion.

Fringe productions bring creative and new writing to the Playhouse. Often led by new directors and actors, there is a special, fresh energy around fringe nights, capturing the spark of creativity as it happens. The double-bill of We the Generation and Jess and Joe Forever runs for just three nights, from March 27th. We The Generation comprises contemporary monologues exploring generation millennial, while Jess and Joe Forever is a coming-of-age tale featuring soil, secrets and… mmm… Scotch eggs.

As a local theatre we also like to bring in talent from further afield, forging connections beyond our locale. Not too far beyond our locale, in this case, when our guests are Shipley Little Theatre and their touring production of Gun, three short plays based on stories by one of the world’s greatest dramatists Anton Chekhov.

Stagefright comedy nights run through the Spring/Summer season, filling the Wildman Studio with laughter on Saturdays, April 16th, June 22nd and July 27. Strictly for those 16 and over, these showcase great live comedy acts from the UK and occasionally further afield. Future line-ups include Paul Sinha, from Just A Minute, Loose Ends, and Fighting Talk. Also bringing us laughter will be Geoff Norton from The Mash Report and Live At The Apollo, previewing material from his forthcoming Edinburgh Festival show. See our website for more line-up details.

It’s back to classic drama in April, with Ernest Thompson’s On Golden Pond, which runs from April 17th. It’s a touching, warm-hearted comedy drama, meditating on family and mortality, and is familiar to millions from the 1981 Hepburn/Fonda film adaptation. It’s followed in May by Mitch Albom and Jeffrey Hatcher’s Tuesdays with Morrie, the story of a middle-aged man reconnecting with his ageing mentor from 20 years before and revisiting their earlier ‘life lessons’. It’s one of those rare tales that makes the world seem a more profound and meaningful place.

June brings a production of Nell Dunn’s play Steaming, set in the steam room of a Turkish baths in the East End in 1979. It follows six women of varying class and age as they discuss life, sex and men, before achieving a shared sense of purpose when their beloved baths are threatened with closure. Playwright Nell Dunn, best known for the 1960s classic short story collection Up the Junction, portrays women with affection and understanding. Steaming is not to be missed.

Bringing the season to a close in July is Blue Stockings, Jessica Swale’s absorbing play about four spirited young women who are students at Cambridge in 1896. Set at a time when women could (sometimes) study but not graduate, Blue Stockings examines the battle for self-determination against the distractions of falling in love and the realities of class and gender divides. It runs from July 10th to the 20th.

For the latest events please check our website and social media – new information is being constantly added. You can also find out more about hiring any of our spaces, and how a number of local business and community groups are taking advantage of the space and facilities at Ilkley Playhouse.