Sheffield is a hugely vibrant place for the arts, a wild scene for live music, film, literature and of course, theatre. In the centre of the city, our most famous theatres are situated in Tudor Square – namely ‘The Crucible’ and ‘The Lyceum’. With Sheffield having the largest theatre complex outside of London, the theatres are a huge central part of our art culture! The Crucible and Lyceum could not be more different. The former is a modernised and iconic shining building, hosting modern playwriters work and the World Championship of Snooker (although I do not understand the game whatsoever). The latter is a grand Edwardian palace-like building, the inside shows off with a beautifully ornate ceiling, this theatre hosting the West End Classics and a home for contemporary dance. The theatre scene for me is just extraordinary, it is a communal experience of awe shared between the audience member, backstage crew to the performers on stage. At night, the Crucible illuminates the square with the changing multicoloured lights – there is just a buzz of excitement shared amongst strangers for the show we are about to watch.
I have had the pleasure of visiting the Crucible twice, as part of a first-year module named ‘Reviewing Theatre’, I had the chance to visit a variety of shows across Sheffield to learn how to view and analyse theatre as a critic would. ‘Rutherford and Son’ was the first play I got to watch in the iconicmain auditorium, the stage has a three-side design so the audience curve around the outside – viewing characters that could pop up from passage ways between the stalls. It made the story feel more engrossing, under the starlight lit ceiling, I was amazed at the way the actors told the story so seamlessly and seeing the drama unfold. Plus, I got to see Owen Teale perform-, better known as Ser Alliser Thorne on Game of Thrones– I kept forgetting he was playing Rutherford! Still in the Crucible, they host the smaller ‘Studio’ theatre – I had the pleasure of seeing ‘hang’, a revived debbie tucker green play. It was my favourite theatre production I have seen in Sheffield; the story was poignant, completely shocking and portrayed beautifully by the small cast. This play helped foster my passion for black literature and arts, I would recommend everyone to go and watch it if they can.
In comparison, The Lyceum is a hugely extravagant and showstopping venue. It holds productions that match that feeling with its musical theatre scene. I realise not everyone is a fan of musical theatre, my mom often states, ‘do they really have to sing everything?’. To that all I have to say is yes Jane, they do. And it is magnificent. So admittedly, not all musical theatre is for me – I watched a particularly dire theatre show with my sister. I realised incredibly quickly that I prefer iconic Queen songs to not be tampered with in a dystopian, revolutionary setting. I would love to know if anyone can guess the show title from my extremely vague clues. However, it was massively made up for when I watched ‘Everyone is Talking about Jaime’. The musical follows the story of a high school teenager who follows his dream to become a drag queen, despite the prejudices of his peers. The performance was ecstatic, the audience singing along with the story adorned drag queens galore. What was most special this performance is that it is converted from a real-life documentary of Jaime, a 16-year wannabe drag queen from Sheffield! It was a beautiful experience to have a story told about the very place you are in. The set design had iconic landmarks from around the city, Arctic Monkey’s playing in the interval, and niche jokes about the terrible SuperTram service. It felt so memorable for Sheffield and its Northerners to be celebrated in such an inclusive and explosive fashion. You missed out if you cannot see it and you don’t even know it.
Both offer such a special theatre experience; I hope if you come to Sheffield you take the time to visit our fantastic theatre scene.