Radio Z in Leeds

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On Friday we had the honour of Tuning Out With Radio Z being the first ever public performance at the new Leeds Met Studio.

The old Leeds Met Studio was great, tiny with a small capacity and low ceiling. What shows would lose through technical compromises made squeezing into the space were made up for by the great atmosphere this intimacy brought with it. The get-in was annoying but this was because the Theatre was in the heart of a university building and thus felt part of the institution’s fabric. Over the years, under the programming guidance of Annie Lloyd, the venue hosted an encyclopaedic list of small-scale contemporary theatre companies. This proud history is set out in two publications called The Dust Archive produced in collaboration with Alex Kelly from Third Angel.

The new Leeds Met Studio is @ Northern Ballet. A new building has sprung up, apparently overnight, as a home to Northern Ballet, Phoenix Dance and 28 days each year, Leeds Met Studio. Positioned yards from the West Yorkshire Playhouse, the Leeds College of Music, BBC Yorkshire, Yorkshire Dance and The Wardrobe Bar, where in 2001 we performed Lurid and Insane as part of Leeds Met’s off-site program, the venue adds to an enviable cultural quarter. Inside everything is very pleasant and sleek. The ground-floor houses a double height public performance space along with reception and a small cafe. In the floors above there is a huge amount of dance rehearsal and office space.

As the first incoming show we were awash with technical support facilitating the snagging of inevitable problems – including a lack of sound monitoring from the stage in the technical box. The team were great and everything in this moderately complicated show was sorted out smoothly. It is a great new facility. The stage space is well equipped and manages that trick of being large but able to keep small things focused. The seating bank is comfortable and, with efficient air-conditioning, audiences feel well catered for.
Mostly the venue does a good job of disguising the fact it is a multipurpose space, used much of the time for ballet rehearsals and set up to also host conferences. The major compromise here is the awkwardly large gap between the stage and front row of the seating bank; like those football stadia with a running track between the stands and the pitch this reduces atmosphere. Jim Harrison, who booked us, suggested cabaret seating in this gap for Radio Z, a good call.

A common complaint about certain hairdressers is that you can tell them exactly the cut you what when you go in but they’ll still always cut your hair the way they want it cut. It seems architects can be much the same. Only one of the windows in the tech box opens and the windows are so high you can’t see the stage without standing up, the dimmer racks are also in the there and noisy – as a result I took all the video kit downstairs to operate from just behind the curtains down stage right, which was great.

Bernadette had the terrifying task of deputising for Amanda and made an impressive job of it and in Amanda’s absence Craig was rock solid. We did the whole load van, drive up, get in, do show, get out, drive back, unload in a day. Arvo added to his impressive set of endurance feats by adding a drive to and from Somerset on ether end of this day.
The only other notable event was that unloading was delayed slightly whilst we waited for the Top Gear presenters and mates spill out of Lasan and moved their massive Land Rovers from in front of loading bay.

REMEMBER, the year’s final performance of Tuning Out With Radio Z is on Thursday, tune in on-line from 19.30.

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