First Person: Sheffield venues hold up a beacon for theatre

Tsion Habte (Iqra) and Adelayo Adedayo (Muna) in Cuttin' It
Tsion Habte (Iqra) and Adelayo Adedayo (Muna) in Cuttin' It

I have an extreme passion for theatre and performance, with the hope of becoming a professional director. Whenever I asked those in the business for advice they said, ‘Go and see as much theatre as you can.’ So that’s what I did. At the end of last year I challenged myself to see 40 performances.

In January, after encouragement from my drama teacher, I bought a ticket to see Partus, by Sheffield theatre group Third Angel. The verbatim piece focussed on tales of child birth. An immersive, visually exciting experience, it was something I hadn’t witnessed before, and don’t think I will again!

During this year I have travelled to The Lowry in Manchester, the National Theatre and the West End but I can honestly say none of these experiences, despite the fact they were all so good, has given me so much pleasure as the theatre I’ve witnessed at Sheffield Theatres. For me, the Crucible Studio has been home to some of the best pieces I’ve seen this year.

This underrated black-box space is incredibly versatile and I’ve seen the space be adapted to numerous productions. Highlights included Partus, Iphigenia in Splott, a superb retelling of a classical character set against the backdrop of austerity and cuts, plus an emotional and heartfelt new play, Cuttin’ It, created by the Young Vic about the devastating truths of FGM in Britain.

During this play I have never sat in a more diverse audience that really represented the people of our city. I truly felt that Sheffield (along with the Young Vic and the other venues hosting the play) was holding up a beacon for what theatre, often perceived as a very white, middle-class activity, needs to become to survive. Of course one of the highlights for me, and many others, was the Crucible’s Showboat. Sitting in the full auditorium with my grandma - two different generations - made me clearly understand the importance of opening theatre up to everyone.

While you may be thinking this year has cost me an arm and a leg, I can happily confirm that through Sheffield Theatres’ Live for 5 scheme, I have seen almost every production this year for only £5. Available to those aged 16 to 26, this is an amazing opportunity and I would encourage every young person to support their amazing local theatre.