‘Anyone can be a politician, even you’

We head to Leeds Playhouse for an unorthodox tale of political awakening with 'Say Yes to Tess'
March 26, 2022

‘Say Yes to Tess’ has touched down at Leeds Playhouse and is whisking Bramhall Rock Void audiences back to a time when we believed 2016 was a bad as it could get.

Tess Seddon’s whirlwind real-life experience of stumbling upon the Yorkshire Party at a conference in London, deciding to research the political movement for a play and then subsequently becoming enthralled in the passion of its membership, is a heart-warming northern tale. Our unlikely heroine ultimately stood as an actual Parliamentary candidate for Leeds North-East in the 2017 General Election and scored over three hundred votes.

In a time when Donald Trump had been recently elected as President of the US and sections of our own media had us believe Jeremy Corbyn was a threat to national security, we were also fighting amongst ourselves as to whether a Soft Brexit was better than a Hard Brexit. It couldn’t get any worse. Right?

Tess’ story sees her moving back to her native Leeds after a hiatus in London and a failed trip to Edinburgh Fringe with a play she had produced. With a relationship on the rocks and stuck in an unpleasant house share situation, Tess does what we’d all probably do (?) – and pop along to her local ‘Yorkshire Party’ meeting. She’s quickly pulled into the chaos of the newly founded party, who are trying to build a manifesto and field a number of candidates, when Theresa May called her Snap General Election.

Suddenly thrust into the spotlight, Tess takes the Yorkshire Party’s passion for people and Yorkshire devolution to the streets, finding friends in unlikely places. With catchy numbers which will particularly resonate if you’re from the North (native or adopted), the whole performance feels…well…Yorkshire.

Ms. Seddon encapsulates the pitfalls and motivations perfectly: “Say Yes to Tess is a story not just about me but about how when I stood it affected everyone around me – from my passive aggressive housemate who never voted in her life to my estranged Labour-voting Dad. It began with me asking “what’s the point in trying to change something so big and messed up?” – and it ended with me realising that the most helpful thing we can do is take part."

Andrew Whitehead plays the excellent northern Dad, while Purvi Parmar, Jamie Noar and Kofi Dennis, flawlessly bring this Harry Blake and Tess Seddon directed story of northern activism to life.

Politics is made accessible by this production, with an abundance of laugh-out-loud moments, contrasting with more solemn monologues shedding light on real issues faced by those across Yorkshire (and the rest of the country).

Breaking away from the suits and seriousness of Westminster, while still raising awareness of damp which hasn’t been addressed by greedy landlords - or the discrepancy between funding for schools in Yorkshire compared to London, Say Yes to Tess really does make you stop and think… is this it?

If Tess is anything to go by in terms of Yorkshire Party candidates, then there is no surprise the political movement was the sixth most voted party in the 2017 General Election and scored over fifty-thousand votes in the 2019 EU elections.

A must-see if you struggle to get excited by park and rides, fortnightly bin collections and the state of social care funding.

Tess, and her Yorkshire Party colleagues are a credit to the County for raising the need for a change in the way we govern ourselves while keeping in mind what is important: Our people.

Say Yes to Tess is at Leeds Playhouse from 29 March to 2 April and then goes ‘Down South’ to Camden People’s Theatre, London, from 5-16 April. Whatever your motivation, do get along and be part of putting the ‘oo’ in ‘Goole’!


Dan Petch