Observations: Are you ready for the full Monte?

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The Independent Culture

From Mikey the Pikey to the Count of Monte Cristo is an unlikely leap but it's one that bright young playwright Joel Horwood has made with ease. The 29-year old is currently working on an adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' classic for West Yorkshire Playhouse, ruthlessly carving the revenge epic up to be played out with just six actors taking on over 30 characters. The production is directed by Alan Lane, artistic director of the Leeds company Slung Low who recently took their vampire promenade show to the underground car park of London's Barbican.

Lane first spotted Horwood at the National Student Drama Festival in 2005 when he premiered his musical Mikey the Pikey, which won a Cameron Mackintosh Award and transferred to Edinburgh. His next play, Food, inspired by the French chef Bernard Loiseau who killed himself at his Michelin-starred peak, won a Fringe First. When Lane was looking for someone to reanimate the Count, Horwood came to mind. "Perhaps he spotted an irreverence and epic sensibility in Mikey the Pikey", ponders Horwood. Certainly Dumas' novel allows the playwright to return to his favourite topics – identity and coming of age – which formed the cornerstones of both his 2008 play, I Caught Crabs in Walberswick and his work on the teen soap Skins.

With Horwood tackling Dumas in Leeds, David Greig taking on Peter Pan in Glasgow (with Black Watch director John Tiffany), Laura Wade (Posh) reimagining Alice in Wonderland in Sheffield and a fresh, pacey Comedy of Errors from ex-Paines Plough director Roxana Silbert in Manchester, there's a breath of irreverent vitality to playhouses in the North this spring. Meanwhile, Horwood has plenty more to come – a new musical about a group of thirtysomethings reforming their school band, which will tour to Latitude and other festivals, a commission from Paines Plough and Liverpool Everyman and an adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's The Blue Lenses for Northampton's Royal and Derngate. One to watch wherever you are, then.

The Count of Monte Cristo, 16 April to 15 May (0113 213 7700; Wyp.org.uk)

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