What’s coming up at the Royal Exchange in Spring and Summer 2018

image of the royal exchange theatre

Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre will play host to a series of plays and stories for a fast changing world over Spring and Summer 2018.

The Spring/Summer 2018 season promises to celebrate great plays and stores which have stood the time of time, reimagining them for the 21st century.  The programme, which opens with a brand-new version of one of the world’s most famous stories, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein adapted by April De Angelis and directed by Royal Exchange Associate Artistic Director Matthew Xia includes work which wrestles with questions of identity, family, gender, hope and resilience and what it takes to be heard in an increasingly complex world.

So, what’s on at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Spring and Summer 2018?

Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre has announced the following productions will take place in the Theatre Space and in the Studio Space:

The Theatre at the Royal Exchange

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Adapted by April de Angelis, Directed by Matthew Xia
A Royal Exchange Theatre production
9 March – 7 April

Mary Shelley’s celebrated Frankenstein reverberates with a new-found sense of purpose 200 years after the novel was originally published, in this brand-new adaption by acclaimed writer April de Angelis. A disturbing story of otherness and alienation, Director Matthew Xia creates chilling parallels between the need to conquer the unknown in 1818 and our modern-day desires to always be in control. This evocative reimagining of Frankenstein features Manchester School of Theatre graduate Shane Zaza (Happy Valley, BBC 1) who leads the ensemble cast. Frankenstein runs in the Theatre from 9 March – 7 April.
April de Angelis is an acclaimed writer whose extensive theatre work includes My Brilliant Friend (Rose Theatre Kingston); After Electra (Theatre Royal Plymouth/ Tricycle Theatre); Rune (New Vic Theatre Stoke 2015); Gastronauts (Royal Court Upstairs) and Jumpy (Royal Court/ Duke of York’s Theatre/ Melbourne / Sydney).
Matthew Xia is Associate Artistic Director at the Royal Exchange, his work there includes the award-winning Wish List by Katherine Soper, Into The Woods for Christmas 2015 and Brink. Other theatre credits include: Blue/Orange, The Sound of Yellow (Young Vic), Sizwe Banzi is Dead (Eclipse Theatre & Young Vic). As a DJ, composer and former BBC 1Xtra broadcaster he has performed as Excalibah across the UK and Europe, including an appearance at the Paralympic Opening Ceremony.  Matthew is a founding member of Act For Change.


The Cherry Orchard by Anton Chekhov, translated by Rory Mullarkey, directed by Michael Boyd
A Royal Exchange Theatre and Bristol Old Vic co-production
19 April – 19 May

Michael Boyd was a trainee director in Moscow at the start of his career and only now directs his first Chekhov The Cherry Orchard in an original, fresh and funny translation by award-winning writer Rory Mullarkey. A startlingly relevant portrait of changing times, The Cherry Orchard maps the building tensions between the desperate longing to hold onto the familiar and the restless lure of the new. Kirsty Bushell (King Lear, Chichester Festival Theatre) and Jude Owusu (Julius Caesar, RSC) lead the ensemble in this vivid new co-production with Bristol Old Vic which runs at the Royal Exchange from 19 April – 19 May following its run in Bristol.
Michael Boyd is an award-winning international director and former Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. In 2012 he was knighted for services to drama. His recent work includes The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures (Hampstead Theatre); Right Now (Traverse Theatre Edinburgh/ Theatre Royal Bath/ Bush Theatre London).
Stockport-born Rory Mullarkey is an award-winning writer (James Tait Black Prize for Drama 2014; The George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright) and recipient of the Royal Court’s Harold Pinter Commission. His work for the Royal Exchange includes the critically acclaimed Cannibals, other work includes The Wolf From The Door (Royal Court) and Each Slow Dusk (Pentabus Theatre). Rory is a translator of Russian and Ukrainian drama, and has translated plays for the Royal Court Theatre, the National Theatre and the Free Theatre of Belarus.


Happy Days by Samuel Beckett, directed by Sarah Frankcom
A Royal Exchange Theatre production
25 May – 23 June

Maxine Peake returns to the Exchange to play Beckett’s enigmatic heroine, Winnie, in his lyrical masterpiece Happy Days. Winnie is static, but the ordinary rituals of the comb, the medicine bottle, and the toothbrush punctuate her day and elevate her existence. She is resilient and hopeful, brandishing her lipstick…and a gun. This life-affirming twentieth century classic is directed by Royal Exchange Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom, reuniting the creative partnership behind the critically acclaimed A Streetcar Named Desire, Hamlet and The Skriker.  Happy Days runs from 25 May – 23 June.
Maxine Peake is an acclaimed actor, writer, and an Associate Artist at the Royal Exchange. Her work here most recently includes A Streetcar Named Desire, Hamlet and The Skriker, all of which were created in partnership with director Sarah Frankcom. Her writing credits include: The Last Testament of Lillian Bilocca; Beryl and Queens of the Coal Age. Film credits include Mike Leigh’s latest film Peterloo, Funny Cow and Fanny Lye Deliver’d, television credits include Three Girls (BBC 1).
Sarah Frankcom is the Artistic Director of the Royal Exchange Theatre. Her recent productions include: Our Town, The Last Testament of Lillian Bilocca (Hull City of Culture); A Streetcar Named Desire, The Skriker (co-commission with MIF15) and Hamlet (all with Maxine Peake), Blindsided, That Day We Sang and the Royal Exchange and MIF13 co-production The Masque of Anarchy.


Queens of the Coal Age by Maxine Peake, Directed by Bryony Shanahan
A Royal Exchange Theatre and New Vic Theatre co-production
28 June – 21 July

Queens of the Coal Age is Associate Artist Maxine Peake’s first play for the Exchange. A passionate and witty dramatisation of the true story of the 1993 occupation of Parkside colliery by four incredible women who demanded to be heard. Anne, Lesley, Elaine and Dot head 80 meters underground, their bras stuffed with wet wipes and nicotine patches, to make a stand for Women Against Pit Closures. Queens of the Coal Age is directed by Bryony Shanahan, this co-production with the New Vic Theatre runs from 28 June – 21 July.
Bryony Shanahan was the 2016 Winner of The Young Vic Genesis Future Director’s Award. Bryony has directed Nothing with Royal Exchange Young Company which won the Manchester Theatre Awards Youth Panel award; she also worked as Associate Director on The Skriker (Royal Exchange Theatre/ Manchester International Festival). Other work includes Salome (Staff Director, National Theatre), Trade (The Young Vic) and Weald (Finborough Theatre/Royal Exchange Theatre).  She is co-Artistic Director of Snuff Box Theatre.


The Studio at the Royal Exchange Theatre

Mountains: The Dreams of Lily Kwok, an Adaptation of Sweet Mandarin by Helen Tse by In-Sook Chappell, Directed by Jennifer Tang
A Royal Exchange Theatre, Yellow Earth and Black Theatre Live co-production
22 March – 7 April

Based on Helen Tse’s bestselling family memoir In-Sook Chappell’s new play Mountains: The Dreams of Lily Kwok tells the remarkable story of the family behind the famous Manchester restaurant Sweet Mandarin. From the streets of Manchester and Hong Kong, we step back though time to uncover the powerful determination of these women in a story that crosses continents and generations. Directed by Jennifer Tang and co-produced by Yellow Earth and Black Theatre Live, the production runs in The Studio from 22 March – 7 April.
In-Sook Chappell was born in South Korea and raised in England. Her first play This Isn’t Romance was produced at the Soho Theatre, broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and presented in Korean at the National Theatre of Korea. Her other plays include: Tales of the Harrow Road (Soho Theatre) and Absence (Young Vic) and P’Yongyang which was shortlisted for the Bruntwood Prize and produced at Finborough Theatre.
Jennifer Tang is an award-winning UK and international theatre-maker and stage director, specializing in making new work across multiple disciplines. Her practice spans new writing, devised work and opera. As director her work includes We Are You (Young Vic, British Museum) Clytemnestra (The Gate, London); Wanted (West Yorkshire Playhouse).


Three Sisters By RashDash
A RashDash Production
3 – 19 May

A brand-new perspective on Anton Chekhov’s classic Three Sisters from performers, musicians, theatre makers and Royal Exchange Associate Artists RashDash. As they reimagine this classic they ask – what if RashDash were the three sisters, Olga, Masha and Irena?
A drawing room. We are going to philosophise our heads off! How should I make the most of being alive in this moment? How should I try to enjoy life whilst also being a good person who makes space for a better future? What is love and where do I find it? What work needs to be done? Why do the men in this play have all the lines? Chekhov. Dead, white man. A classic play. A period drama with surprises.
RashDash is Abbi Greenland, Becky Wilkie and Helen Goalen. They are a company of performers, musicians and makers. Theatre credits include: The Darkest Corners (Transform Festival 2017) and Two Man Show (Soho Theatre – Fringe First Winner 2016, Stage Award for Acting Excellence).

Royal Exchange Theatre image credit University of Salford Press Office/flickr under creative commons licence.