We take a look at some of the theatre shows which will be taking place at the Royal Exchange Theatre in the Spring and Summer of 2016


A Royal Exchange Theatre and National Theatre co-production:
HUSBANDS & SONS By DH Lawrence, adapted by Ben Power
Directed by Marianne Elliott; Design by Bunny Christie
19 February – 19 March

Award-winning director Marianne Elliott returns to the Royal Exchange with her critically acclaimed production of HUSBANDS & SONS with a cast that includes Anne-Marie Duff and Joe Armstrong. A powerful adaptation by National Theatre Deputy Artistic Director Ben Power, this major co-production with the National Theatre evokes a now-vanished world of manual labour and working class pride. HUSBANDS & SONS runs from 19 February – 19 March.

The village of Eastwood sits in the shadow of the great Brinsley pit. Its women are wives, mothers and daughters trying to hold their families and their own souls together.

Interweaving three of Lawrence’s greatest dramas (The Daughter-in-Law, A collier’s Friday night and The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd), Husbands and Sons introduces us to the now-vanished world in which he grew up. A community built on manual labour, working class pride and fierce tenderness.

“This is a story about the uncomplicated identity of men clashing with the trapped, frustrated and aspiring souls of these women. I know the Royal Exchange of old. I trained here if you like! It remains in my mind the greatest space for theatre and I’m extremely excited to be returning” comments Marianne Elliott, Director

Anne-Marie Duff’s work for the National Theatre includes Strange Interlude and Saint Joan(for which she won Best Actress at the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards 2008 and was nominated for an Olivier); television appearances include the title role in Elizabeth the Virgin Queen and Shameless. Anne-Marie Duff appears in the feature film Suffragettes by Abi Morgan.

Marianne Elliott’s work includes The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (winner of seven Olivier Awards including Best Director and five Tony Awards including Best Director), Saint Joan with Anne-Marie Duff (Olivier Award for Best Revival, South Bank Show Award for Theatre), and War Horse (co-directed with Tom Morris, winning a Tony Award for Best Direction of a Play).


A Royal Exchange Theatre and Talawa Theatre Company co-production in association with Birmingham Repertory Theatre
KING LEAR By William Shakespeare
Directed by Michael Buffong; Design by Signe Beckmann
1 April – 7 May

Following their ground-breaking and critically acclaimed co-production of All My Sons in 2013, the Royal Exchange Theatre and Talawa Theatre Company once again join forces to present King Lear, in association with Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Talawa Artistic Director, Michael Buffong, directs acclaimed stage and screen actor Don Warrington in one of Shakespeare’s most iconic roles. The production opens at the Exchange from 1 April – 7 May before transferring to Birmingham Repertory Theatre.

In an ancient Britain bound by loyalty to the clan and the power of the sword, King Lear decides to give up his crown. As he divides the kingdom between his daughters, family ties disintegrate, order disappears and the land slides into chaos.

Shakespeare’s brutal portrait of one man’s unwinding sanity takes us from the heart of power to the cold and barren world of the outsider. It pitches Lear against his children, against nature and against the universe itself.

Michael Buffong, Direct, observes “This is an epic story of extremes in which families fight, tear each other apart and are pitted against the elements. It takes us back to an old world that’s searching for answers to questions about our very existence.”

Don Warrington is an award winning actor who can currently be seen in the BBCs hugely successful series Death in Paradise. Other credits include The Crouches, Man Child (BBC) and Rising Damp, for the stage All My Sons (Royal Exchange & Talawa), A Statement of Regret and The Mysteries (National Theatre) and Elmina’s Kitchen (Birmingham Repertory Theatre / West End).

Michael Buffong’s credits at Talawa include God’s Property with Soho Theatre and the Albany and The Serpent’s Tooth with the Almeida Theatre. Further credits include Moon on a Rainbow, Shawl (National Theatre) and for the Royal Exchange Manchester Six Degrees of Separation, All The Ordinary Angels, Private Lives and the multi-award winning A Raisin in the Sun.


A Royal Exchange Theatre World Premiere
THE NIGHT WATCH By Sarah Waters, adapted by Hattie Naylor
Directed by Sarah Frankcom; Designed by Anna Fleischle
19 May – 18 June

Sarah Waters’ stunning novel The Night Watch is adapted for the stage for the first time for the Royal Exchange Theatre by Olivier-nominated playwright Hattie Naylor. Shortlisted for the Orange Prize and the Man Booker Prize, this thrilling and evocative story of illicit love and everyday heroism is directed by Exchange Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom. This World Premiere opens on 19 May and runs until 18 June.

It’s the late 1940s. Calm has returned to London and five people are recovering from the chaos of war. In scenes set in a quiet dating agency, a drab cinema and a prison cell, the stories of these five lives begin to intertwine, and we uncover the desire and regret that has bound them together.

“I am a massive fan of Sarah Waters’ writing. Her books mine for hidden truths about the past and shake up our preconceptions about how we used to live. We are turning Sarah’s dazzling experiment in narrative structure into a piece of theatre that asks audiences to reconsider their own history” says Sarah Frankcom, Director

Sarah Waters is a multi-award-winning writer, she has written six novels including: Tipping The Velvet (1998), Affinity (1999), Fingersmith (2002), The Night Watch (2006), The Little Stranger (2009), The Paying Guests (2014). Adaptations of her work include Tipping The Velvet (multi-award-winning, BAFTA nominated) by Sally Head Productions for BBC; Fingersmith (BAFTA nominated) by Sally Head Productions for BBC; Affinity (several awards worldwide) by Box TV for ITV; The Night Watch for BBC.

Sarah Frankcom’s most recent credits for the Exchange include the critically acclaimed The Skriker and Hamlet, both with BAFTA nominated actor Maxine Peake in the title role.


A Royal Exchange Theatre World Premiere
THE MIGHTY WALZER By Howard Jacobson, adapted by Simon Bent
Directed by Jonathan Humphreys; Designed by James Cotterill
30 June – 30 July

Man Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson’s The Mighty Walzer is brought to the stage for the first time in this hilarious new adaptation by Simon Bent. Directed by Jonathan Humphreys this homage to the Manchester of Jacobson’s youth and the ping pong table is full of adolescent passion and his iconic wit. The production will have its World Premiere on 30 June and run at the Exchange until 30 July.

Oliver Walzer is shy, bookish, Jewish. He doesn’t know how to talk to girls. But he can slice, flick and volley a ping pong ball better than any teenager in Manchester. When Sheeny Waxman takes him under his wing on the Akiva Social Club Table Tennis team, Oliver channels his frustrated adolescent lust into the game he loves. That is until the heart-breaking Lorna Peachley and the prospect of a place at Cambridge take his eye off the ball.

“When I first read The Mighty Walzer I had tears of laughter running down my face in the first 10 minutes. It’s a massive privilege to bring Howard Jacobson’s Manchester masterpiece to the stage. It will be a deeply eccentric and highly theatrical comedy about the savage reality of adolescence, sex and ping pong!”  – Jonathan Humphreys, Director

Howard Jacobson is an award-winning writer and broadcaster who was born in Manchester, brought up in Prestwich and educated at Stand Grammar School, Whitefield. His books include The Might Walzer (1999) which won the inaugural Everyman Bollinger Wodehouse Prize for comic writing; Kalooki Nights (2006) and The Finkler Question (2010) winner of the Man Booker Prize. His most recent novel, J, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014.

Jonathan Humphreys was awarded the Regional Young Theatre Director bursary in 2010 to Sheffield Theatres where his work has received widespread critical acclaim and his production of Beckett’s Happy Days won a TMA award. Other recent work includes: Romeo and Juliet, Boeing Boeing, The Village Bike (Sheffield Theatres); Krapp’s Last Tape, Spoonface Steinberg (Hull Truck); Mojo Mickybo (Trafalgar Studios); Moscow Live(Hightide).


A Royal Exchange Theatre World Premiere
LITTLE SISTER Created by Mark Storor in collaboration with The Company
4-7 August

Mark Storor is an award-winning artist who works in the space between live art and theatre. His work is devised, often site-specific and always collaborative. Mark has been working closely with communities across Manchester for 12 months to develop Little Sister, participants will come together with professional performers on the making of this extraordinary show.

Little Sister cannot speak. For seven years he hasn’t uttered a sound. If he does, he’s been warned. Something terrible is bound to happen. Deeply rooted in real life experience and loosely based on a fairy tale, The Twelve Wild Swans from the Brothers Grimm, this unique project explores silence and survival. The suffering. The sacrifice. The aftermath. The love.

Little Sister gives voice to those we all too often choose not to hear, with theatremaker Mark Storor observing  “The fairy tale is the spine, a delicate thread upon which to hang the flesh and blood of the authentic true stories of men and women we have worked with. Fairy tales offer us portals into the darker yet nonetheless human aspects of our existence, a throat from which the unthinkable, the inexpressible, the monstrous, can be heard.”

Mark Storor’s recent work includes the TMA Award winning For The Best, The Fat Girl Gets A Haircut, Puffball, The Barometer of My Heart.



A Royal Exchange Theatre World Premiere
NOTHING By Janne Teller, adapted by Amanda Dalton
Directed by Bryony Shanahan; Created by the Royal Exchange Young Company
14 – 17 April

Controversial novel Nothing, by Danish author Janne Teller, is adapted for the Royal Exchange by playwright, poet and Exchange Director of Engagement Amanda Dalton. Written in 2000 and translated in 2010, the existential Nothing caused widespread controversy in its native Denmark, receiving great critical acclaim, winning numerous awards, and simultaneously being banned in many schools and libraries. Created by the Royal Exchange Young Company with director Bryony Shanahan.

When teenager Pierre Anthon cheerfully announces that nothing in life has meaning, his friends decide to prove him wrong. Fearful he might, in fact, be right, their desperate actions spiral out of control and lead to terrifying consequences

Following the sell-out success of Brink, the Royal Exchange Theatre Young Company returns in collaboration with director Bryony Shanahan and writer Amanda Dalton. This brand new adaptation of Janne Teller’s powerful story is a UK stage premiere.

Janne Teller is a Danish novelist of Austrian-German background. Her literature also includes essays and short stories, she has received numerous literary awards and her work has been translated into more than 25 languages. Always confronting the larger philosophical questions of life and modern civilization, her books often spark controversial debate.

Amanda Dalton is a playwright and poet. Her previous work for the Royal Exchange includes Powder Monkey (2011) and Dogboy and adaptations of the work of David Almond (Secret Heart) and Jackie Kay (Strawgirl). She also works as the theatre’s Director of Engagement.

Bryony Shanahan returns to the Royal Exchange following her work with Sarah Frankcom on The Skriker. Other credits include Weald, Boys Will be Boys, Operation Crucible, Bitch Boxer, Quiet Violence, MacBeth, Chapel Street, You and Me, The Altitude Brothers and Doctor Faustus.


A Royal Exchange Theatre and Sherman Cymru co-production World Premiere
BIRD By Katherine Chandler
Directed by Rachel O’Riordan
8 – 25 June

Winner of a Judges Award in the 2013 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, this is the World Premiere of BIRD a stunningly poetic new play by Welsh playwright Katherine Chandler. Directed by Sherman Cymru’s Artistic Director Rachel O’Riordan this story of unstoppable friendship will open in The Studio from 8 – 25 June.

Ava and Tash are up on a cliff. Looking out at the flocking birds. And at their future. On the cusp of adulthood and leaving the care home they’ve always known, the friends test their freedoms and practise living in the world. Ava confronts the mother she left behind. Tash looks for a home. And both girls live dangerously with the men who surround them.

Raw, delicate and bold. This is a story about growing up outside a family but inside the fiercest of friendships.

“I’m fascinated by how people cope with the challenges and changes in life without the basic foundations of love and family. Bird explores the absence of those two things and the impact they might have on us. But it’s essentially a story about friendship and love, found against the odds.” Katherine Chandler, Playwright

Katherine Chandler is a Welsh playwright and screenwriter. Her play Before It Rains won the Writers Guild Playwright award at the Theatre Critics of Wales Awards.  Katherine also won the BBC and National Theatre Wales inaugural Wales Drama Award. Katherine is Playwright in Residence at Sherman Cymru and has written their current Christmas show for Under 7s, The Princess and The Pea.

Rachel is the Artistic Director of the Sherman Theatre, for whom she has directed Iphigenia in Splott (winner of Best New Play at the UK Theatre Awards 2015), A Doll’s House, Romeo & Juliet, Arabian Nights and Sherman Cymru’s co-production with Òran Mór A Play, A Pie and A Pint: Leviathan. Before joining the Sherman, she was Artistic Director at Perth Theatre where work included: Macbeth (Perth/Tron); The Seafarer (Perth/Lyric); The Odd Couple (Female Version).

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