Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre brings its current season to a close with Peter Whelan’s powerful and poignant drama based on the real-life story of a group of young men from a Lancashire mill town who left their homes and lovers for the trenches of the Somme - The Accrington Pals. This new production directed by James Dacre opens later this month.

At the outbreak of the First World War, in towns across Britain, groups of young men volunteered to form what became know as 'Pals' Battalions'. Tragically, the scale of casualties meant that millions of these friends were never to return.

Whelan’s play is set in Accrington - the smallest town in England to raise a battalion. It tells the story of Tom Hackford who marches off to war with his pals and how a Lancashire community was decimated at a stroke.  Around 1,000 young men left for the front line. In the first ten minutes of action hundreds were killed, leaving their hometown devastated.

Dacre makes his Royal Exchange debut with this production and his recent credits include Shakespeare’s As You Like It at The Globe and Katori Hall’s Olivier Award winning play The Mountaintop at The Trafalgar Studios.

Talking about the play, he said: “Today in a world where, I believe, many of us have forgotten the value of community and the importance of coming together in a time of crisis."

The cast includes Simon Armstrong, Séan Aydon, Sarah Belcher, Rebecca Callard, Brendan Charleson, Laura Elsworthy, Gerard Kearns, Emma Lowndes, Robin Morrissey and Sarah Ridgeway.

The creative team is completed by Jonathan Fensom (design), Charles Balfour (lighting) and Emma Laxton (sound) and The Accrington Pals runs from 17 January - 16 February.