Harrogate Theatre’s new season begins with two productions which are typical of the imagination of its current programming. It’s not easy for regional theatre to remain buoyant in the current financial situation and Harrogate’s solution may best be summed up as collaboration, co-operation and community work.

So Alan Ayckbourn’s Sugar Daddies (running until 9 March) is presented in association with Oldham Coliseum and, in the Studio, God’s Official, Robert Farquhar’s bizarre football comedy (5-16 March), is presented by one of Harrogate Theatre’s associate companies, Reform Theatre Company. Reform Theatre Company then returns on 8 and 9 April with Nick Lane’s Me & Me Dad. An ambitious project by another associate, Thunder Road Theatre Company, is The Count of Monte Cristo (1-11 May), adapted by Polis Loizou, which swashbuckles in the limited space of the Studio before a six-venue tour of single performances and short runs, mostly in Yorkshire: Theatre Royal, Richmond (16 May), Spa, Bridlington (17), Otley Courthouse (18), Carriageworks, Leeds (22-23), Buxton Pavilion (24-25) and the Lantern Theatre, Sheffield (29 -1 June).

The element of community appears in the number of productions by local groups in the Theatre and the Studio, but also two mini-festivals tailored to the needs of Harrogate. Easter Fun! (3-13 April) features five very different shows for children, from Northern Ballet’s Ugly Duckling to Compagnie Animation’s two productions full of “music, puppetry, clowning, movement and sign language”. The third year of Two’s Company (6-8 June) consists of four shows of short duration (20-70 minutes) which “allow you to get up close and personal” to the performers. For example, My Heart is Hitchhiking Down Peachtree St by J. Fergus Evans plays to audiences of six in a specially created space!

A varied programme of touring shows includes Losing the Plot, John Godber’s new play for his own company at Wakefield Theatre Royal (7-11 May) and the National Theatre/Live Theatre production of The Pitmen Painters (15-20 July), Lee Hall’s wonderful dramatisation of William Feaver’s history of the Ashington school of painters which grew out of a WEA art appreciation class. A further example of ingenious planning comes with Agatha Christie’s Go Back for Murder presented by the Agatha Christie Theatre Company on 17-22 June. Nothing unusual about an Agatha Christie thriller on tour, of course, but Harrogate has its own connection with the Christie story, the writer having been found at the Swan Hydropathic Hotel at the end of her infamous 1926 disappearance. So why not double up on the offerings for Christie lovers, with Murder, Marple and Me (31 May) taking a humorous look at Margaret Rutherford (film’s Miss Marple) and her friendship with Dame Agatha?

And the big news for the Autumn is of another collaboration. Last year Northern Broadsides collaborated with Harrogate Theatre on A Government Inspector, a Russian classic in a version by Deborah McAndrew directed by Conrad Nelson. Later this year it’s the turn of another Russian play to receive the McAndrew/Nelson treatment, one with a rather more troubled history, Nikolai Erdman’s The Suicide, written in 1928 and banned by the Soviet authorities.

For further information visit www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk