Kicking off the season is the world premiere of Mary Barton, a new adaptation by Rona Munro of Elizabeth Gaskell's classic novel. Set against a backdrop of industrial Manchester in the 1840's, Mary – who wants a better life for herself - is torn between two men when her past and present collide. Directed by associate artistic director Sarah Frankcom, the production runs from 11 September to 14 October 2006 (previews from 6 September).
From industrial 19th-century Manchester to 1920s Chicago, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom by August Wilson, the chronicler of black America who died last year (See News, 3 Oct 2005), tells the story of a recording session with blues legend Ma Rainey, her band members, and the white producer and agent who made themselves wealthy through Rainey's records. American actor Antonio Fargas, best known for his television role of Huggy Bear in the cult 1970s TV series Starsky and Hutch, will make his Royal Exchange debut in the production, which runs from 23 October to 25 November 2006 (previews from 18 October), directed by associate artistic director Jacob Murray.
Anthony Burgess’ adaptation of Edmond Rostand's classic romance, Cyrano de Bergerac, runs from 4 December 2006 to 13th January 2007 (previews from 29 November). In Paris in the year 1640, a brilliant poet and swordsman Cyrano de Bergerac finds himself deeply in love with his beautiful, intellectual cousin Roxane. Despite Cyrano's wit and charisma, one thing stands in the way of him declaring himself to his beloved - his shockingly large nose. Director Greg Hersov and comedy actor Ben Keaton are reunited in the production, after last Christmas' revival of Harvey.
Noel Coward’s The Vortex starts the New Year with dark comedy, featuring emotional blackmail, drug abuse and the "youth vortex of beastliness", observed through the shattered relationship of musician Nicky Lancaster and his sophisticated but vain and vacuous mother Florence. Associate director Jo Combes directs the piece, which runs from 22 January to 24 February 2007 (previews from 17 January).
The Studio at The Royal Exchange Theatre will host the British premiere of Things of Dry Hours by Naomi Wallace, whose previous play Trestle At Pope Lick Creek received critical acclaim last year, as well as the premiere of Dennis Kelly's Love and Money, which will be directed by Oldham-born director Matthew Dunster in a co-production with the Young Vic. Dates for the Studio productions are yet to be confirmed.
Speaking about the season, founding artistic director Braham Murray said: "It has always been the Exchange's policy to express the bewildering, complex wonderment of life through the full spectrum the theatre has to offer. This is one of our richest seasons ever. We celebrate the past but we look forward to the future."
- by Caroline Ansdell