But whereas the first half of the anniversary year concentrated on revivals of classic dramas from the theatre's past, the second half will concentrate on presenting the "very best of international comedy", with productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream, David Mamet's American Buffalo starring Canadian comedian Mike McShane (pictured), The Marriage of Figaro and the world premiere of a new musical, Sex, Chips and Rock 'N' Roll.
Following on from The Homecoming, Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream opens the spring/summer 2002 season. The new production of the bard's magical comedy of star-crossed lovers is directed by Lucy Bailey, whose recent revival of Tennessee Williams' Baby Doll for the Birmingham Rep transferred to the National Theatre and into the West End. A Midsummer Night's Dream runs from 6 March to 20 April 2002.
Mamet's cult classic American Buffalo continues the schedule, running from 24 April to 18 May 2002. Set in a Chicago junk shop and peopled by small-time crooks and con men, it reveals the underbelly of the American Dream. Comedian Mike McShane (pictured) will play the part of Don in the production directed by the Exchange's artistic director Gregory Hersov.
Third in the line-up is Beaumarchais' The Marriage of Figaro, directed by Helena Kaut Howson and running from 22 May to 22 June 2002. The Count's servant Figaro is arranging the final plans for the wedding to his beloved Suzanne, when he stumbles upon his master's plot to invoke the ancient droit de seigneur. Can Figaro stop the Count or will the virtuous Suzanne be deflowered before her husband lays a hand on her?
The anniversary season concludes with the world premiere of the Manchester-based musical Sex, Chips and Rock 'N' Roll, written by Debbie Horsfield, from an adaptation of her own original six-part television series. Set in 1965, it is the story of 18-year-old twins, Ellie and Arden, whose lives are turned upside down when up-and-coming rock band The Ice Cubes visit Eccles. Sex, Chips and Rock 'N' Roll features music by Mike Moran and is directed by Marianne Elliott. The production, which runs from 26 June to 3 August 2002, is timed to coincide with the Commonwealth Games held in Manchester next summer.
Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre was officially opened by Lord Olivier in the autumn of 1976. Twenty-five years, 224 original productions and one bomb later, the Exchange - described by the Financial Times as the "National Theatre of the North" - is widely regarded as one of the country's most important producing theatres.
- by Terri Paddock