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Royal Exchange Gold Or Same Old Same Old?

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Manchester’s Royal Exchange has announced the first part of its 2011 season and, worryingly, it looks very like some of its past seasons. Three of the four shows have been at the venue before and the fourth is by Brad Fraser who is becoming the theatre’s go-to guy for new shows. This continues a trend from 2010 when five of the shows were repeats of past productions.

The need to fill seats in times of economic hardship is inevitably going to promote caution and lead the theatre to want to host productions that have been successful in the past . But it also could lead to complacency. It's not as if the Exchange has exhausted all options.

Relatively ‘modern’ playwrights like Stoppard, Griffiths, Bennett and Churchill have been shamefully neglected for years.The use of ‘ classic’ writers need not be limited to the obvious but could be widened to include. say, Webster. And when are they going to do Richard III for pity’s sake?
With the Library Theatre currently operating out of town and the Contact Theatre pursuing increasingly specialist audiences, we need the Exchange to not only keep the standard of local theatre high but also to make sure that it is fresh and interesting. There is the risk of a fine theatre becoming a kind of ‘ Royal Exchange Gold’ and offering up programmes which are of intrinsic value but have been seen many times before.  

- Dave Cunningham

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