Theatre News

Royal Exchange Manchester announces 2022 season including Red Velvet and Sarah Frankcom

The venue has released a full year’s worth of plans

Maxine Peake
Maxine Peake
© Royal Exchange

The Royal Exchange in Manchester has unveiled its 2022 season.

Steered by joint artistic directors Roy Alexander Weise and Bryony Shanahan, the season opens with a new production of Stef Smith's Nora: A Doll's House (which had its original run disrupted by the pandemic in 2020). Reimagining Ibsen, Shanahan directs the production which plays from 4 March to 2 April 2022.

After this, Jaz Woodcock-Stewart (Civilisation) will direct 2017 Bruntwood Prize Judges' Award-winning play Electric Rosary by Tim Foley, which features robot nuns and explores belief in a time of rapidly evolving tech. When it picked up the award four years back, judge Russell T Davies said: "I love this play, it's such a radical mix of ancient and modern, old traditions colliding with brand new technology. And for a piece which could sound experimental – it's got a robot nun! – the writing is actually tender, honest and insightful. It's a beautiful examination of faith, no matter what you believe in."

Weise will direct a new revival of Lolita Chakrabarti's award-winning play Red Velvet, based on the life of Ira Aldridge. It plays from 27 May to 25 June 2022.

Atri Banerjee (Harm) will return to the venue to direct a new production of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie, running from 2 September to 8 October.

After this, Shanahan will direct the postponed revival of Jack Thorne's adaptation of Lindqvist's Let the Right One In. The much-loved vampire story plays from 22 October to 19 November.

To round off the year, former artistic director Sarah Frankcom will direct Betty! A Sort of Musical, starring Maxine Peake and Seiriol Davies. The piece celebrates the life of Dewsbury-born Betty Boothroyd, the first female Speaker of the House.

Shanahan and Weise said: "What we love about this programme of work is that it's hard to stick it in a box. We wanted to shape a year that really did have something for everyone, to create as many opportunities as possible for audiences across Greater Manchester to come and experience incredible plays. These productions are a celebration of how expansive and universal theatre can be, how joy and laughter sit right next to gut-wrenching emotion – and the fact that we all get to share this rollercoaster of a journey together can never be underestimated again after the last 18 months.

"We are thrilled to bring a brilliant team of artists together to work on huge, time-honoured stories like Ibsen's Doll's House and Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie and to see what fresh perspectives contemporary artists – Stef Smith, Atri Banerjee, the two of us – can find for today in these epic plays. At the Exchange we have always championed new writing so we cannot wait to bring Tim Foley's Bruntwood play about robots and nuns to the stage, along with a truly original new sort-of musical inspired by Betty Boothroyd, from Maxine, Seiriol and Sarah.

"This programme is about everyone finding something for themselves, it smashes together the old and the new so that we make something fresh that is reflective and relevant to our world today. It is an opportunity for us all to share stories, perspectives and just experience something incredibly special, together. What we all need is a little entertainment, and we hope that the next 12 months at the Exchange will bring just that."

The venue will commit to caring for afro and multitextured hair, with a series of short educational films released in April and created by the Exchange's wigs, hair and make-up lead Joanna Shepstone and consultant hair stylist and co-creator Gege Uboma of The Afro Curly Hair Coach. It's pop-up space, The Den, will also be appearing in Cheetham Hill.

The Bruntwood Prize will also return from January 2022.

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