Theatre News

Royal Exchange Manchester unveils new season including new musical Bloody Elle and The Mountaintop

The venue reopens next month

The Royal Exchange
The Royal Exchange
© Joel Fildes

The Royal Exchange in Manchester has unveiled its reopening season, commencing next month and marking the first programme for new artistic directors Roy Alexander Weise and Bryony Shanahan.

The season will open with new musical Bloody Elle, written and performed by Layryn Redding. A love story, the piece plays from 23 June to 17 July and is created alongside Rebel Productions. It will also be released digitally, while ticket prices begin at £5.

Two shows will run in rep from 11 September to 30 October – Stuart Slade's Bruntwood Judges Prize-Winning new play Glee & Me, as well as revival of Katori Hall's Olivier Award-winner The Mountaintop.

Commencing on 25 September, Weise will direct a brand-new production of The Mountaintop, which is set on the eve of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. Slade's new play, directed by Nimmo Ismail, follows a teenager who is diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour.

Over Christmas, Debbie Hannan will direct David Greig's musical play '"The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart'', which blends Scottish folk songs with karaoke. It runs from 4 December to 15 January.

Andy Barry will direct Wit and Wisdom, running on 23 and 24 July and created by the theatre's Elders and Young Company. On 23 and 30 October, the venue will collaborate with Liverpool's Everyman and Eclipse Theatre to present Rachel De-Lahay's My White Best Friend – North – which sees actors read letters live for the first time from writers including Lemn Sissay, Cheryl Martin, Yusra Warsama, Nikhil Parmar, Mandla Rae and Samuel Rossiter.

2017 Young Company alumni Anna Berentzen will direct the new company's piece The Survivor's Guide to Living, co-created by Zodwa Nyoni. It runs from 26 to 28 August. Young Company graduates will also curate and perform new piece When This Is Over, directed by Nickie Miles-Wildin in November, to coincide with COP26.

The venue's pop-up space "The Den" will be assembled at Spinners Mill in Leigh, providing a space for two weeks of dynamic performances from both local artists and UK touring companies. It will be up from 4 to 14 August.

The theatre will be fitted out with Julie Hesmondhalgh and Ian Kershaw's curated piece Flight, a community-wide installation that will be housed in the Exchange's Great Hall into 2022. Hannan and Weise will also oversee a programme of DISRVPT events – with further details to be revealed.

Shanahan and Weise said: "It's been a long road getting to this moment but we're so proud to finally announce our first
programme as artistic directors. So much has changed – for us, the world and our theatre. But what hasn't changed is our belief in the essential need for people to gather together in a communal experience and to grapple with what it means to be human and to co-exist.

"Since we closed the theatre, we've asked ourselves what will be needed or wanted by audiences and communities. The truth is, there is no singular answer. Whether its humour, or catharsis, provocation or activism, we knew it had to be rooted in our collective yearning for truth, freedom, authenticity and connection. These epic stories – even in their intimacy – ask some huge questions; and like any good story, can give us the tools again to engage with our real world and all of the
different kinds of people we might find in it."