Under Sarah Frankcom’s Artistic Directorship the Royal Exchange Theatre has been redefined, reimagined and reframed. It has explored classic texts in new and radical ways, celebrated the vitality and significance of new writing, embraced new ways to talk to audiences and engage communities and supported theatre makers to challenge their own practice.
This Autumn/Winter season celebrates her tenure which comes to an end in October, it brings together elements of her work and embraces a strong female narrative throughout. The season opens with MACBETH in which Lucy Ellinson takes on the title role, Sarah directs LIGHT FALLS a new play from long-time collaborator Simon Stephens with original music by Jarvis Cocker. Emily Brontë’s WUTHERING HEIGHTS is stripped back to its essence in a radical version of this classic novel directed by Associate Artistic Director Bryony Shanahan and Director Jo Davies explores the complex mother/daughter relationship in GYPSY. Associate Artists RashDash and former Resident Director Nickie Miles-Wildin make new work for the Studio and a unique 24 hour long free performance sees the theatre remain open all night on Remembrance Sunday.
• Dark, dangerous and action-packed this contemporary version of MACBETH, from Director Christopher Haydon, pulls the audience into the unsettling world of Macbeth as her desire and lust for power become all consuming. Lucy Ellinson takes on the title role in this highly-charged political thriller where individual aspiration spirals out of control with violent, bloody and devastating consequences for all. She is joined by Ony Uhiara as Lady Macbeth. The production runs in the Theatre from 13 September until 19 October.
• LIGHT FALLS reunites Sarah Frankcom and award-winning playwright Simon Stephens for her final production as Royal Exchange Theatre Artistic Director. In this extraordinary new play a family is drawn back together following a single, devastating and unpredictable event. An intricate observation of people and places LIGHT FALLS is a powerful allegory to the North. This production features original music by Jarvis Cocker and can been seen in the Theatre from 24 October – 16 November.
• Acclaimed Writer and Director Neil Bartlett is using the words of a hundred contemporary peace workers to create a marathon artwork entitled 24 HOURS OF PEACE – a twenty-four-hour-long performance dedicated to the work of peace taking place on Remembrance Sunday (10 November 2019). This unique event begins at 11am with the performers and audience joining together for two minutes of silence. This moment marks the 100th anniversary of the very first Remembrance Sunday silence, the performance continues uninterrupted for a whole day and night. The event is free and will be broadcast live on national radio station Resonance FM.
• Following her acclaimed production of TWELFTH NIGHT Director Jo Davies returns to the Royal Exchange at Christmas with GYPSY, a Broadway smash-hit that celebrates the highest-highs and the lowest-lows of show business. Momma Rose puts everything she has into her girls, her desire, her grit and her frustrated ambition, stopping at nothing to make her daughters the star she never was. The production follows hot on the heels of the Christmas smash-hits GUYS AND DOLLS and THE PRODUCERS. It opens on 30 November and runs until 25 January 2020.
• Associate Artistic Director Bryony Shanahan and Bruntwood Prize winning writer Andrew Sheridan explore the extraordinary imagination of Emily Brontë in a gripping new adaptation of WUTHERING HEIGHTS. This startling novel unleashes a love that is raw and uncontained, visceral, brutal and all-consuming. As unpredictable as the moors Cathy and Heathcliff are seen afresh in this bold and powerful production. The show will run in the Theatre from 7 February – 7 March 2020.
• Following their sold-out smash-hit THREE SISTERS RashDash return to the Studio with their latest show OH MOTHER, where alongside their own mums they explore Motherhood. There will be songs. There will be dancing. There will be breastfeeding. The show runs from 26 September – 12 October in the Studio.
• Charlene James’ award-winning CUTTIN’ IT will have a new production in the Exchange’s Studio directed by former Royal Exchange Assistant Director Nickie Miles-Wildin. This urgent and sharply funny play follows Muna and Iqra – two teenage girls, both born in Somalia, both living in Manchester, both hiding a traumatic secret. Exploring the physical and mental impact of FGM in the UK this stunning contemporary play runs from 9 January – 1 February 2020.
• Throughout the Autumn, the Exchange is also developing several major new commissions for 2020 and beyond continuing its commitment to supporting a wide range of voices making work for the main stage. Commissions in development include: ROCKETS AND BLUE LIGHTS by Winsome Pinnock, which recently won the Alfred Fagon Award, the leading award for Black British playwrights; a new play by Zodwa Nyoni about the 1945 Pan-African National Congress in Manchester, co-commissioned with Talawa Theatre Company; and a new musical being developed by Maxine Peake and Seiriol Davies. In addition, Testament joins us as Channel 4 Playwright in Residence to develop a major new play.
Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom said:
“Simon Stephens was the first writer I commissioned for the Royal Exchange so it seems apt that my final production as Artistic Director should be his richly layered new play about the North. Together we made a journey to northern towns, from Blackpool to Durham, talking and meeting new people on the way. This is the backbone of this new production and I can’t wait for us to get into the rehearsal room. I’m proud of the work we have made and the stories we have told in the last five years here at the Exchange, and this season feels very reflective of that. We have always advocated for the stories of radical and powerful women, celebrated their imaginations and put outstanding female actors, directors and theatre makers centre stage. Supporting new writing remains vital so I’m thrilled that we have two new plays in this season and have exciting commissions from Winsome Pinnock, Zodwa Nyoni and Maxine and Seiriol lined up for 2020. I’m looking forward to sharing all this work with our incredible audiences here at the Exchange."
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