Manchester’s Royal Exchange announces new season of shows

Roy Alexander Weise and Bryony Shanahan, co-artistic directors of Manchester’s Royal Exchange, have today unveiled a new season of shows at the venue.

The theatre reopens on June 23rd with Bloody Elle – A Gig Musical. This world premiere, written and performed by Lauryn Redding, is a one-woman show about falling in love for the first time. The piece is directed by Bryony Shanahan and runs until 17th July.

Moving into the autumn, two shows will run in rep on the main stage. From 11th September, the theatre presents Stuart Slade’s Bruntwood Judges-Prize winning play Glee and Me, directed by Nimmo Ismail. Focusing on a girl diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor, Glee and Me is pitched as a pitch-black, unexpectedly optimistic portrayal of love, friendship and the extraordinary resilience of the human spirit. It runs in the theatre til 30th October.

Playing alongside Glee and Me is a revival of Katori Hall’s Olivier Award-winning play The Mountaintop. Set during the height of the American Civil Rights Movement, the play portrays the eve of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Artistic director Roy Alexander Weise directs the piece which plays from 25th September to 29th October.

Over the Christmas period, the Royal Exchange revives David Greig’s musical folk play The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart. Directed by Debbie Hannan in their Royal Exchange debut, the play sees Scottish folk songs combined with decadent karaoke. Prudencia Hart runs from 4th December to 15th January 2021.

Also across the season, The theatre’s Elders and Young Company come together to create and perform Wit and Wisdom, a new intergenerational production directed by Andy Barry on 23rd and 24th July.

On 23rd and 30th October, the theatre collaborates with Liverpool’s Everyman and Eclipse Theatre to present Rachel De-Lahay’s My White Best Friend – North, featuring writing by Lemn Sissay, Cheryl Martin, Yusra Warsama, Nikhil Parmar, Mandla Rae and Samuel Rossiter.

Julie Hesmondhalgh and Ian Kershaw collaborate on Flight, an interactive community installation remembering the lives, hopes and dreams of those lost to Covid-19. The installation will be housed in the Exchange’s Great Hall into 2022.

Meanwhile, the Young Company presents The Survivor’s Guide to Living from 26th to 28th August; Young Company graduates will curate and perform When This Is Over, a new piece directed by Nickie Miles-Wildin in November; the Local Exchange Company presents The Den in Leigh, a pop-up space in August; and artistic directors Bryony Shanahan and Roy Alexander Weise are also curating a programme of special events titles DISRVPT. Further details are to be revealed.

Roy Alexander Weise and Bryony Shanahan 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.”

“There were moments in the past 12 months when we wondered if the Royal Exchange could survive this. The outpouring of love and support was fuel for us in some of our darkest moments; we are so thankful from the bottom of our hearts. The Royal Exchange Theatre is absolutely and categorically here to stay for future generations of Greater Manchester to enjoy.”

Tickets for the new season go on sale to the public on 27th May. Find out more here.

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