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Top Theatres in Manchester

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by Jenny Scott (subscribe)
I'm an award-winning online writer and journalist.
Published November 11th 2012
Skip London's West End and hit Manchester's theatres
Manchester has more theatres than any other English city outside London. To find out more about Manchester's theatreland, read on.

Manchester Library Theatre's new home
Manchester Library Theatre's new home

Palace Theatre

Manchester Palace Theatre is the city's historic mainstream venue. It's been there for more than a century and, while its shows perhaps don't have the variety of yesteryear (consisting mainly of musicals, comedians and novelty acts), it still pulls in the crowds.

Lowry Theatre

The Lowry is an amazing destination theatre on Salford Quays that attracts big-name productions. Matthew Bourne and War Horse are just two of the famous names on their way. There's also a good mixture of dance, comedy and family shows. If you're on a city break in Manchester, it's worth checking out what's on at the Lowry.

Royal Exchange

If Manchester's theatres were radio stations, the Exchange would be Radio 4. It's the Northern theatre most likely to attract thesps of the calibre of Helen Mirren and Vanessa Redgrave. The stunning building was redone following the IRA Manchester bombing and now contains a theatre, a studio and exhibition space. Its productions are a mixture of famous revivals (Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams) and new writing. It may feel intimidating and a bit highbrow if you're not a regular theatre-goer but prices are reasonable and there are even some free events so give it a go.

Library Theatre

Anyone who's walked past the scaffolding at the Central Library will know changes are afoot. The theatre company, which has performed here since 1952, has now merged with Cornerhouse and is moving to a purpose-built city centre home on the First Street development, called Home, in 2014.

The Heretic, a production by Manchester Library
Photo by Gerry Murray

Until then, if you want to catch the Library Theatre Company, they're doing three productions a year at The Lowry in Salford and elsewhere in Manchester.

Contact Theatre

Contact is theatre by young people, for young people. If you're a budding playwright-to-be or just excited by vibrant new writing, try the Contact. Again, tickets are cheap – that does mean the quality can be a bit hit-and-miss though but, regardless, your evening is likely to be memorable.

Waterside Arts Centre, Sale

This trendy waterside centre hosts a range of touring productions, including comedy and music. Names like Hull Truck and Watershed Productions make regular stop-offs here. You'll find original Christmas shows that make a nice change from panto if you're looking for something family-friendly.

Bolton Octagon, Howell Croft South, Bolton

One of the most famous names in regional rep theatre, the Octagon remains purely drama-focussed and routinely attracts national touring products, as well as making home-grown stuff too. This is the kind of theatre to be treasured.

Oldham Coliseum

Like Bolton, this is another famous name in regional theatre. It intersperses programmes of highly creative drama, from the likes of Alan Ayckbourn and John Godber, with comedy and music gigs. Much of its drama is produced in-house to a superb quality.
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Why? Manchester has an amazing theatre scene.
When: Always
Phone: 0843 208 6010
Where: In and around Manchester
Cost: £4-50
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