I’m a freelance journalist and published poet, based in Manchester.
Out of the Dark and into the Spotlight
As the curtain rises on 2018 and the pantomime season draws to an end, it is a good time to look ahead at what Manchester's theatres have lined up for the new year.
Here is a personal pick of what is waiting in the wings for 2018:
Situated between the Whitworth Art Gallery and university buildings, Contact has been awarded £3.85 million by Arts Council England. It has secured additional funding from Manchester City Council and Bruntwood and help in kind from Manchester University, Foyle Foundation, the Granada Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation and the Oglesby Charitable Trust.
Whilst Contact's Oxford Road home spends the next two years undergoing a major expansion and refurbishment, Contact's team will move into a temporary home nearby and hold events and festivals in new locations.
Having opened the theatrical side of its theatrical life in 2015 with The Funfair, Manchester's £25 million centre for the arts, continues its theme of politically engaged, stimulating and challenging drama, under the direction of artistic director for theatre, Walter Meierjohann
It's 200 years since Mary Shelley's novel was published but the story of a scientist who creates a monster is more topical than ever. In 2018, we are constantly being warned that 'the robots are taking over'. The Royal Exchange production in March and April, is an adaptation of the novel by April de Angelis, and will be directed by Matthew Xia.
It will be interesting to compare and contrast it with the adaptation by Nick Dear, which Danny Boyle directed at the National Theatre in 2011, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller. It might also renew interest in the Hollywood film Frankenstein (1931), which featured Boris Karloff as the monster.
The studio at the Royal Exchange will stage a sweet and sour tale. Helen Tse is part of the enterprising family who own the Sweet Mandarin restaurant in Manchester's Northern Quarter.
Her bestselling novel of explosive family secrets has been adapted for the theatre by In-Sook Chappell. The story travels from the poverty of village life in mainland China, to newly prosperous 1930s Hong Kong and finally to the UK.
The Dreams of Lily Kwok at the Royal Exchange in April
A minority government is dependant on the votes of Northern Irish MPs for its survival. James Graham's play is not inspired by Theresa May's current administration but rather on the 1974 - 1979 Labour government, which clung to power before losing a vote of confidence in the House of Commons.
This House was premiered at London's National Theatre in 2012 and received its West End debut at the Garrick Theatre on 19 November 2016. It was also screened in cinemas worldwide as part of National Theatre Live in 2013.
In addition to the Lowry, the 2018 tour of This House includes Theatre Royal Bath, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Nottingham Theatre Royal, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Theatre Royal, Plymouth, Norwich Theatre Royal, Malvern Theatres, Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford, Lyceum Theatre, and Sheffield.
Stephen Adley Giurgis play is set in Rikers Island, New York's top-security prison. It is another drama coming on its way to Manchester, which began its life in the Big Apple. - in this case off-Broadway, in Labyrinth Theater Company, in 2000. It was nominated for the Olivier Award, Best New Play for 2003.
Stephen Adley Giurgis other plays include The Mother f*****r With The Hat and The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot.
Jesus Hopped The 'A' Train by Stephen Adley Giurgis, at HOME in May
Having played the glamorous and vulnerable Blanche Du Bois at the Royal Exchange in Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire, Maxine Peake returns in a different kind of twentieth century classic.
Maxine Peake, who is Associate Artist at the Royal Exchange, will play Winnie in Samuel Beckett's Happy Days. Winnie is literally sinking deeper into the ground, whilst she continues to expound on the trivialities of life, with her husband Willie (who is in a cave).
Beckett's stage directions state that Winnie is "about fifty, well-preserved", despite being "embedded up to her waist in exact centre of mound."
The play was first performed in New York in September 1961. The Royal Court Theatre production in 1979, was directed by Beckett himself, with Billie Whitelaw (1932 - 2014) as Winnie.
Happy Days will see Maxine Peake reunited with Sarah Frankcom, who directed her in A Streetcar Named Desire, The Skriker and Hamlet.
2018 will be a another busy year at the Royal Exchange for Maxine Peake, as her own play Queens of the Coal Age will be staged in June and July.