Royal Exchange Theatre, Spring and Summer 2024

Royal Exchange Theatre, Spring and Summer 2024

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Posted 2024-01-09 by David Keyworthfollow

Fri 09 Feb 2024 - Sat 20 Jul 2024


Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre is serving up a mixture of new and classic dramas
in the first half of its programme for 2024, within its historic city centre building, on St Ann's Square.

The new comes in the form of Shed: Exploded View - the £16,000 winner, amongst 2,561 entries, of the 2019 Bruntwood Prize. The drama will receive its world premiere in February. The play, by Phoebe Eclair-Powell, travels all the way from domestic strife to the ’ripping apart of space and time’. The playwright commented: ”With the world on an ever more violent trajectory it feels like it still has something important to say. I am truly grateful to get the chance to say it.”

The title alludes to Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991) by Cornelia Parker, which was exhibited at Manchester’s The Whitworth art gallery in 2015. In keeping with the beautiful chaos of the artwork, the scenes in Eclair-Powell’s play each have their own title, so that, if the director and actors are so minded, they can reorder them to fit their production.

Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View (1991) by Cornelia Parker. Courtesy The Whitworth

Phoebe Eclair-Powell, the daughter of a famous comedian, has Channel 4's Hollyoaks amongst her writing credits.

Sweat by Lynn Nottage is another award winner - this time, the 2017 Pulitzer Prize. The story centres on two friends, facing cuts in both pay and union recognition, in the steel factory where they work. It was first performed at The Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OSF) in 2015. The playwright conducted interviews with residents of the ‘rustbelt’ town of Reading, Pennsylvania, to add extra authenticity to her writing.

Sweat by Lynn Nottage. Courtesy of the Royal Exchange and FEAST


Oscar Wilde’s ’Trivial Comedy for Serious People’ is a theatrical handbag full of delights, which continues to be picked up by producers and rediscovered by new audiences. The Importance of Being Earnest was first performed in February 1895 at the St James's Theatre in London, with Wilde sporting a green carnation, as part of his attire and Rose Leclercq playing Lady Bracknell.

The same year would see Wilde on trial for ‘gross indecency’. In a strange harbinger of what was to come, John Sholto Douglas, 9th Marquess of Queensberry, was excluded from the opening night, after threatening to throw a bouquet of rotten vegetables at Wilde. Lord Alfred Douglas, the son of the Marquess, was Wilde’s lover.

In a new production at the Royal Exchange, the classic text will have a modern filter. Director Josh Roche commented: “He [Wilde] is a writer who constantly balances empathy with satire, reminding us how ridiculous we are, while also understanding our need to feel profound. Wilde’s society of 1893 is disturbingly similar to our own.”

The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde. Courtesy of the Royal Exchange and FEAST


An equally enduring work, set in a very different world to The Importance of Being Earnest, will be served up in the spring. Shelagh Delaney’s slice of 1950’s Salford life, A Taste of Honey, will be directed by Emma Baggott, who said: ”It was one of the first texts I studied as a teenager and has long lived in my head and heart. I have always been inspired by Delaney’s radical and courageous decision to place working class women at the centre of her drama.”

The play was previously performed at the Royal Exchange in 2008, fifty years after its premiere. Helen, the single-mother of teenage mother-to-be, Jo, was played by Sally Lindsay, who had recently portrayed Shelley Unwin in Coronation Street.

The gritty but funny drama is credited with being an inspiration to Tony Warren, when he created the ITV soap opera, in 1960. He had seen the original production of A Taste of Honey at Theatre Royal Stratford East, in 1958.

There will be a ‘Schools Day’ at the Royal Exchange to coincide with the production, including workshops, Q&As and a performance of the show.

Read more about the theatre's community work here including the Young Company and Elders Company and the theatre’s Local Exchange Programme, which is branching out into Rochdale, to develop a community festival, in summer 2024.

The Royal Exchange opened as a theatre in September 1976. The building had originally been a centre of commercial trading during Manchester’s cotton boom. The Royal reference came about after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made an official visit to the city in October 1850 and she gave the building her seal of approval.

The Bruntwood Prize is a joint venture between the Royal Exchange and Manchester-based property company Bruntwood. It has been running since 2005. It is open to anyone aged over 16 who lives in the UK or Ireland.

Last year the theatre staged Bruntwood prize winner Untitled F * ck M * ss S * * gon and, in 2022, it produced Electric Rosary

The Theatre, Royal Exchange Theatre, St Ann's Square, Manchester M2 7DH
0161 833 9833

Shed: Exploded View
By Phoebe Eclair-Powell
9 February - 2 March 2024

A Taste of Honey
By Shelagh Delaney
15 March – 13 April

Sweat
By Lynn Nottage
26 April – 25 May

The Importance of Being Earnest
By Oscar Wilde
14 June – 20 July

Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, Spring/Summer 2024

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274613 - 2024-01-07 14:55:56

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