Royal Exchange Theatre Autumn Winter 2019 Season Announcement

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-Wildinmake 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 Ellinsontakes 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.

The Theatre

A Royal Exchange Theatre production


By William Shakespeare
Directed by Christopher Haydon
With Lucy Ellinson

13 September – 19 October 2019
Press Night: Wed 18 September, 7.30pm The Theatre

This contemporary version of Shakespeare’s darkest tragedy MACBETH sees director Christopher Haydon reunited with actor Lucy Ellinson and designer Oliver Townsend following their smash-hit one-woman show GROUNDED. This disturbing thriller sees Macbeth battle with her overwhelming desire for power and asks what happens, when in a split-second you decide to act upon your deepest, darkest ambition? Actor Lucy Ellinson returns to the Exchange following her role in JUBILEE to take on the role of one of drama’s most iconic and violent warriors, she is joined on stage by Ony Uhiara as Lady Macbeth who returns to the Exchange following her lead role in ANNA KARENINA. The production runs from 13 September – 19 October in the Theatre.

Director Christopher Haydon was formerly Artistic Director at the Gate Theatre, where his credits include: DIARY OF A MADMAN (also Traverse Theatre), THE IPHIGENIA QUARTET, THE CHRISTIANS (also Traverse Theatre, winner: Fringe First), GROUNDED (Traverse Theatre, Studio Theatre Washington DC, national and international tour; winner: Fringe First, Best Production – Off West End Awards) IMAGE OF AN UNKNOWN YOUNG WOMAN (winner: Best Production, Off West End Awards), THE EDGE OF OUR BODIES, TROJAN WOMEN, PURPLE HEART, THE PROPHET, WITTENBURG. Last year his European premiere production of ON THE EXHALE by Martin Zimmerman won a Fringe First for its run at the Traverse during the Edinburgh Festival. His production of TRYING IT ON by David Edgar toured the UK with China Plate Theatre, including performances at the RSC in Stratford and the Royal Court.

Lucy Ellinson is a stage performer who makes a welcome return to the Royal Exchange. Her theatre credits include TOP GIRLS (National Theatre), KINGDOM COME and A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (both RSC), THE RESISTIBLE RISE OF ARTURO UI (Donmar Warehouse), JUBILEE (Manchester Royal Exchange & Lyric Theatre Hammersmith), GROUNDED, THE CHRISTIANS (both The Gate & The Traverse), TROJAN WOMEN, DEAR ELIZABETH, TENET (all at The Gate) WORLD FACTORY (New Wolsey & Young Vic), MONEY THE GAME SHOW (The Bush), OH THE HUMANITY! (AND OTHER GOOD INTENTIONS) (Northern Stage & Soho Theatre) and #TORYCORE (Battersea Arts Centre & tour).

Ony Uhiara returns to the Royal Exchange following her lead role in ANNA KARENINA and in the Bruntwood winning THE ROLLING STONE. Her other theatre credits include ALLIGATORS (Hampstead Theatre) GOD BLESS THE CHILD (The Royal Court), EYE OF A NEEDLE, CANNIBALS (Royal Exchange) and IN THE RED AND BROWN WATER (Young Vic). She played the female lead in Peter Kosminsky’s BAFTA nominated THE STATE on Channel 4.

A Royal Exchange Theatre production


By Simon Stephens
Directed by Sarah Frankcom
With original music by Jarvis Cocker

24 October – 16 November 2019
Press Night: Tue 29 October 7.30pm – The Theatre

Royal Exchange Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom and the multi award-winning writer Simon Stephens have taken a journey across the North of England, shaping and developing their latest collaboration, Simon’s newest play LIGHT FALLS. A family finds themselves scattered across the north, each one searching for something to hold on to, to root them to a place, tie them to a person. A woman wakes up with a stranger beside her. A student argues with his lover. A single mother fights to feed her baby. A married man flirts with two younger women and one devastating event will change their lives forever. With original music by Jarvis Cocker LIGHT FALLS runs from 24 October – 16 November in the Theatre.

Simon Stephens’ previous plays at the Royal Exchange include BLINDSIDED, PUNK ROCK and ON THE SHORE OF THE WIDE WORLD (All directed by Sarah Frankcom); FATHERLAND and PORT. His award-winning adaptation THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHTTIME was produced by the National Theatre and visited the Lowry, Salford twice as part of a world tour. His play THE FUNFAIR, opened HOME Theatre. His many other plays have been widely translated and produced throughout the world. He has presented three series of the Royal Court Playwright’s Podcast. His book “A WORKING DIARY” is published by Methuen. Simon Stephens has been an Associate at the Royal Court, London and Steep, Chicago and a board member of Paines Plough. He is a Professor of Scriptwriting at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Sarah Frankcom is the Artistic Director of the Royal Exchange Theatre and the new Director of LAMDA. Her recent productions include: WEST SIDE STORY, DEATH OF A SALESMAN, OUR TOWN (winner of Best Director at the UK Theatre Awards); HAPPY DAYS, THE LAST TESTAMENT OF LILLIAN BILOCCA (Hull City of Culture); A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, THE SKRIKER (co-commission with MIF15) and HAMLET (all with Maxine Peake), BLINDSIDED, THAT DAY WE SANG and the Royal Exchange and MIF13 co-production THE MASQUE OF ANARCHY. Her new production THE NICO PROJECT co-created with Maxine Peake runs at Manchester International Festival this July.

Thomas Carter Projects, in partnership with Royal Exchange Theatre and Resonance FM


Created and Directed by Neil Bartlett
Sunday 10 November – The Theatre and live on Resonance FM

Every year, the two-minute silence on Remembrance Sunday asks us all to look back, but it also asks us to look forward. The word ‘peace’ is often mentioned on the day – but what does that word mean to us now, one hundred years after the two-minute silence was first observed? To create this unique performance, acclaimed writer and director Neil Bartlett has been carrying out interviews with one hundred contemporary peace-workers, from an 84-year-old Greenham Common veteran to a young volunteer recently returned from a Syrian refugee camp; from a trans activist to an imam; from an ex-sniper who served in Afghanistan to an IRA bomb survivor- all of people committed to trying to turn the word peace from an ideal into a reality. To create the text of 24 HOURS OF PEACE Neil will edit the transcripts from his interviews into a single, marathon monologue; this will then be delivered live in the theatre and simultaneously broadcast live on Resonance FM. The company of 48 performers working on this remarkable project will feature members from Greater Manchester’s diverse communities as well as outstanding professional performers; Toby JonesAdjoa AndohDon WarringtonMiranda Richardson andJulie Hesmondhalgh have all said they will participate (subject to their availability) on the day. It will take place on Remembrance Sunday, starting at 11 am on November 10th and finishing at 11 am on the Monday 11th; the doors of the theatre will stay open for whole 24 hours, and the event will be free.

Neil Bartlett is a leading UK theatre director, who has worked for the National Theatre, the Royal Court and more; plus ten years as Artistic Director of Lyric Hammersmith. In 2014, he created LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN SOLDIER for 1418 NOW, which involved over 22 thousand members of the public – schoolchildren, pensioners and politicians – in creating an online war memorial made up of personal letters written to the dead of WW1. 24 HOURS OF PEACE will be his 3rd show at the Royal Exchange following THE PIANIST (MIF 2007, MEN award) and EVERYBODY LOVES A WINNER (MIF 2009).

A Royal Exchange Theatre production


A Musical Fable
Book by Arthur Laurents, Music by Jule Styne, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Suggested by memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee
Original production by David Merrick & Leland Hayward
Entire production originally directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins
Directed by Jo Davies

30 November 2019 – 25 January 2020
Press Night: Thurs 5 December 7.30pm – The Theatre

Building on the success of redefining Broadway musicals for the Exchange’s unique in-the-round theatre GYPSY is the latest smash-hit to take centre stage. Director Jo Davies returns to the Royal Exchange following her lavish production of TWELFTH NIGHT to explore the wonderful world of show-business through the tour-de-force that is Momma Rose. Choosing the bright lights of the stage over putting her girls though school, Momma Rose is resolute in her desire to see her daughters realise her dreams of stardom and adoration. But how are these young women shaped by her actions, what is passed down from generation to generation, and what new opportunities are afforded to one but denied to another? An extraordinary musical, GYPSY can be seen in the theatre from 30 November 2019 – 25 January 2020.

Jo Davies is an international theatre and opera Director. Her most recent work includes THE FANTASTIC FOLLIES OF MRS RICH (Royal Shakespeare Company), CARMEN (Welsh National Opera), DON CARLO (Grange Park Opera) and THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO (Opera North / Tour). Other work includes THE ROARING GIRL (Royal Shakespeare Company), TWELFTH NIGHT (Royal Exchange) KISS ME KATE (Opera North / London Coliseum), OKLAHOMA (Grange Park Opera) and CAROUSEL (Barbican/ Chatalet Theatre Paris).

A Royal Exchange Theatre production


By Emily Brontë
In a new version by Andrew Sheridan
Directed by Bryony Shanahan

7 February – 7 March 2020
Press Night: Wed 12 February 7.30pm – The Theatre

A sharp new version of Emily Brontë’s remarkable novel WUTHERING HEIGHTS will be created for the Exchange’s unique theatre by Associate Artistic Director Bryony Shanahan and writer Andrew Sheridan. Created with an ensemble of actors and musicians this contemporary production explores the extraordinary twists and turns in Brontë’s exhilarating narrative and astonishing imagination. A ferocious exploration of passion and desire, Cathy and Heathcliff’s love finds a visceral and vicious, physical and poetic, tender and true connection in this new production. WUTHERING HEIGHTS runs in the theatre from 7 February – 7 March 2020.

Andrew Sheridan trained as an actor at Rose Bruford and has performed extensively in award-winning theatre, TV and film. Andrew’s debut play WINTERLONG won the 2008 Bruntwood Playwriting Competition. The play opened at the Royal Exchange, directed by Sarah Frankcom before transferring to Soho Theatre, London. WINTERLONG has been translated and performed across Europe to critical acclaim. Andrew’s play HOPE, LIGHT & NOWHERE was produced at the 2013 Edinburgh Festival and in 2014 he was the recipient of the Tom Erhardt Award for emerging writers. Andrew’s work gains notoriety and prestige in Scandinavia and he has been under commissioned by Stockholm’s Stadsteater and has written PAULDING LIGHT which was shortlisted for the 2018 Nick Darke Award. He has also nurtured a close collaborative relationship with Monkeywood Theatre company. His play THE GOOD, THE BAD, And THE GIGGSY was one of 4 plays celebrating Manchester’s rich and historic footballing rivalry between the mighty Manchester United and their imitators Manchester City which was performed at The Lowry Theatre. His play BLUE was performed at Hope Mill Theatre in 2019.

Bryony Shanahan is Associate Artistic Director at the Royal Exchange. In 2016 she won the Genesis Future Directors award and directed TRADE at the Young Vic. Directing includes QUEENS OF THE COAL AGE (Royal Exchange), CHICKEN SOUP (Sheffield Crucible); OPERATION CRUCIBLE (Finborough Theatre, Sheffield Crucible/UK tour/59e59 New York); WEALD (Finborough Theatre); NOTHING (Royal Exchange, winner of Manchester Theatre Award); BITCH BOXER (Soho Theatre/national tour/Adelaide Fringe Festival); BOYS WILL BE BOYS (Women Centre Stage, National Theatre); CHAPEL STREET (National Tour) and YOU AND ME (Greenwich Theatre/National Tour).

The Studio

A RashDash and Royal Exchange Theatre production co-commissioned by Soho Theatre


Developed by Rashdash

26 September – 12 October 2019
Press night: Tuesday 1 October 7.30pm – The Studio

Royal Exchange Associate Artists RashDash return to Manchester following last year’s hugely successful take on Chekhov’s THREE SISTERS to make their second show in co-production with the Theatre. OH MOTHER is a show they are making with and for their mums, and with a six-month-old on the hip. In it they explore motherhood and everything that it brings with it or leaves behind. RashDash are making OH MOTHER because people keep telling them time is running out. There will be songs. There will be dancing. There will be breastfeeding.

RASHDASH is Abbi Greenland, Becky Wilkie and Helen Goalen. They are a company of performers, musicians and makers and an associate company of the Royal Exchange Theatre. Their work includes THREE SISTERS (co-production with Royal Exchange Theatre, co-commissioned by The Yard, Tobacco Factory Theatres, The Old Vic, MAYK and Cambridge Junction), THE DARKEST CORNERS (Transform Festival 2017), TWO MAN SHOW (Northern Stage and Soho Theatre, Edinburgh Fringe First Winner 2016, Stage Award for Acting Excellence, shortlisted for an Off West End Award), SNOW WHITE & ROSE RED (Cambridge Junction and Battersea Arts Centre), WE WANT YOU TO WATCH (by RashDash and Alice Birch, National Theatre and UK Tour), OH, I CAN’T BE BOTHERED (Soho Theatre, shortlisted for an Off West End Award), THE UGLY SISTERS (Edinburgh Festival, shortlisted for the Total Theatre Award for Experimentation and Innovation), DARK WOODS DEEP SNOW (Northern Stage) THE FRENZY & SET FIRE TO EVERYTHING!!! (Lyric Hammersmith, GDIF, Imagine Watford and Latitude), THE TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA (The Royal and Derngate), SCARY GORGEOUS (Edinburgh Fringe First Award winner 2011), ANOTHER SOMEONE (Fringe First award winner 2010), and THE HONEYMOON.

A Royal Exchange Theatre production


By Charlene James
Directed by Nickie Miles-Wildin

9 January – 1 February 2020
Press night: Monday 13 January 7.30pm – The Studio

A critically acclaimed hit in 2016, Charlene James’ powerful play CUTTIN’ IT about the harrowing physical and emotional impact of FGM receives a new production at the Royal Exchange from director Nicki Miles-Wildin. Sharply funny and deeply profound this award-winning play tells the story of teenagers Muna, popular and funny, and Iqra quiet and too old for her hand-me-down Hello Kitty bag. A cautious glance on a bus leads to a moment of unmistakable recognition – a painful secret ties these two Somali girls together and then rips them apart as ideas of tradition and ritual clash in a makeshift waiting room reeking of Dettol and stale blood. Nickie returns to the Exchange following her 18month residency as an Assistant Director with this incredible contemporary drama. The production runs in the Studio from 9 January – 1 February 2020.

Nickie Miles-Wildin is Associate Director at Graeae Theatre Company. Previously she was Resident Assistant Director at the Royal Exchange Theatre as part of the Regional Theatre Young Directors Scheme. Directing credits include: THE FOREST OF FORGOTTEN DISCOS (Contact /Jackie Hagan), THE TEMPEST AT ABRAHAM MOSS (Royal Exchange Theatre); BINGO LINGO (co-director/Wild N Beets); DISABILITY SEX ARCHIVES, TWO CAN TOUCAN (TwoCan Theatre); NANA’S JUMBLE (Kazzum). Assistant Director credits at RET include MOTHER COURAGE & HER CHILDREN, DEATH OF A SALESMAN, FRANKENSTEIN, GUYS AND DOLLS and THE HOUSE OF BERNARDA ALBA (partnered with Graeae). Other credits: Staff Director on MOSQUITOES (Dorfman, National Theatre). Associate Director credits include: MIXTAPE (Royal Exchange Theatre); TOMMY (Ramps On The Moon National Tour). In 2014 Nickie co-founded TwoCan, Gloucestershire’s first professional disabled-led theatre company. As an actor Nickie is best known for her role as Miranda in the Paralympics Opening Ceremony, London 2012.

Charlene James is an award-winning writer. Her play CUTTIN’ IT ran at the Young Vic and Royal Court to critical acclaim and won multiple awards; including the George Devine Award and an Alfred Fagon Award for Best New Play. Charlene was awarded the Charles Wintour award for Most Promising Playwright at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards. She is currently under commission from The Royal Court and The Manchester Royal Exchange. Charlene is also developing her own original TV dramas with New Pictures and World Productions. She has written on A Discovery of Witches for Bad Wolf/Sky and is also writing on a prominent BBC series.