Our cities are growing, constantly shifting and redefining themselves for our fast-paced world. Yet what remains below the surface is a resilient history of the people who have shaped and influenced that growth and change.

Their hidden stories define and reveal the truth behind urban-landscapes. This Spring/Summer the Royal Exchange Theatre have created a season of work that reflects the complexity of a 21st Century city, from stories of industry and productivity to rivalry, family and community obligations.

In April Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom directs one of the greatest stories of a city ever told in her new version of West Side Story with choreography from Aletta Collins. Inua Ellams’ Barber Shop Chronicles kicks off its UK tour and writers Tanika Gupta and James Yeatman reimagine key moments in Manchester’s unique journey in Hobson’s Choice and There Is a Light That never Goes Out: Scenes from The Luddite Rebellion.

• Following two sold out runs at the National Theatre, acclaimed performances at Leeds Playhouse and a hugely successful international tour, Inua Ellams’ BARBER SHOP CHRONICLES begins an extensive UK tour in Manchester, presented by the Royal Exchange Theatre and Contact. Playing a key role in the city, providing a space to talk, share and exchange there is nowhere quite like the Barber’s chair. This co-production between Fuel, The National Theatre and Leeds Playhouse is directed by Bijan Sheibani. It runs in the Theatre from 7 – 23 March.

• One of the world’s most famous musicals Leonard Bernstein’s WEST SIDE STORY is reimagined by Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom in a brand-new production for the Royal Exchange’s unique in-the-round theatre. Re-choreographed by Aletta Collins, who returns to the Exchange following SWEET CHARITY, and re-orchestrated by Jason Carr this fast-paced, passionate and heart-breaking classic can be seen in the Theatre from 6 April – 25 May.

• In 1972 Idi Amin expelled Uganda’s Asian minority. Those families were forced to build new lives, in new countries with little more than they could carry. Award-winning writer Tanika Gupta and director Pooja Ghai recreate Gupta’s own 2003 adaptation of HOBSON’S CHOICE placing Hari Hobson’s tailor’s shop in the warehouse district of Manchester’s 1980s Northern Quarter. This new adaptation explores family relationships and patriarchy versus a young woman’s determination to change the status quo. It is set in a city with a complex history of cotton and a striking feminist past. A comedy full of wit and humour HOBSON’S CHOICE plays in the Theatre from 31 May – 6 July.

• Luddite has become a derogatory term implying resistance to change. In Lauren Mooney and James Yeatman’s new play THERE IS A LIGHT THAT NEVER GOES OUT: SCENES FROM THE LUDDITE REBELLION we meet a working-class population facing radical social and political change, married with unprecedented technological developments. This new play tells the story of coming together, of collective action, the beginning of the modern-labour movement and the galvanising mythology of Ned Ludd. No clogs, no costume-drama, just actors, artefacts and the technology of 2019. The production runs in the Theatre from 25 July – 10 August

• In The Studio original new work continues to be developed by Royal Exchange supported artists, its resident Young Company & Elders Company. Cultural partners from across Manchester and visiting companies from across the UK also present and make work in the Studio space.

Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom said …

“As we strive to make our city bigger, brighter and streamlined for the future we often forget the hidden history that lies beneath its pavements. Yet it’s these stories of a city’s sense of community and its people, of their hopes and struggles that can reveal a city’s heart. This season we challenge ourselves, and the artists we are working with to rediscover these stories and reflect the complex nature of the global city. We look forward to sharing with our audiences stories of Manchester’s working-class movement, of the migrant experience, family loyalty, cultural pressure, generational divides, gang-culture and what it is to fall in love.

I am thrilled to be collaborating with such an exciting creative team on WEST SIDE STORY. Together we’ll reimagine this iconic work of art for our unique in-the-round theatre space and reinterpret it for new audiences in our city at this moment in time.”


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