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Royal Exchange autumn and winter season

Autumn Quartet: Shakespeare, Nathan Queeley-Dennis, Viv Nicholson and Caryl Churchill
Autumn Quartet: Shakespeare, Nathan Queeley-Dennis, Viv Nicholson and Caryl Churchill

Shakespeare, a musical version of the rags-to-riches-to-rags story of Pools winner Viv Nicholson, a Bruntwood prizewinner and more feature in the newly-announed autumn season at Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre.

Shakespeare comes first, with comedy favourite A Midsummer Night's Dream (September 6-October 12). Stef O’Driscoll directs a modern vision celebrating Manchester’s links with dance, music and rave culture. Making an on-stage appearance as The Moon is Manchester-based musician Salo, recently a favourite on Channel 4’s hit The Piano.

Stef O’Driscoll said: “I want to celebrate Manchester’s many gifted artists, rappers, and MCs alongside Shakespeare. I’m excited that heaps of young people across Manchester will come, where it will feel as close to the energy and vibe I imagine it had in Shakespeare’s time.”

Next up will be the interestingly-titled Bullring Techno Makeout Jamz (October 28-30), written and performed by Nathan Queeley-Dennis and winner of the 2022 Bruntwood Prize for playwriting.

The debut play is a love letter to Birmingham, exploring Black masculinity through Beyonce lyrics, techno raves and the "deeply intimate" relationship between a man and his barber. It was a hit at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last year and opened in London to rave reviews.

Over Christmas, Spend Spend Spend (November 23-January 11) is the raucously vibrant musical story of Viv Nicholson, by Steve Brown and Justin Greene. The show is inspired by the woman who, interviewed after her Pools win in 1961, announced to the world that she was going to "spend, spend, spend" her winnings - and did, until it all came crashing down. The show will again star Rachel Leskovac – nominated for an Olivier award for her portrayal of the young Viv Nicholson in the original London production - in the lead role.

Two short plays by revered writer Caryl Churchill – Escaped Alone and What If If Only – run from February 7-March 8. The pair - Intricate meditations on life - are brought together by former Royal Exchange artistic director Sarah Frankcom, who said: “I’m thrilled to be stepping into the worlds of these extraordinary plays.

"It shouldn’t feel radical to put female characters over 70 years old centre-stage, but it still does. Escaped Alone (2016) celebrates the emotional and intellectual dexterity that only older actresses can bring to live performance, while the 20-minute What If If Only (2021) is epic in its ideas and audaciously distilled in its form - a brilliant challenge for any director.”

The season doesn't stop there: from September 28-October 2 Eldersfest celebrates 10 years of the Exchange's Elders Company, including new production Acts Of Love. There will be opportunities for older people to take part, get creative, join the conversation and think about what the next 10 years of the company should look like.

Also getting in on the act will be the theatre's Young Company, which will present Threshold, three intersecting stories from Young Company writers.

More info and tickets here


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