Following a fantastic start to 2012, with plays by Sarah Kane, Philip Ridley and Dennis Kelly, theRoyal Exchange Studio had set itself a tough challenge to keep audiences excited for the rest of theyear. They have certainly outdone themselves, with a varied selection of comedy, drama, music andchildren’s shows.
The centrepiece of the new season is Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster, written bySophie’s mother Sylvia Lancaster and poet Simon Armitage. Sophie Lancaster was attacked and tragically killed by a gang in Bacup, Lancashire in 2007 because she dressed in alternative clothing. The piece premiered on BBC radio 4in 2011, and this stage version promises to be a huge success. Sophie’s killing was something thataffected one of the Royal Exchange’s Artistic Directors, Sarah Frankcom:
“The events around Sophie Lancaster’s murder shocked me at the time and continue to shock andappall me now. It feels like a story that needs to be continually told and retold. I believe that one ofthe primary concerns of theatre is to challenge and provoke audiences into seeing the world theylive in, in a different way. The needless death of a girl with her future in front of her, in a park onour doorstep, reflects some difficult and uncomfortable truths about our society that we need toaddress.”
Manchester based theatre company Coal follow up their Fringe hit, The Fragility of X, with a newplay, Johnny Come Lately, devised with John Wright (of Told By An Idiot). It tells the story of a womanand her daughter being visited by a mysterious stranger who turns their lives upside down.
Following the success of Punk Rock in 2009, Simon Stephens, along with Paines Plough, LiveNewcastle and Salisbury Playhouse, returns with a new play entitled London. The play combines Stephens’previous works Sea Wall and T5, and tells two stories of family.
The Royal Exchange always put on challenging pieces of theatre for young people, and this seasonis no exception. Firstly, we have The Nightingale, based on a Hans Christian Andersen story, wherea selfish king replaces his songbird with something more modern. The show is directed by AlisonDuddle and features music from Chris Davies.
For Christmas, Little Angel Theatre bring us The Tear Thief, based on a story by Poet Laureate CarolAnn Duffy. It tells the story of an entity that steals the tears of children. The story is told throughpuppetry and live music, and promises to be a refreshing change from the typical pantomime.
As well as this, The New Art Club return with Quiet Act of Destruction and Jessica Walker presents PatKirkwood is Angry, based on the life of the Manchester-born singer and actress. Alex Wheatle OBEbrings his one man show Uprising, based on his upbringing in 1980s Britain. Metta Theatre presentArab Nights, a collection of short plays in response to the Arab Revolutions, and Articulate Elbowpresent a new comedy, Mother F.
The Studio’s Word programme continues to thrive, with lunchtime readings of new plays fromSally Wainwright, Sarah McDonald Hughes, Debbie Oates and Bruntwood Prize-winning AndrewSheridan, whose award-winning play Winterlong was performed in The Studio last year.
The Studio is a great place to see new writing, and Sarah Frankcom believes it plays an importantpart in British theatre:
“The Studio is an engine room and platform for a new generation of theatre makers and theirideas, from the region and beyond. The breadth and diversity of the work that we programme is areflection of the richness and imagination of the very best of theatre that’s being made in the countryright now.”
For more information, visit www.royalexchange.co.uk.
By Tracey Lowe
Images: London (top left), The Tear Thief (bottom right).