The Royal Exchange Studio's Autumn/Winter programme: Seaside towns, Blake remixed & barber's chairs

Emma Nuttall
Photo of a man holidng a moon

The Studio productions at the Royal Exchange are critically-acclaimed, progressive – and a few bob cheaper than the main theatre productions.

As the evenings become darker and the weather predictably wetter, the lights of the theatre grow brighter, beckoning visitors to come inside. But the Royal Exchange Theatre’s Studio isn’t merely a spot for shelter; this is the space designated to host new, vanguard and risky theatre – and the new Autumn/Winter programme promises just that. Best of all, the theatre as a whole now has Sunday productions.

Of particular interest is the premiere of Luke Norris’ Bruntwood Prize-winning play, So Here We Are (24 Sept -10 Oct). The story explores the complex and fragile nature of life in a run-down seaside town, where a group of lads from the same five-a-side football team sit around the Southend sea wall, reminiscing about their deceased friend, whilst trying to understand why exactly he took his own life. Award-winning artistic director of High Tide Festival Theatre Steven Atkinson makes his Royal Exchange directorial debut with this piece, billed as ‘a play about what can happen when nothing happens’ – naturally raising anticipation, as well as parallels with Waiting for Godot.

Set on the docks of Tiger Bay in Cardiff, meanwhile, is Lewis Gibson’s fantastical, spooky play The Chair (14-18 Oct), which takes audiences of ages seven and up on a journey round the world to hear a mix of old-world yarns and ghost stories. Produced by Dissemble Production in association with the London’s Unicorn Theatre, each tale is spun by the menacing Welsh barber Owain Sawyers, cutthroat razor in hand, as he time-travel round India, America, Egypt, and back again.

This is the space designated to host new, vanguard and risky theatre

Up next, World Record-holding beat-boxer and acclaimed rapper Testament kicks 19th-century Romantic poetry into the present with his skilful mash-up of William Blake, UK rap and beat-boxing in his show Blake Remixed (6-7 Nov). Performed by Testament, created with twice Scratch DJ World Champion DJ Woody and directed by Fringe First winner Tom Wright, this show has already done the Edinburgh Fringe circuit and come out on top.

We’re back to more traditional theatre-far with award-winning theatre makers Chris Goode & Company in association with the Royal Court bringing their critically-acclaimed Men In The Cities to the Studio (19-21 Nov). Chris Goode’s experimental, one-man show takes a desperate look at masculinity and ties together the stories of two violent deaths; a murdered British soldier and the apparent suicide of a young gay man.

The Ballad of Rudy arrives just in time for the festive season (12 Dec – 3 Jan). Developed by the children’s theatre company Goblin, the play tells the story of Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, who doesn’t just have a red nose, but an interest and passion for music that sets him off on a journey in search of his sound, the meaning of Jazz and, ultimately, the northern lights.

Last but not least, My Son and Heir arrives in Manchester in January (29 & 30 Jan). This story is a playful examination of the competitive culture of modern parenthood and the unsung heroism of the never-ending job of child rearing – a subject that we suspect every exhausted post-Christmas-frenzy parent will recognise, be amused by and take solace in.

Culture Guides

Tours and Activities

In this month’s top picks of Tours and Activities in Manchester, we are featuring the guides who take you into the darker underbelly of the city, as well as some of the more macabre activities.

Exhibitions and art in Manchester


Autumn is festival season in the visual art world. We preview some familiar favourites alongside a brand-new addition to the scene – brainchild of Manchester’s resident prize-winning peace activist, Qaisra Shahraz.

Theatre in Manchester and the North


For this month’s eclectic theatre guide we’ve hunted out exclusive dance events, durational performance and some hair-raising Halloween hijinks.


It’s October, and the cinemas of Manchester and the North are taking the opportunity to host all manner of spooky screenings.

Liverpool's Dream Giant Spectacular courtesy Culture Liverpool


See giants in Liverpool, spaghettify yourself in a black hole at Manchester Science Festival, experience spectaculars at the Dashehra Diwali Mela in Manchester and Winter Droving in Penrith. There’s a LOT to do folks.

Writer Eley Williams.


More spoken word nights are emerging to join our favourite regulars, there are lots of launches and one-offs and workshops and conferences and even walking tours, and tickets are selling like hot cakes for Manchester Literature Festival, the Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival and Chester Literature Festival.


This month’s music guide features cutting-edge jazz, joyous disco, and singular voices in rock.

Things to do right now

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Cinema 18 July–17 October 2018, from £12.20

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The Unreturning
Theatre 16–20 October 2018, from £10.00

The Unreturning at Liverpool Everyman

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Activity 11–21 October 2018,

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Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival
Festivals 15–22 October 2018, from £3.00

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Theatre 24 May–27 October 2018, from £12.50

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Families 5 May–28 October 2018, from £Quarry Bank admission prices apply (free for National Trust members)

Journeys of the Imagination at Quarry Bank