Manchester is a theatre city, with a set of excellent venues for both fringe and blockbuster shows. Perhaps the most striking of these is the Royal Exchange, a theatre in-the-round built within the city’s former cotton trading hall (and that rather resembles NASA’s lunar lander). Then there’s HOME, opened in 2015, which has quickly become a hub for the creative community. And, on the fringe side of things, Hope Mill Theatre has added a touch of industrial beauty – not to mention some great musicals – to the scene.
Here are our picks
St Ann’s Square,, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M2 7DH - Visit now
This former trading hall underwent a £32m redevelopment after being severely damaged by the 1996 IRA bomb in Manchester’s city centre – and has been delivering stellar productions from its unusual seven-sided glass and steel theatre-in-the-round (the biggest in the UK), and smaller (but still excellent) studio, ever since. Productions here are renowned – both Vanessa Redgrave and Helen Mirren have graced the Royal Exchange’s stage.
Oxford Road, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M15 6JA - Visit now
The place to head for emerging theatre, spoken word, hip hop and digital performance mash-ups, this strangely turreted arts venue set back from Oxford Road has a real focus on engagement and up and coming talent. Commissioned work here goes on to high acclaim.
2 Tony Wilson Place, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M15 4FN - Visit now
Manchester’s new, £25m arts complex boasts 500 square metres of gallery space and five cinema screens as well as its 500 seat theatre; host to UK premieres, visiting companies and internationally focused work, the offering at HOME is as ambitious as it gets.
Pier 8, Salford Quays, Salford, Manchester, M50 3AZ - Visit now
In addition to award-winning theatre, the programme for The Lowry’s two theatres also includes touring popular acts, classical music, dance and opera. Just opposite Media City, a decent café (with good kids’ options), a restaurant and ‘terrace bar’, plus a shop all fit under its unusually shaped roof.
Howell Croft South, Bolton, Greater Manchester, BL1 1SB - Visit now
Octagon Theatre in Bolton was the first professional theatre to be built in the North West of England after World War Two. Its flexible main auditorium space is perfect for entertaining and thought-provoking productions alike, including Shakespeare, American drama, great European plays and contemporary classics, alongside brand new work, musicals and plays for families.