Theatres in Manchester

Polly Checkland Harding, Exhibitions Editor

Manchester boasts an impressive variety when it comes to theatres. There’s the Royal Exchange, an unusual theatre-in-the-round built inside what used to be Manchester’s cotton trading hall. Then there’s HOME, the £25m purpose-built cross arts venue. The focus ranges widely, too – from cutting-edge new productions, to remakes of old classics. So, if you’re looking for theatre in Manchester, these are our top places to explore.

Here are our top 5 picks

  • 1. Royal Exchange Theatre

    Photo of the interior of the Royal Exchange

    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.

  • 2. Contact Theatre

    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.

  • 3. HOME

    Picture of HOME in Manchester
    HOME - Image courtesy of Machteld Schoep.

    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.

  • 4. The Lowry

    Image courtesy of Visit Britain

    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.

  • 5. Octagon Theatre

    Bolton Octagon stage in the round
    Image courtesy Bolton Octagon

    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.