Theatre in Manchester and the North

Kristy Stott, Theatre Editor

Interactive circus, arts festivals and new writing, our guide features a show-stopping selection of theatre happening indoors and outside.

Garnering rave reviews from critics and audiences alike, the Royal Exchange Theatre has extended its run of the Oscar Wilde classic, The Importance of Being Earnest. Propelling high farce into the modern age, you can expect to see Wilde’s dandies transformed into social media obsessives. It’s another bold and brilliant take on a classic text from the Royal Exchange, and you’ve got an extra week to catch it.

Theatre festival season is now in full swing too. We’ve got our eyes on Greater Manchester Fringe, running until the end of July, and the Heading North Fringe at Shakespeare North Playhouse, a new two-week festival showcasing work from artists heading to this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. Additionally, Waterside’s Refract is back for 2024. Expect six days of heady performance – happening inside and outside, some ticketed and some completely free – including a showcase from illusionist Ben Hart, snappy family shows and global live music.

And with the lighter nights and (slightly) warmer temperatures, performance moves outside. It’s the start of open-air theatre season, and we’ve got our eyes on Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre. Always a fantastic programme, this year the team bring an electrifying version of The Gangs of New York, family favourite The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. And if you like the sound of this, do check out our full guide to all the best outdoor theatre happening this summer.

Read on for details of these and so much more.

Our top picks

The Importance of Being Earnest at the Royal Exchange Theatre

The Importance of Being Earnest at Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, Until 27 July 2024, from £10.00 - Book now

This contemporary production transforms Wilde’s dandies into social media obsessives, who document their every move in a desperate bid for internet supremacy.

The Importance of Being Earnest at the Royal Exchange Theatre
Image courtesy of FEAST.

Greater Manchester Fringe 2024

Greater Manchester Fringe 2024 at The Fitzgerald, Manchester (and other venues), Until 31 July 2024 - Book now

Greater Manchester Fringe Festival 2024 offers a fascinating and diverse programme of performance with ticket prices that won’t break the bank.

Greater Manchester Fringe Festival 2024
Image courtesy of Amy Webber/ Greater Manchester Fringe Festival.

Sweet Dreams at Aviva Studios

Sweet Dreams at Aviva Studios, Manchester, Until 1 September 2024, from £7.50 - Book now

Multi-sensory and surreal, Sweet Dreams is a brand-new storytelling experience that takes audiences on a journey through food, appetite and desire.

Illustration courtesy of McBess; render: yeahnice.design.

Ageless Festival at Yorkshire Dance

Ageless Festival at Yorkshire Dance, Leeds, Until 13 July 2024 - Book now

Featuring a wide range of artists, film-makers and speakers, Ageless is a 2-day festival which re-imagines age through dance.

Ageless Festival
Image courtesy of Peter Defty/ Yorkshire Dance.

Brave Space at The Lowry

Brave Space at The Lowry, Manchester, 18–20 July 2024, from £12.00 - Book now

Intimate and magical, Brave Space is a unique circus show that invites the audience to assist and engage directly with the performance.

Brave Space at The Lowry
Image courtesy of Mark Ronson.

Alice in Wonderland at Williamson Park

Alice in Wonderland at The Dukes, Lancashire, 19 July–25 August 2024, from £16.50 - Book now

The Duke’s award-winning outdoor walkabout theatre is back with another super madcap family adventure. Summer is on its way.

Alice in Wonderland in Williamson Park
Image courtesy of Gabi Dawkins.

Open Air Theatre at Grosvenor Park

Grosvenor Park Open Air Theatre 2024 at Grosvenor Park, Cheshire, 19 July–1 September 2024, from £6.75 - Book now

Expect another fabulous season of open-air theatre when The Gangs of New York, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and The Importance of Being Earnest play Grosvenor Park this summer.

Open Air Theatre at Grosvenor Park
Mark McNulty

Refract 24 at Waterside

Refract Festival 2024 at Waterside, Manchester, 23–28 July 2024 - Book now

Back for 2024, Trafford’s flagship arts festival returns to Waterside for six days of experiential performance and cultural delight.

Refract Festival 2024 at Waterside
Image courtesy of Matt Crockett.

The Hound of the Baskervilles at Theatre by the Lake

The Hound of the Baskervilles at Theatre by the Lake, Cumbria, 9 August–7 September 2024, from £12.00 - Book now

The world’s most famous detective gets a fresh makeover in this speedy slapstick-style performance at Cumbria’s stunning Theatre by the Lake.

The Hound of the Baskervilles at Theatre by the Lake
The cast of The Hound of the Baskervilles: Helena Antoniou, Katy Daghorn and Dave Hearn (L-R).Image courtesy of Theatre by the Lake.

My Son’s A Queer, (But What Can You Do?) at HOME

My Son's A Queer, (But What Can You Do?) at HOME Manchester, Manchester, 25 August 2024, from £26.20 - Book now

This glittering award-winner takes centre stage at HOME this summer, ahead of Manchester’s PRIDE celebrations in August.

My Son's A Queer, (But What Can You Do?) at HOME
Image courtesy of Mark Senior.

Gwyneth Goes Skiing at Hope Mill Theatre

Gwyneth Goes Skiing at Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester, 11–21 September 2024, from £23.00 - Book now

Packed with the same absurdity as the Wagatha Christie trial, Gwyneth Paltrow’s 2023 ski trial caught the imagination of the ever-brilliant Awkward Productions.

Gwyneth Goes Skiing at Hope Mill Theatre
Image courtesy of Awkward Productions.

A Raisin in the Sun at Leeds Playhouse

A Raisin in the Sun at Leeds Playhouse, Leeds, 13–28 September 2024, from £15.00 - Book now

Director Tinuke Craig joins forces with leading theatre company Headlong for a fresh new production of A Raisin in the Sun.

A Raisin in the Sun at Leeds Playhouse
Artwork for the production. Image courtesy of Leeds Inspired.

Abigail’s Party at Blackpool Grand Theatre

Abigail's Party at Blackpool Grand Theatre at Blackpool Grand Theatre, Lancashire, 22–26 October 2024, from £19.50 - Book now

Booze flows, tensions boil and tempers alight – Mike Leigh’s iconic suburban comedy is given a new lease of life at Blackpool Grand.

Abigail's Party at Blackpool Grand Theatre
Image courtesy of Sean Conboy.

Chicago at the Palace Theatre

Chicago at Palace Theatre, Manchester, 4–9 November 2024, from £15.00 - Book now

Sassy, sexy and packed with show-stopping numbers, the shimmy-shaking musical makes a dazzling return to Manchester.

Chicago at the Palace Theatre
Image courtesy of Tristram Kenton.

Dear Evan Hansen at Leeds Grand Theatre

Dear Evan Hansen at Leeds Grand Theatre, Leeds, 5–9 November 2024, from £31.00 - Book now

A new production of the multi award-winning musical is set to tour the UK from autumn 2024, venues include Leeds Grand Theatre, Liverpool Empire and Palace Theatre Manchester.

Dear Evan Hansen at Leeds Grand Theatre
Image courtesy of ATG Tickets.

More theatre events

Until
ExhibitionsManchester
Sweet Dreams at Aviva Studios

Multi-sensory and surreal, Sweet Dreams is a brand-new storytelling experience that takes audiences on a journey through food, appetite and desire.

from £7.50
Pillock at Contact
TheatreManchester
Pillock at Contact

Pillock is an exciting new one-man show exploring neurodiversity, the challenges of gay dating and the vulnerabilities of an actor’s life.

Look After Your Knees at Leeds Playhouse
TheatreLeeds
Look After Your Knees at Leeds Playhouse

Natalie Bellingham’s new show, tackling the pain and beauty of growing older, will preview at Leeds Playhouse ahead of its month-long run at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

from £1.00
Pillock at Contact
Spotlight on

Fringe Theatre in Manchester and the North

Check out our top picks of shows previewing in the North West before heading to Edinburgh Fringe Festival later in the summer.

Take me there

Theatre in Manchester and the North

Manchester
Park
Platt Fields Park

Platt Fields Park in Fallowfield is steeped in history, the land having been acquired by the Platt family in 1225.

HOME Manchester
Manchester
Theatre
HOME Manchester

Offering a packed schedule of events and things to do, HOME Manchester is one of the city’s leading hubs for arts and culture.

The Hepworth Wakefield
Wakefield
Gallery
The Hepworth Wakefield

Winner of the 2017 Art Fund Museum of the Year Award, The Hepworth in Wakefield is easily one of the leading cultural highlights of the North.

Cumbria
Event venue
Penrith Old Fire Station

Main venue for Eden Arts, an artist-led organisation based in Eden in Cumbria creating projects around mass participation, local distinctiveness and digital engagement, from Picnic Cinema to The Winter Droving.

The MerseyMade building in Liverpool
Liverpool
Shop
MerseyMade

In the MerseyMade shop you’ll find bottled gin from the likes of Turncoat Gin, Anfield Gin, Albert Dock Gin and Three Graces Gin. Yep, Liverpool REALLY likes its gin.

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