Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

MTA chairman Kevin Bourke (left) hands the Production and Special Achievement trophies to David Thacker (centre) watched by awards show host Justin Moorhouse, Credit: Ant Robling

Octagon Theatre shapes up to a haul of awards

One of the country’s most distinguished theatre directors, and the first-ever Professor of Theatre at Bolton University, David Thacker was honoured with a Special Achievement trophy at the Manchester Theatre Awards.

... and the winners are: Actor in a Leading Role

The four outstanding nominations here are divided equally between the Royal Exchange and Octagon Bolton, whittled down from a list several times that size, indicating just how strong the competition is this time around.

Actress in a Leading Role

Over the past few years the panel has genuinely struggled to pare down the size of this category, which reflects the strength of performances and breadth of female roles offered.

What's on

Alexandra Burke back in city

An all-new production of the Broadway and West End hit musical comedy Sister Act - starring Alexandra Burke and directed by Craig Revel Horwood – comes to Manchester Palace Theatre this week.

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September specials for Lowry

The Lowry and Paines Plough theatre company will be pitching a pop-up theatre in Eccles next month, as part of a crowded month for the Salford-based venue

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Things I Know To Be True for Lowry

Andrew Bovell’s Things I Know To Be True, an international co-production between Frantic Assembly and State Theatre Company of South Australia comes to the Lowry in Salford from November 8-12.

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New season delights at HOME

Two new theatre commissions including a new version of Ibsen’s Ghosts by David Watson, directed by Polly Findlay, and the world premiere of Paul Auster’s City of Glass by 59 Productions and Duncan Macmillan are just part of the new season coming up at HOME in Manchester.

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Interactive play gets into the mind

Manchester-based Without Theatre company have been funded by Arts Council England and supported by Manchester Mind for new production Hollow Can You Go? A Journey into the Perpetual Limbo of Depression.

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Wendi's Wonderland homecoming

TV and West End star Wendi Peters (Cilla Battersby-Brown in Coronation Street) will headline the 2017 UK tour of Wonderland as Queen of Hearts alongside musical theatre favourite Dave Willetts.

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The pride of Our Gracie

The stage is set for a weekend of celebration to mark the unveiling of a statue in Rochdale of the late Dame Gracie Fields.

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Rio's silver star in dance show

Fresh from winning a Silver Medal at the Rio Olympics, gymnast and Strictly Come Dancing champ Louis Smith is to guest star in Keep Dancing at the Palace Theatre, Manchester, October 4-8 - a new show celebrating the world of Ballroom and Latin dance.

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Parisian style for RNCM Opera

Glitz and glamour head to the Royal Northern College of Music when RNCM Opera presents Offenbach’s La Vie Parisienne.

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Vertigo's third revival of Porno Chic

One of Manchester’s most successful fringe theatre companies Vertigo will be bringing back for a third time the award winning Porno Chic to The Kings Arms, Salford this October.

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HOME team reunites for The Emperor

Actress Kathryn Hunter, director Walter Meierjohann, and playwright and screenwriter Colin Teevan reunite following their hit Kafka’s Monkey for a world premiere production that comes to HOME in Manchester in September.

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Gatiss stars in Boys In The Band revival

Mart Crowley’s ground-breaking play, The Boys in the Band, will be revived at The Lowry in Salford in November, starring Olivier Award winner Mark Gatiss alongside his husband Ian Hallard.

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Matthew kelly for Pride & Prejudice

Casting is announced for Regents Park Open Air Theatre’s production of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, at The Lowry October 11-15.

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Third Brassed Off for Oldham

Oldham Coliseum Theatre is presenting Brassed Off this September, featuring live music from four brass bands from Saddleworth and Oldham.

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Shawshank cast for Manchester

Paul Nicholls, Jack Ellis and Ben Onwukwe are to star in The Shawshank Redemption. Following a successful 2015 tour, Bill Kenwright’s production, inspired by the classic film and based on the short novel by Stephen King, will be at The Lowry from September 5-10.

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Mockingbird revival for Octagon

Bolton Octagon Theatre’s 2016-17 season begins with Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird.

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Fringe hands out festival awards

Controversial new plays Die Diana and Porno Chic shared the award for Best Drama at the Greater Manchester Fringe Awards 2016.

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Mandela Trilogy for Lowry

Wales Millennium Centre and Cape Town Opera present the Mandela Trilogy at The Lowry next month.

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Ghost the Musical haunts city again

A new production of Ghost the Musical comes to the Palace Theatre, Manchester, in October starring Girls Aloud singer and actress Sarah Harding as Molly and former Hollyoaks star Andy Moss as Sam.

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Music and more at RNCM

Between September and December Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music hosts everything from classical music, big band and opera to conversations with Margaret Atwood and Vivienne Westwood as part of the Manchester Literature Festival (October 7-21).

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Maxine Peake for Streetcar

Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer-Prize winning play A Streetcar Named Desire comes to Manchester Royal Exchange in September.

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Hair set for Manchester revival

Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester’s new independent theatre and event space, is to stage its second in-house musical theatre production Hair in November, following the success of Parade.

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Sans Merci for Hope Mill

Sans Merci by Johnna Adams opens at Manchester’s Hope Mll Theatre in September. 

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Three for the family

The Lowry in Salford presents three family shows during the summer holidays.

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Play with a personality disorder

Likened to Sarah Kane, Martin McDonagh and Eastenders at its darkest hour, Stevie Help's latest play Mind's A Labyrinth is an experience that doesn't follow usual theatrical conventions in directorial style and authorial voice.

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Box of Tricks celebrate 10th anniversary

Manchester-based theatre company Box of Tricks celebrates ten years of new play making by bringing back three acclaimed productions and commissioning three brand new plays.

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Homeless theme to new play

A new play which highlights the personal stories behind homelessness is to tour the North this autumn. 

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Dinosaurs stalk city again

Hit West End family show Dinosaur Zoo, returns to Manchester Opera House in September.

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Full Monty makes a quick return

The stage version of The Full Monty is coming back to Manchester in October with an all-star cast.

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Funny Girl headed for Manchester

The new West End production of Funny Girl embarks on a major national tour in 2017 and opens at the Palace Theatre, Manchester from February 20, before touring to venues around the UK.

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Trio of ballets to mark Bard anniversary

The Shakespeare Dream Bill, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s commemoration of 400 years since the death of William Shakespeare comes to the Lowry in Salford from September 15-17.

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Wedding Singer musical for Manchester

A new production of The Wedding Singer will play the Opera House, Manchester, from May 15-20.

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Rufus Hound for musical premiere

Comedian, actor and presenter Rufus Hound will star as lovable menace Mr Toad for the world premiere of the new musical adaptation of The Wind in the Willows by Julian Fellowes.

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Kevin's commitment to musical

Coronation Street legend, Kevin Kennedy is to star as Jimmy’s Da in the UK tour of the musical The Commitments written by Roddy Doyle, which comes to the Palace Theatre, Manchester, from March 27 to April 8.

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Sherrie Hewson rings in for Aladdin

Benidorm, Loose Women and Coronation Street favourite, and star of the all-new Are You Being Served, Sherrie Hewson will be appearing as the Genie of the Ring in Aladdin at Manchester Opera House this Christmas.

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Extended Bed goes on tour

A Bed of Shards is a new one-act play by Jane McNulty, (Eastenders, Doctors, Our Lady of the Goldfinches) and directed by award-winning Ian Townsend (All the Bens).

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Giselle premiere in Manchester

English National Ballet will stage the first look of its new production of Giselle by award-winning choreographer Akram Khan at The Palace Theatre, Manchester on September 27, followed by a national tour.

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Difficult B!RTH for Exchange

B!RTH, at Manchester Royal Exchange in October, is an international theatre festival developed by the Exchange and The Oglesby Charitable Trust to provoke debate on the vast inequality in healthcare across the world.

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Hooked up for panto

John Altman returns to Stockport Plaza to star as Captain Hook this festive season in the Peter Pan’ from December 2 to January 8.

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Wonderland set for city date

Following sold out seasons in Tampa, Texas and Tokyo, Frank Wildhorn’s Wonderland receives its UK and European première in a brand new British production, which debuts at the Edinburgh Playhouse next January ahead of a UK tour which brings it to Manchester Palace Theatre.

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Billy bound for city

Not soon enough for many people Billy Elliot the Musical will come to Manchester Palace Theatre from November to January.

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Latest reviews

Sister Act
Ryan O'Donnell and Mark Newnham as Ray and Dave Davies
Kevin Cummins 
Jo Haydock, Phil Denison and Peter Slater in The Haunting Of Blaine Manor
Darren McGinn Shakers
Death Toll
Talking Scarlet Little Sister
Aspects of Aging
Poster for The Book Of Northern
The Mikado

Sister Act

Music Alan Menken, lyrics Glenn Slater and book Cheri Steinkellner from the movie written by Joseph Howard
Jamie Wilson and The Curve, Leicester at The Palace Theatre, Manchester
(reviewer: David Cunningham)

Sunny Afternoon

Music and Lyrics Ray Davies, book Joe Penhall
Sonia Friedman Productions and Ambassador Theatre Group at Manchester Opera House
(reviewer: Alan Hulme)


John Godber
Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester at Deaf Dog Theatre Company
(reviewer: David Cunningham)

Death Toll

James Cawood
Talking Scarlet Theatre Company at Buxton Opera House
(reviewer: Philip Radcliffe)

Little Sister

The Brothers Grimm , adapted by Mark Storor with the company
The Royal Exchange at The Royal Exchange, Manchester
(reviewer: David Cunningham)

The Mikado

Gilbert and Sullivan
The National G&S Opera Company at Buxton Opera House
(reviewer: Philip Radcliffe)

Youth panel reviews

The Secret Garden

Frances Hodgson Burnett adapted by Janys Chambers
Octagon Youth Theatre and Octagon Artistic Team at Octagon Theatre
(reviewer: Harriet Mallion)

It Snows

Bryony Lavery
Octagon Connections at Bolton Octagon
(reviewer: Georgina Wells)

What Are They Like?

Lucinda Coxon
Woodhey High School at Bolton Octagon
(reviewer: Georgina Wells)


Carl Grose
Lowry Young Actors at The Lowry
(reviewer: Lizz Clark)


Snoo Wilson, Gary Kemp and Guy Pratt (adapted from Vladimir Mayakovsky)
Bluecoat at The Lowry
(reviewer: Lizz Clark)

Climate of Fear

Contact Young Company at Contact Theatre
(reviewer: Harriet Mallion)


Janne Teller. Adapted by Amanda Dalton
Royal Exchange Young Company at Royal Exchange
(reviewer: Georgina Wells)

What's Done Is Done

Martin Stannage and CAN Young Artists
CAN Young Artists at HOME
(reviewer: Georgina Wells)

How To Be Better

Contact Young Actors Company/ Common Wealth at Contact Theatre
(reviewer: Georgina Wells)

Latest articles

Little Sister, don't you cheat on me

For the World Premiere of Little Sister at the Royal Exchange, artist Mark Storor has been visiting the Exchange over eighteen months to work with community participants from Tameside Women and their Families Centre, The Royal Exchange’s Progression Group and City of Sanctuary’s Conversation Club (for refugees and asylum seekers), as well as a professional clown, an aerialist, and a classical cellist who plays the saw.

Kevin Bourke

King Lear at The Opera House

Michael Pennington, one of the great Shakespearian actors of his generation, has brought his version of King Lear to Manchester. What is the enduring appeal of the play, does he think?

Kevin Bourke

Feelgood Return To Heaton Park

An exciting cross-arts collaboration based on stories about Heaton Park and the Hall there mark the return of Feelgood Theatre Company to the home of their promenade triumphs.

Kevin Bourke

First Break

Oldham Coliseum's First Break festival aims to puts its Studio firmly on the map for new writing, says Associate Director Chris Lawson.

Kevin Bourke

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