by John Moss & Gary Burns
City Centre Theatres
Royal Exchange Theatre
Ann's Square/Cross Street, Manchester M2 7DH .
Box Office Tel: 0161-833 9833.
Theatre inside the original Royal Exchange building.
Photo © courtesy of Andrew C Theokas
novel and exciting solution to the problem of what to do with
an old historic building which has outlived its function -
build a theatre inside!
The Royal Exchange Theatre is a futuristic metal and glass
hi-tech structure sitting inside what was described as "the
biggest room in the world" - the Great Hall of Manchester's
old Cotton Exchange, which ceased trading in December 1968.
It seats around 800 and is the world's largest theatre in-the-round.
The theatre company produces plays 48 weeks a year, attracting
top billing names from British and international theatre circuits,
as well as hosting regular midday concerts, literary and other
special events. It also offers a good café, exhibition space,
theatre bookshop and Craft Shop.
In June 1996, the Exchange was virtually at the epicentre
of a terrorist lorry
bombing which severely damaged it, as with other buildings
around. Although Marks & Spencers and the Royal Insurance
buildings opposite had to be demolished, fortunately the old
Exchange's massive strength withstood the impact, though it
sustained considerable damage.
Meanwhile the theatre troupe moved into temporary quarters
at the old market hall in Liverpool Road, Castlefield. Reopening
of the Royal Exchange building took place earlier in the year
2000, along with extensive other inner city developments which
have been made in the former bomb zone.
the Royal Exchange
Theatre in Manchester
Central Reference Library in Manchester
Street/Oxford Road, Manchester M13
Office Number: 0161-274 600. General: 0161-274 3434. Website:
Attached to Manchester University, and totally renovated in
1999, this is one of the most innovative of theatres, staging
mostly modern works for young audiences. Parking nearby. Disabled
access and toilet facilities, Café on site, special facilities
for the hearing impaired, party groups catered for (by prior
arrangement please). Guide dogs admitted.
Closed for Theatre Refurbishment
Central Reference Library, St Peters Square, Manchester M2.
Tel: 0161-236 7110.
A well established theatre with high reputation dealing with
all types of dramatic production from Shakespeare to modern
masters. The only theatre housed within a library in the United
Kingdom. Many premieres begin life here before moving on to
London. Owned by Manchester City Council.
Street, Manchester M1. Tel Bookings: 0870 401 3000. Stage door:
A major venue for the big West End musical ("Les Miserables",
"Cats", "Miss Saigon", etc), with notoriously
long and successful runs. The Palace made its grand opening
on 18th May 1891 to a capacity audience who were treated to
the ballet "Cleopatra" - however, its initial 'highbrow'
presentations failed to gain popular support and it struggled
to make a profit for several years. Then, bowing to the inevitable
economic pressures, it introduced a less elitist repertoire
and broadened its scope to include more popular performers,
which was a resounding success.
During the earlier part of the 20th century it presented artists
such as Danny Kaye, Gracie
Fields, Charles Laughton, Judy Garland, Noel Coward and
Laurel & Hardy. In the 1970s, it suffered a nationwide depression,
like the nearby Opera House, failing to attract audiences as
television spread into most people's homes.
Constantly threatened with closure, the Palace and the Opera
House were saved in 1979 by Raymond Slater's company Norwest
Holst, who carried out considerable internal refurbishment and
created an enlarged stage facility. Then the Arts Council began
to back productions in the 1980s. The charitable trust, Norwest
Holdings, runs it today. It is now one of the best equipped
and popular theatres outside London.
The Palace is a well established Manchester venue, and tickets
need advance booking - for popular shows several months ahead
is recommended. It also produces Christmas Pantomimes, (a Great
British tradition), with famous television personalities in
leading roles, and also invites major celebrities to present
shows (the likes of Victoria
Wood, Les Dawson
& Wise have appeared there). It also stages operatic and ballet
Whitworth Street West, Manchester M1 5WW. Telephone Booking
Line: 0161-615 0500.
Website: http://www.greenroomarts.org. Hire Email: email@example.com.
major experimental theatre established in 1983 to develop and
present local, national and international performance at venues
across Manchester. Situated an old converted railway arch in
the city centre beneath Oxford Road Railway Station, the Green
Room has a growing international reputation for the difficult,
weird and more marginal plays.
The securing of a major capital award via the National Lottery
in 1995 has led to a fundamental refurbishment of the premises
to now seat an audience of 166 and full extension into the next
door arch and
the addition of extra 'workspace' for rehearsal, project development
and visual installations.
The Green Room has a long, creative association with numerous
Manchester events and festivals including "Queer Up North",
Manchester International Arts, Manchester Poetry Festival, Commonwealth
Film Festival, the Manchester Jazz Festival and others.
The Green Room offers special children's activities and adult
workshops - visit their website for details and to see what's
on currently. There is a café bar offering light refreshments.
Street, Manchester. Opera House booking line: 0870 401 9000.
Stage door line: 0161-828 1700.
One of Manchester's biggest venues for large theatrical productions,
opera, dance and modern West End musicals. This is a very elegant
old building, seating 2000. Disabled facilities.
Initially it was named the 'New Theatre' when it opened on Boxing
Day in 1912, and after 5 years being known as the 'New Queens',
it took on its present title in the 1930s under new ownership.
It was always a celebrated
theatre. In its time, its shows featured such great actors as
Sir John Geilgud, Peter Ustinov, Vivienne Leigh and Sir Alec
has hosted such shows as "Oklahoma!", "Kiss Me Kate", "South
Pacific", and "My Fair Lady", as well as Gilbert
& Sullivan operettas, and in more recent times Andrew Lloyd
Webber's record-breaking musical "Phantom of the Opera".
Suffering a similar fate to many theatres and cinemas, its audiences
declined in the 1970s, preferring to stay at home to watch television.
Fortunately, a renaissance in interest and a great deal of petitioning
to save the Palace Theatre from a similar fate resulted in both
the Palace and the Opera House being saved in 1979 by Raymond
Slater's company Norwest Holst, who carried out considerable
internal refurbishment and created an enlarged stage facility.
Then the Arts Council began to back productions in the 1980s.
The charitable trust, Norwest Holdings, runs it today and thanks
to a lively and commercial business approach, it is a most successful
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