An extraordinary spaceship landing in a vast Victorian building in the centre of Manchester, The Royal Exchange Theatre opened in 1976 to equal measures of controversy and great acclaim. 

It was the realisation of the vision of a group of artists, and the people of Manchester, to create something truly wonderful.

As we begin the celebration of the theatre's 40th anniversary year, their vision still amazes and beguiles and we are very proud to begin our next 40 years as The Stage's Regional Theatre of the Year.

Alongside our production in this special year we will be presenting a programme of 40th events to celebrate the past and look forward to the future.

In a series of platform talks we will be welcoming back many of the actors and directors who famously made work at the Royal Exchange and we will be collecting and sharing the stories and memories of artists and audiences for whom the Royal Exchange means so much.

Our anniversary opens with our production of the mighty A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE directed by Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom who shares this memory of her very first visit to the Exchange:


"I came across the place by chance at the age of 17 when a friend and I came over from Sheffield one Saturday on a record buying trip. As we walked past the building we saw that Robert Lindsay was playing HAMLET. By coincidence we were both studying the text for A-level so we decided to join the long queue for banquette seats. I'll never forget feeling quite overwhelmed as I walked up the stone steps and entered the cathedral-like Great Hall, and yet once we took our seats I knew we weren't in a place of reverence. Some of the play's characters were sat amongst the audience, in fact Ophelia sat two seats away from me, and for someone who'd only ever experienced theatre played in more traditional theatres the immediacy and intimacy of this production was startling. It was a totally different experience being part of this audience - we surrounded the action and held the world of the play. Its characters shared our entrances and exits and their passions, ideas and politics were immediately tangible and recognisable to me. This wasn't a theatre that hid things and had secrets; its magic was in its simple honesty."

And don't miss the first of our 40th Platform Talks - a conversation between Sarah and Maxine Peake taking place on Sunday 23 September. Tickets are on sale now for £5.

Later this autumn look out for 'The Listening Exchange' which will appear in the hall, giving you the chance to record your own stories, memories, opinions and dreams for the Royal Exchange and to hear those of other audience members of all ages.

We are running a special fundraising appeal too, with 40 limited edition 40th Anniversary Floor Plaques being made available for dedication - you can find out more about this by contacting This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

And we are thrilled to have commissioned design Gail Myerscough to create a range of Royal Exchange Theatre merchandise inspired by the unique design of the theatre and available for you to buy in the Royal Exchange Theatre Shop.

You can keep up to date with all of our 40th Anniversary events on our website.

We look forward to sharing this special year with you.