From Autumn 2014, Sarah Frankcom will be the Royal Exchanges’ sole Artistic Director, with her first production being William Shakespeare's HAMLET, starring Maxine Peake in the title role.

From September, we're also delighted to welcome on board - Maxine Peake as Associate Artist, Benji Reid as Associate Artist and Chris Thorpe as Associate Artist.


Sarah, alongside the Executive Director, Fiona Gasper, are responsible to the Board for every aspect of the Company's operation.

The prime responsibility of the Artistic Director is planning artistic strategy and programme across the Theatre, Studio, Great Hall and other spaces beyond the building. This includes choosing productions, directors, writers and actors. 

Sarah's theatre credits for the Royal Exchange Theatre include:

SARAH FRANKCOM (Director) After working as a drama teacher in the East End, Sarah started working with new writers and in drama schools. She spent time at the National Theatre studio, Oval House, The Red Room, and taught at The Poor School. Originally joining the Royal Exchange as Literary Manager, her recent productions have included: BLINDSIDED, THAT DAY WE SANG, Royal Exchange & MIF13 co-production THE MASQUE OF ANARCHY (with Maxine Peake), BLACK ROSES, THREE BIRDS, ORPHEUS DESCENDING, MISS JULIE (a new version by David Eldridge), BEAUTIFUL THING, A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, WINTERLONG (by Andrew Sheridan - Bruntwood Prize winner), PUNK ROCK (by Simon Stephens - MEN Award for Best Production), BLITHE SPIRIT, THREE SISTERS, ON THE SHORE OF THE WIDE WORLD (by Simon Stephens - Olivier Award for Best Play) and KES. Her work has also been seen at the National Theatre, Bush Theatre, Lyric Hammersmith, Soho Theatre and the Crucible.

The Royal Exchange has also appointed Benji Reid as an Associate Artist. Benji is an award-winning visual theatre director, who has been the recipient of the NESTA dreamtime award and runner up for Art 05 award and currently the recipient of The Welcome Trust award. He formally trained in classical /contemporary dance, lighting design and choreography at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. Benji Reid is one of the Pioneers of the hip-hop theatre movement in the UK.

Benji has worked widely with companies and artists such as the David Glass Ensemble, Trestle Theatre, Theatr Clwyd and Black Mime Theatre. He recently directed HOAX MY LONELY HEART (presented by Pippa Frith in association with the Royal Exchange) which was seen in The Studio at the Exchange recently.

Talking about his appointment, Benji said “I would like to thank Sarah Frankcom for having the vision to appoint me as an Associate Artist at the Royal Exchange. I look forward to developing this unique relationship with the building, This role also offers me the time and space to invest in my craft - working with some of the best minds and artists in the industry.”

Also joining the Exchange as Associate Artist is Chris Thorpe, who is a founder member of Unlimited Theatre and a member of Third Angel. He has a long-running collaboration with poet Hannah Jane Walker - they are currently touring I WISH I WAS LONELY. He also works with Portuguese company Mala Voadora.

His play for the Royal Exchange, THERE HAS POSSIBLY BEEN AN INCIDENT was recently selected for the Berlin Stuckemarkt 2014 and he is currently writing for the Royal Court, Royal Exchange and Unicorn. Other recent work includes HANNAH for Unicorn Theatre and Third Angel's WHAT I HEARD ABOUT THE WORLD. His new show CONFIRMATION is a collaboration with Rachel Chavkin. He plays guitar in Lucy Ellinson's #TORYCORE.


Acclaimed actress, Maxine Peake will start at the Theatre as Associate Artist, as well as playing the title role in our Autumn/Winter 2014 Season opener - HAMLET. Maxine has also performed at the Royal Exchange in MISS JULIE, THE CHILDREN'S HOUR and RUTHERFORD & SON. For HAMLET, she will be reunited with Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom following the huge success of THE MASQUE OF ANARCHY for the Manchester International Festival 2013. Her many TV credits include SILK, THE VILLAGE (for which she was recently BAFTA nominated), RED RIDING and Myra Hindley in SEE NO EVIL. She was also BAFTA nominated for her performance in HANCOCK AND JOAN.

Maxine said: “I am so honoured to be part of this building’s future for a little while, especially in this climate of savage cuts when more than ever we need to support our wonderful regional theatres. I feel no need to compete with London - more than ever local people need a voice and a creative outlet in these extreme times and I feel the Exchange has a huge role to play in that."