Come backstage and meet the artistic team behind the Royal Exchange Theatre.

Sarah Frankcom, Artistic Director


Joining the Royal Exchange Theatre as Literary Manager in 2000, Sarah Frankcom has been an Artistic Director since 2008. With Royal Exchange Theatre credits including Three Birds, Orpheus Descending, Miss Julie, Beautiful Thing, A View from the Bridge, Punk Rock, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Kes, Sarah’s career has also seen her working with the Lyric Hammersmith, the Crucible Theatre, the National Theatre and the Young Vic, amongst many others.

Stephen Freeman, Executive Director

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Stephen joined the Royal Exchange in January 2019. Stephen began his career in the arts at Stafford Borough Council before taking up the role of Producer for Stafford Festival Shakespeare. He developed the festival’s flagship open-air production into one of the region’s most significant cultural events. Alongside this and his position at Arts Council England, his other roles have included Artistic Programme Manager for the Gatehouse Theatre, General Manager at the New Wolsey Theatre and Festival Director for PULSE Fringe Festival. In 2016 he joined Scarborough’s Stephen Joseph Theatre as Chief Executive. Stephen leaves the Stephen Joseph Theatre in an incredibly strong position, where audiences are growing and the work is flourishing.

Bryony Shanahan, Associate Artistic Director


Bryony Shanahan trained on the National Theatre Studio Directors Course and at East 15 Acting School, and is co-artistic director of multi-award winning Snuff Box Theatre. In 2016 she won the Genesis Future Directors award and directed TRADE at the Young Vic.  Directing includes CHICKEN SOUP (Sheffield Crucible) OPERATION CRUCIBLE (Finborough Theatre, Sheffield Crucible and UK tour); Weald (Finborough Theatre); NOTHING (Royal Exchange, winner of Manchester Theatre Award); BITCH BOXER (Soho Theatre, national tour, Adelaide Fringe Festival); BOYS WILL BE BOYS (Women Centre Stage, National Theatre); CHAPEL STREET (National Tour) and YOU AND ME (Greenwich Theatre and National Tour). Bryony has worked as Associate Director on LABOUR OF LOVE in the West End (Headlong/Michael Grandage), SALOMÉ and OUR COUNTRY'S GOOD (National Theatre), OBSERVE THE SONS OF ULSTER MARCHING TOWARDS THE SOMME (Headlong/Abbey Theatre) THE SKRIKER (Royal Exchange Theatre), and as a Connections Director for the National Theatre’s Connections Festival.

Maxine Peake, Associate Artist


Playing the title role in our 2014 production of HAMLET, Maxine has previously performed at the Royal Exchange Theatre in MISS JULIE, THE CHILDREN'S HOUR and RUTHERFORD & SON. For HAMLET, she was 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 BAFTA nominated), RED RIDING and SEE NO EVIL. Maxine was also BAFTA nominated for her performance in HANCOCK AND JOAN.

Chris Thorpe, Associate Artist


Writer and performer Chris Thorpe is a founder member of Unlimited Theatre and a member of Third Angel, a company fuelled by original and contemporary performance. Chris’ play for the Royal Exchange, THERE HAS POSSIBLY BEEN AN INCIDENT, was selected for the Berlin Stuckemarkt 2014. Other recent work includes I WISH I WAS LONELY, a collaboration with poet Hannah Jane Walker, HANNAH for Unicorn Theatre, Third Angel's WHAT I HEARD ABOUT THE WORLD, and CONFIRMATION, a collaboration with Rachel Chavkin. He plays guitar in Lucy Ellinson's #TORYCORE.

Amanda Dalton, Associate Artist

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Amanda is a writer, theatre-maker and facilitator with a strong track record in bringing artists, audiences and communities together through innovative theatre projects. Until summer 2017, she was the Royal Exchange Theatre’s Director of Engagement, leading and developing our creative learning and participation work over 18 years. Her original plays and adaptations for the Exchange include SECRET HEART, DOG BOY, STRAWGIRL, POWDER MONKEY and, most recently, the award winning NOTHING which she created with and for the theatre’s Young Company. As a poet, she has published two pamphlets and two collections with Bloodaxe Books (HOW TO DISAPPEAR and STRAY). She writes extensively for BBC Radio 4, and for BBC Radio 3 she has made radical re-visionings of the silent films THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI and NOSFERATU. She is also a Visiting Teaching Fellow in the Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University. 

RashDash, Associate Artists

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RASHDASH is Abbi Greenland, Becky Wilkie and Helen Goalen. We are a company of performers, musicians and makers. We work with music, dance and theatre because we believe this can speak to an audience in the most rich, delicious, complex way. We make radical, often feminist work, that speaks to the feeling body as well as the thinking brain. Recent projects include THE DARKEST CORNERS (a large scale, outdoor, headphone show for Transform Festival 2017), TWO MAN SHOW (made with Northern Stage and Soho Theatre, Fringe First Winner 2016), SNOW WHITE & ROSE RED (a Christmas show for Cambridge Junction in 2015 and Battersea Arts Centre in 2017), WE WANT YOU TO WATCH (by RashDash and Alice Birch, National Theatre and UK Tour, 2015).