Experience life’s rich tapestry this season at the Royal Exchange Theatre with an Autumn/Winter programme that offers a glimpse into the highs and lows that life has to offer.

Celebrating the events that leave us dancing and embracing those moments that come to define life, this varied programme of work moves from Shakespeare to contemporary writing and for Christmas 2024 we see the welcome return of the Exchange’s big Christmas Musical, an audience favourite, filling the stage with showstopping song and dance for a festive celebration.

Four powerful stories are brought to life by acclaimed theatre makers, who pair fresh ideas and perspectives to create innovative pieces of theatre for Greater Manchester audiences this season.

  • Rave ‘til the sun comes up in a new interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM. Directed by the award-winning Stef O’Driscoll and starring Mancunian DJ SALO as The Moon, this MIDSUMMER invites audiences to experience Shakespeare as one big night out, where hedonism is king and young lovers match their heartbeats to the bass.
  • The critically acclaimed winner of the 2022 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting takes to the Royal Exchange stage this October, after smash-hit runs in Edinburgh and London. Nathan Queeley-Dennis’ BULLRING TECHNO MAKEOUT JAMZ brings Birmingham to the heart of Manchester in a tale of love, Beyoncé and a man’s deep connection to his barber.
  • Back for Christmas 2024, the Exchange’s Christmas Musical spectacular is Northern legend SPEND SPEND SPEND, the true rags-to-riches-to-rags story of Viv Nicholson as she goes from winner of the football pools to scrounging for every last penny. Rachel Leskovac (WATERLOO ROAD, BBC), who was Olivier Award-nominated for starring as Young Viv in the original West End production, now takes to the Royal Exchange stage as the older Viv, looking back on a chaotic life lived to the fullest. With a cast of 13 performers and a band of seven talented musicians, we are delighted to bring this vibrant musical to Manchester.
  • A thoughtful meditation on the complexity of life and the wisdom which comes with age is captivatingly captured in Caryl Churchill’s ESCAPED ALONE and WHAT IF IF ONLY. Directed by the award-winning Sarah Frankcom, these two short plays are presented in one evening of theatre and encompass life in all its beautiful messiness.
  • This September celebrates ten radical years of creative aging and award-winning work from our Elders programme. To mark this occasion, ELDERSFEST takes place in the Royal Exchange Studio and exhibition spaces this autumn, shining a light on the talents of the Elders past and present with a new devised production and exhibition, performances and screenings.
  • The Royal Exchange makes theatre as affordable and accessible as possible with Season Tickets, giving audiences the opportunity to book for all 4 shows at once starting from £64.50, Pay What You Can tickets available on every standard show, Under 30s tickets and the Exchange’s legendary Banquette Seats from £10. Access performances are also available for productions within our theatre space, including Sensory Adapted (SA), Audio Described (AD), BSL-Interpreted (BSL) and Captioned (C) performances, with all tickets for Sensory Adapted performances from £15.
Autumn/Winter at the Royal Exchange Theatre
On Stage

By William Shakespeare

Directed by Stef O’Driscoll

6 September – 12 October 2024

Press Night – Wednesday 11 September – 7.30pm, The Theatre

The Palace nightclub reigns supreme in Athens’ hedonistic world. Its throne is occupied by The Duke and danger lurks in every beat. While the city prepares for a royal wedding four young ravers fight for a future they desire, each step bringing them closer to the edge of pleasure and peril. When they encounter an intoxicating forest, the lines between fantasy and reality blur as they find themselves caught in a dangerous game with some devious fairies. All this mayhem is overlooked by the Moon, a goddess of music in the sky.

Stef O’Driscoll makes her Royal Exchange directing debut with this contemporary vision for Shakespeare’s most lauded comedy. Celebrating Manchester’s synonymous links with dance, music and rave culture, this Dream takes place in a hedonistic and captivating world. Making an on-stage appearance as The Moon is Manchester-based SALO, one of the most exciting emerging artists and musicians of today, tipped to take the music world by storm with her collaborations, new releases and appearance on Channel 4’s THE PIANO. Running from 6 September to 12 October, this fantastical comedy invites everyone to get their dancing gear on and be ready to lose themselves to the beat.

This electrifying adaptation of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM is a whirlwind of sweaty dance-offs and drum and bass love anthems, celebrating the vibrant tapestry of Manchester’s contemporary rave scene.

Director Stef O’Driscoll said…

My relationship with Manchester has always been through its beautiful rave scene, mainly drum and bass and jungle music. I’ve had some of the best nights out here in Manchester, with the music of talented local artists serving as the soundtrack through messy heartaches, painful unrequited love to that new fizzy kind of love.

Blending the worlds of Shakespeare and Manchester’s current rave scene, I wanted to celebrate that music in this production and highlight Manchester’s many gifted artists, rappers, and MCs alongside Shakespeare. To me, they all are the greatest wordsmiths and storytellers around. While the show is often described as a comedy, this production delves into the darker side of obsessive love and the lengths people go to, to get what they want.

I’m excited that heaps of young people across Manchester will come where it will feel as close to the energy and vibe I imagine it was in Shakespeare’s time: you will know if they are enjoying it, and you will know if they are not! It’s a celebration of music, storytelling, and the vibrant spirit of Manchester.


28 September – 2 October 2024

The Royal Exchange will host ELDERSFEST from 28 September to 2 October, to celebrate ten radical years of creative ageing with our resident Elders Company.

ELDERSFEST is a creative intervention across our Studio and exhibition spaces, shining a light on the talents of the Elders.

This includes a new devised production called ACTS OF LOVE directed by the award-winning Andy Barry, a new exhibition, performances, and screenings. Plus, there will be opportunities for older people to take part, get creative, join the conversation, and think about what the next ten years of Elders should look like.

Elders Programme Producer Andy Barry said…

“It’s been a wonderful ten years of growth and development. From an initial pilot of eight weeks with 20 people aged over 60, The Elders has grown into a busy programme of regular creative activities for hundreds of older people across Greater Manchester. The Company have made performances and film outcomes, won awards, developed new ways of working with under-represented people, been recognised nationally and internationally and have, through their endeavours, really set about challenging the stereotypes of ageing and ageism. We’re delighted that ELDERSFEST will celebrate all this, as well as look to the future so that we can continue to contribute towards making Manchester a great place to grow older.”


Written and performed by Nathan Queeley-Dennis

Directed by Dermot Daly

28 – 30 October 2024  

Press tickets on request

Winner of the 2022 Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting, Nathan Queeley-Dennis’ debut play is a love letter to Birmingham, exploring Black masculinity through Beyoncé lyrics, techno raves, and the deeply intimate relationship between a man and his barber. Directed by Dermot Daly, the show was a huge hit during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2023 and subsequently opened in London to rave reviews. The show now runs for four performances from 28 – 30 October at the Royal Exchange Theatre where it was awarded the Bruntwood Prize in 2022.

Nathaniel is a serious romantic who sees love as a fine art. He’s looking for the Mona Lisa to his da Vinci, and tonight is the night: his date with Destiny…’s Child.

Nathan Queeley-Dennis said…

“I’m thrilled to bring BULLRING TECHNO MAKEOUT JAMZ to the Royal Exchange Theatre. Our journey began here with the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting in 2022. Though I’m not from Manchester, this feels like a homecoming for the play. An extract was performed at the ceremony, and the feeling in the room was electric, you could really feel it living in the space. I’ll never forget that moment or feeling, and I can’t wait to bring that electricity back to that room, bringing the 0121 to the 0161.”


A Musical by Steve Brown and Justin Greene

Book and Lyrics by Steve Brown and Justin Greene

Music by Steve Brown

Inspired by the Life of Viv Nicholson

Directed by Josh Seymour

23 November 2024 – 11 January 2025  

Press Night – Thursday 28 November – 7.30pm, The Theatre

A legendary Northern story, SPEND SPEND SPEND relaunches the Exchange‘s big musical for the festive season. Inspired by the unique life of Viv Nicholson, who on winning the Football Pools in 1961 went on lavish spending-sprees, splashing out on furs, cars, champagne and parties – until it all came crashing down around her.

Addicted to excess and seduced by materialism, Viv takes us through the kaleidoscopic and messy journey of her life. From the two-up two-downs of Castleford to the grandeur of Garforth, to new handbags and husbands, Viv faces the ultimate question: after the champagne stops flowing, can money really buy happiness? This carnivalesque musical comedy is the big-hearted experience everyone needs this festive season.

Directed by Josh Seymour and with Rachel Leskovac (nominated for an Olivier Award for her portrayal of the young Viv Nicholson in the original London production) in the leading role, this wildly funny and profoundly moving award-winning musical is an extraordinary rags-to-riches and back again story and runs in the theatre from 23 November 2024 to 11 January 2025.

Dedicated to the memory of Steve Brown, who passed away earlier this year.

Director Josh Seymour said…

SPEND SPEND SPEND is the perfect festive treat of a show and I can’t wait to share it with audiences. It’s packed with hilarious and heartbreaking songs which will explode with energy when delivered by our brilliant cast and band. I’m honoured that this production will be a tribute to the legacy of our composer Steve Brown, who sadly passed away this year and I know audiences will fall in love with his thrilling music.

Audiences can expect a bittersweet rollercoaster of a story as we follow Viv through the highs and lows of life. She’s a great character to spend an evening with – wild, witty and warm. It will be magical for audiences to see the sensational Rachel Leskovac, who will be familiar from her incredible array of screen work.

In the materialistic, image-centred culture of today, Viv’s story feels more relatable than ever – we’re all at the mercy of the myth that money or fame will solve our problems. SPEND SPEND SPEND beautifully explores how it’s not expensive holidays or fancy cars that give our lives meaning, but the deep-rooted connections with family and community that will truly endure the test of time.”


By Caryl Churchill

Directed by Sarah Frankcom

7 February – 9 March 2025

Press night – Wednesday 12 February – 7.30pm, The Theatre

These two incredible Caryl Churchill short plays are brought together by Director Sarah Frankcom in one evening of theatre at the Royal Exchange. ESCAPED ALONE and WHAT IF IF ONLY are beautifully intricate meditations on life. These stunningly crafted, complex and funny plays can be seen in the Theatre from 7 February to 9 March.

Escaped Alone

“I’m walking down the street and there’s a door in the fence open and inside there are three women I’ve seen before.”

Three old friends and a neighbour. A summer of afternoons in the back yard. Tea and catastrophe.

What If If Only

“Make me happen”

Your partner’s died, could things have been different?

Director Sarah Frankcom said…

“I’m thrilled to be stepping into the worlds of these extraordinary plays in which Churchill so brilliantly explodes the domestic and the apocalyptic. It shouldn’t feel radical to put female characters over seventy years old centre stage but it still does. Churchill’s ESCAPED ALONE celebrates the emotional and intellectual dexterity that only older actresses can bring to live performance. WHAT IF IF ONLY is epic in its ideas and audaciously distilled in its form – a brilliant challenge for any director. I can’t wait to get started.”

Off Stage
  • The Royal Exchange’s Young Company continues to make exciting, innovative work at the forefront of theatre making. This August, they present THRESHOLD, three intersecting stories from Young Company Writers Graduates Rosa Gatley, Sharvi Rana and Jake Talbot. Mentored by playwright Becky Prestwich and directed by Tian Glasgow, this striking new work tackles head on the complex choices faced by young people in a fast-paced, ever-changing world.
  • The Den is back in Greater Manchester, and this year we’re in Rochdale – The FestiDale, named and curated by the Rochdale Ambassadors and Champions, will be hosted by Kingsway Park High School from Thursday 8 August to Sunday 18 August 2024. There’ll be something for everyone in this vibrant, captivating programme in the Royal Exchange’s eco-friendly mobile theatre, including community production TALES OF THE DALE, helmed by award-winning theatre and audio directors Nickie Miles-Wildin and Polly Thomas, curated by award-winning writer Shahid Iqbal Khan. With a pay-what-you-can model, each production, workshop and activity is accessible and open to everyone who wants to come along. The Den is a key part of the Royal Exchange’s wide-reaching community programme Local Exchange, bringing incredible shared live experiences right to people’s doorsteps.
  • The Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting celebrates twenty years of supporting and platforming playwrights in 2025, with submissions opening this September.