A statement from our Executive Team: Royal Exchange Theatre closes its stages until Autumn 2020.

Last week we closed with immediate effect. A wealth of work both on and off our stages was suspended and we asked audiences not to attend performances, events or activities. Taking advice from the Government and with the safety, health and wellbeing of our staff, artists and audiences utmost in our minds we closed the theatre.

Since then we have been working hard to understand what the coming months can and will look like, developing a pragmatic model that safeguards the future of this incredible theatre. The last week has been like no other and has brought unprecedented challenges with it. As this public health emergency continues to escalate daily it has become clear to us, and our Board of Trustees, that the most secure course of action is to close our stages until Autumn 2020. This has been an incredibly difficult and complex decision to make; a week ago it would have been incomprehensible to think of our stages remaining empty for months. The impact of this crisis remains unknown and we will not emerge from it the same, but we are putting everything we can in place in order to ensure the strongest and most resilient return when we are able to light up our stages once again.

Practically this decision provides us with the time to plan and negotiate the rapidly changing world around us. It affords us the space to carefully develop both a sustainable business model and a robust artistic programme. Putting this radical plan in place will enable us to carry on creating shared experiences, plan innovative community work and provide much needed escapism for audiences and participants in these unsettling times.

We want to thank our workforce for how quickly they’ve responded. They did so with passion, innovation and with care. Quite simply they have been brilliant.

Theatre, at its core, is about a live and shared connection. And this remains at the heart of who we are regardless of whether our building is closed and our stages are empty. Although we may be closed we are not going anywhere.

We already have some exciting plans in place. When our doors closed we were about to open Winsome Pinnock’s powerful new play ROCKETS AND BLUE LIGHTS. We captured this on film and are looking at ways that we can share that with audiences. We had just started rehearsals for WEST SIDE STORY which will be back, and as details become clearer we will share these. We are also carefully looking at ways in which the rest of our current Spring/Summer season can have a future life.

The innovation and imagination of those involved with a wide range of projects has been incredible. Working with director Nickie Miles Wildin and poet Testament we reimagined our intergenerational project with the Young Company and Elders Company, this will now be an online interactive celebration of staying connected.

The Den will absolutely pop-up and we continue to make plans with our dedicated ambassador teams via online meetings. The work with our Young Company, Elders Company & Elders Monday will continue online and our Young Collective will have the opportunity to take part in weekly play-reading sessions including Q&As with the writers Andy Sheridan, Simon Stephens, Anna Jordan and Testament. We’d also encourage anyone who is thinking of writing anything - a play, a story, a poem or a novel - to use the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting’s exceptional archive of workshops and advice from some extraordinary playwrights.

This is not at all what we imagined our first season as a new leadership team to look like but it has already taught us something vital about our roles. Our tenure is about ensuring a future life for this unique theatre; the democracy and equality that our in-the-round theatre demonstrates, the openness and warmth of our city’s people gathering around our camp-fire. The world we will be making our work in will not look the same, or be the same and as hard as this will inevitably be it also provides great opportunity to take stock, forge new pathways and reimagine ourselves in direct response to what our communities need now. We are a place of escape and optimism, a place to ask questions and share possibilities, we are a place that brings people together so, that above all, we remain connected.

We have been overwhelmed by the generosity and kind words that have been shared with us in the past week. And we are grateful to Arts Council England and Greater Manchester Combined Authorities for their tremendous efforts in supporting us during this time.

Closing our box office meant stopping all ticket sales. In less than 24hours we put a lid on a £4.5m income stream, our highest single source of income. Suspending that activity makes maintaining our business virtually impossible. So, like many of our peers we have already started a donation campaign asking our incredible audiences to donate the value of their tickets or to help us to share our message. By following us on social media our audiences and communities can keep in touch with everything that we are doing.

Our stages may be empty and our building may be closed but we cannot imagine a life without stories. #RXconnect

Stay safe and well and we will see you when the houselights go back on.

With love, hope and solidarity

Bryony Shanahan, Roy Alexander Weise and Steve Freeman
Joint Artistic Directors and Executive Director

If you have tickets for any of our shows or events we will be in touch as soon as possible. Thank you.