Manchester Theatre Awards

> Independent informed reviews by the region’s most experienced critics

MTA chairman Kevin Bourke (left) hands the Production and Special Achievement trophies to David Thacker (centre) watched by awards show host Justin Moorhouse, Credit: Ant Robling

Octagon Theatre shapes up to a haul of awards

One of the country’s most distinguished theatre directors, and the first-ever Professor of Theatre at Bolton University, David Thacker was honoured with a Special Achievement trophy at the Manchester Theatre Awards.

... and the winners are: Actor in a Leading Role

The four outstanding nominations here are divided equally between the Royal Exchange and Octagon Bolton, whittled down from a list several times that size, indicating just how strong the competition is this time around.

Actress in a Leading Role

Over the past few years the panel has genuinely struggled to pare down the size of this category, which reflects the strength of performances and breadth of female roles offered.

What's on

Lowry parking spot for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

The UK tour of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang parks up at the Lowry in Salford for Christmas, through to January 15.

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Sweet Charity for Exchange

Manchester’s Royal Exchange theatre is transformed into the hustle and bustle of New York City, when Derek Bond returns to the venue to direct the Tony-nominated Broadway hit Sweet Charity.

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Guaranteed a Horrible Christmas

Salford’s Lowry arts centre stages a special seasonal production of Horrible Histories - Horrible Christmas through to January 8.

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Spending Christmas at HOME

Christmas celebrations at HOME in Manchester begin with a party that includes a Back to the Future screening, Enchantment Under The Sea-inspired 50s to 80s disco and DJs, plus a special visit from the DeLorean Time Machine.

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Billy Elliot dances into city

Multi award-winning hit Billy Elliot the Musical comes to the Palace Theatre, Manchester this week.

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HOME-made garments debate

World Factory at HOME in Manchester from December 7-10 shines a light on ‘Made In China’ asking audiences to participate in the politics of fashion in an interactive and topical show

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Lowry family favourites at the double

Two family favourites tread The Lowry boards in Salford this festive season.

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Queer Contact Festival marks historic year

Manchester’s Queer Contact Festival returns in February for its ninth year, with a diverse and inclusive festival proudly celebrating Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender arts and culture in Greater Manchester as part of LGBT History Month.

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Bolton has a Ball with Cinders

The Octagon Theatre in Bolton bring Cinderella to life in a fun and feisty re-telling that runs until January 14.

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Snapshot of Manchester Festival 2017

Manchester International Festival’s new artistic director John McGrath has offered a snapshot of his first programme, running from June 29 to July 16 next year.

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HOME to have another big PUSH

HOME in Manchester, in association with Auto Trader, has announced the return of PUSH, its annual two-week festival providing an opportunity for some of the North West’s leading artists to present their work, including theatre.

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New play fresh out of the Box

Manchester theatre company Box of Tricks is set to tour a new play with songs, Narvik, by award-winning playwright and celebrated singer-songwriter Lizzie Nunnery.

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HOME developing theatre careers

HOME in Manchester has a new theatre talent development programme, offering opportunities to theatre makers at all career stages to develop and extend their practice.

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Local actors in return of Curious

The National Theatre’s forthcoming, 25-city tour of the Olivier and Tony Award-winning Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time begins at The Lowry in Salford on January 21.

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Calendar dates for Plaza volunteers

Earlier this year, the award winning Stockport Plaza volunteers bared all in Calendar Girls style for a 2017 fundraising calendar in aid of the ongoing maintenance and restoration appeal of the art deco cinema and variety theatre.

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Rest time for Fine Time

For the first time in a long time, there’s no Fine Time Fontayne in Oldham Coliseum Theatre’s renowned traditional family pantomime Sleeping Beauty.

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Season of variety at Oldham Coliseum

Oldham Coliseum Theatre Spring-Summer 2017 season, features triumphant returns, new takes on old classics and comedies, topped off with a glittering Bollywood musical.

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Jodie's Valentine date

A major revival tour, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Willy Russell's Shirley Valentine, and starring Jodie Prenger as the eponymous heroine, comes to the Lowry in Salford next June.

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Sweet Charity for Exchange

Derek Bond returns to Manchester’s Royal Exchange this Christmas to direct the Tony-nominated Broadway hit Sweet Charity.

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Debt or glory for Steve

Nowhere at The Kings Arms in Salford in December is written by Steve Hutchinson, a debt collector from the Manchester area.

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Mary's last Monster

Beautiful Monster is a new play by Skint's creative director Karlton Parris depicting the final hours of the life of the author of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

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Jackson show in Tatton Park

Tatton Park in Cheshire will stage touring stage show Forever Jackson in a combination of dining and dancing at the landmark venue.

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Pop star graces Grease

The West End production of the musical, Grease, embarks on a national tour, opening at the Palace Theatre Manchester in March.

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Light programme for Salford Quays

Quays Culture will host the UK’s biggest digital light festival, at Salford Quays and MediaCityUK.

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Sheridan Smith for Manchester Funny Girl

Following sold-out runs at the Menier Chocolate Factory and Savoy Theatre, Sheridan Smith will reprise her performance of Fanny Brice at selected venues for the UK tour of Funny Girl – including the Palace Theatre, Manchester, where the tour will open on February 18, 2017.

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Babe back on stage at Lowry

Adapted from Dick King-Smith’s much-loved children’s novel which inspired the Oscar-winning 1995 film, Babe, The Sheep-Pig will be brought to life on stage in a new production next year.

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Running Wild at the Lowry

Children’s Touring Partnership is staging Running Wild by Michael Morpurgo at The Lowry from April 18-22.

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Black Ice for the Kings Arms

Following their win at The Greater Manchester Fringe Awards for Porno Chic, Manchester fringe outfit Vertigo Theatre Productions are back this December with a brand-new drama Black Ice opening at The Kings Arms, Salford on Dec 13-17.

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War Horse re-mounted in 2018

War Horse, the National Theatre’s cash cow, will return to The Lowry in 2018.

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Wendi's Wonderland homecoming

TV and West End star Wendi Peters (Cilla Battersby-Brown in Coronation Street) will headline the 2017 UK tour of Wonderland as Queen of Hearts alongside musical theatre favourite Dave Willetts.

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Parisian style for RNCM Opera

Glitz and glamour head to the Royal Northern College of Music when RNCM Opera presents Offenbach’s La Vie Parisienne.

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Wedding Singer musical for Manchester

A new production of The Wedding Singer will play the Opera House, Manchester, from May 15-20.

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Kevin's commitment to musical

Coronation Street legend, Kevin Kennedy is to star as Jimmy’s Da in the UK tour of the musical The Commitments written by Roddy Doyle, which comes to the Palace Theatre, Manchester, from March 27 to April 8.

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Sherrie Hewson rings in for Aladdin

Benidorm, Loose Women and Coronation Street favourite, and star of the all-new Are You Being Served, Sherrie Hewson will be appearing as the Genie of the Ring in Aladdin at Manchester Opera House this Christmas.

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Latest reviews

Cast picture from Sweet Charity
Richard Davenport Jason Manford at the wheel of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Fiona Finsbury Métella
Robert Workman Annette McLaughlin as Mrs Wilkinson in Billy Elliot
Alastair Muir Promotional image for The Red Shoes
New Adventures The interrogation scene
Manuel Harlan Key Change
Norah Lopez Holden in 'Ghosts'
Jonathan Keenan Ma Xiaodong and company  in The Peony Pavillion
National Ballet of China Lisa Dillon, Leah Whitaker, Paige Carter and Rebecca Collingwood
Manuel Harlan

Sweet Charity

Book: Neil Simon. Lyrics: Dorothy Fields. Music: Cy Coleman
Royal Exchange Theatre at Royal Exchange, Manchester
(reviewer: Carmel Thomason)

Ian Fleming's Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Music & lyrics: Richard & Robert Sherman. Adapted: Jeremy Sams
Music & Lyrics & West Yorkshire Playhouse at The Lowry, Salford
(reviewer: David Upton)

La Vie Parisienne

Offenbach with Meilhac & Halévy
Royal Northern College of Music at RNCM Opera Theatre
(reviewer: Robert Beale)

Billy Elliot

Lee Hall and Elton John
The Billy Elliot tour at Palace Theatre, Manchester
(reviewer: Robert Beale)

The Red Shoes

Matthew Bourne, after Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
New Adventures at The Lowry
(reviewer: Robert Beale)

Much Ado About Nothing

William Shakespeare
The Royal Shakespeare Company and Chichester Festival Theatre at The Opera House, Manchester
(reviewer: David Cunningham)

Key Change

Catrina McHugh based upon interviews with women in HMP Low Newton
Open Clasp at The Contact Theatre, Manchester
(reviewer: David Cunningham)


Henrik Ibsen in a version by David Watson
HOME at HOME, Manchester
(reviewer: Kevin Bourke)

The Peony Pavillion

Fei Bo, Li Liuyi
The National Ballet of China at The Lowry
(reviewer: Robert Beale)

Love’s Labour’s Lost

William Shakespeare
The Royal Shakespeare Company and Chichester Festival Theatre at Opera House, Manchester
(reviewer: David Cunningham)

Youth panel reviews

The Secret Garden

Frances Hodgson Burnett adapted by Janys Chambers
Octagon Youth Theatre and Octagon Artistic Team at Octagon Theatre
(reviewer: Harriet Mallion)

It Snows

Bryony Lavery
Octagon Connections at Bolton Octagon
(reviewer: Georgina Wells)

What Are They Like?

Lucinda Coxon
Woodhey High School at Bolton Octagon
(reviewer: Georgina Wells)


Carl Grose
Lowry Young Actors at The Lowry
(reviewer: Lizz Clark)


Snoo Wilson, Gary Kemp and Guy Pratt (adapted from Vladimir Mayakovsky)
Bluecoat at The Lowry
(reviewer: Lizz Clark)

Climate of Fear

Contact Young Company at Contact Theatre
(reviewer: Harriet Mallion)


Janne Teller. Adapted by Amanda Dalton
Royal Exchange Young Company at Royal Exchange
(reviewer: Georgina Wells)

What's Done Is Done

Martin Stannage and CAN Young Artists
CAN Young Artists at HOME
(reviewer: Georgina Wells)

How To Be Better

Contact Young Actors Company/ Common Wealth at Contact Theatre
(reviewer: Georgina Wells)

Latest articles

Love Lost and Won

Just a few weeks ago, 'The Rocky Horror Show' directed by Christopher Luscombe was rocking the Manchester Opera House. Now he's back there with an RSC double of 'Love's Labour's Lost' and 'Much Ado About Nothing', set either side of the Great War.

Kevin Bourke

Parallel Lives

Laura Lindsay was part of the MTA-winning ensemble cast of The Rise And Fall Of Little Voice, and this week at Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre, and then on tour, she’s also demonstrating her writing and production skills with her company Black Toffee's new play, Parallel, addressing the growing problem of homelessness

Kevin Bourke

Q&A with musical royalty, Elaine Paige

Britain’s Queen of musical theatre, Elaine Paige is back on the road with a brand new show, Stripped Back. She chats to Carmel Thomason ahead of her stop at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall.

Carmel Thomason

Voice of The Nation(al)

The MTA eavesdrops while Rufus Norris, director of the National Theatre chats to Julia Fawcett OBE, Chief  Executive of The Lowry about his career and the relationship between the two theatres.

David Cunningham

Little Sister, don't you cheat on me

For the World Premiere of Little Sister at the Royal Exchange, artist Mark Storor has been visiting the Exchange over eighteen months to work with community participants from Tameside Women and their Families Centre, The Royal Exchange’s Progression Group and City of Sanctuary’s Conversation Club (for refugees and asylum seekers), as well as a professional clown, an aerialist, and a classical cellist who plays the saw.

Kevin Bourke

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