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

Horrid comedy returns to Salford

After an award-winning run at the Edinburgh Fringe, Manchester-based Kill the Beast’s ‘horrid comedy’ Don’t Wake the Damp returns to The Studio at The Lowry in Salford from Wednesday to Saturday.

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Ghost set to haunt Manchester again

A new production of the story of love, despair and hope - Ghost the Musical - comes to the Palace Theatre, Manchester, next week.

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Rocky takes a jump to city

It’s still a jump to the left when Richard O'Brien's Rocky Horror Show returns to Manchester Opera House from Monday to Saturday.

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Two venues for second play

The second production from The Unnamed Theatre Company: But John Hughes Said It Would Be OK! is being performed at Oldham Library Theatre on October 25-26 and Salford Arts Theatre 27-29.

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Wind in Willows set to open

The major new musical of The Wind in the Willows by Academy Award-winning screenwriter and Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes and Olivier Award-winning composer and lyricist duo George Stiles and Anthony Drewe opens at The Lowry in Salford from Thursday until November 6, prior to opening in London’s West End.

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Medicine for Manchester

Centenary celebrations of Roald Dahl’s children’s tale George’s Marvellous Medicine, come to Manchester Opera House from November 15-19.

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Circus comes to Salford

Comedy, live music and thrilling acrobatics combine when Circus duo Circoncentrique bring their international hit show to The Lowry, Salford on November 20.

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Full Monty back in city

The hit stage version of The Full Monty returns to Manchester Opera House from October 31 to November 5.

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Opera North shares Secrets

Opera North returns to The Lowry in Salford next month with a Season of Secrets featuring four operas, each with a secret at their heart.

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Winter's Tale in Bolton

Bolton’s Octagon Theatre Bolton and its university present Shakespeare’s epic play The Winter’s Tale from this week, marking the 400th anniversary of the writer’s death.

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Shorts shift to new venue

After 15 sell-out seasons in seven years and 90 world premieres Manchester’s very own festival of mini plays JB Shorts is moving venues.

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D Day drama at HOME

Kneehigh return to HOME in Manchester with 946: The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips between October 25-29.

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Cusack stars in Ghosts

Niamh Cusack takes on the role of Helen Alving, one of the classic roles in European theatre, in HOME’s production of Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts in Manchester between November 13 -  December 3.

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Top writer for Bolton panto

For the festive season the Octagon in Bolton brings Cinderella to life, from November 18 until January 14.

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Wrecking Ball at Exchange

Wrecking Ball, a play by performance duo Action Hero, is being performed at ​Axis Arts Centre on October 27 and Manchester Royal Exchange on November 4/5.

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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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Vaudeville goes volatile in city

Producers of the UK’s biggest touring burlesque show An Evening of Burlesque bring the traditional art form up to date with an all-new theatre show at Manchester Opera House on November 11.

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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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Home is . . . where the art is?

Home Is… a powerful performance of poetry which explores the concept of home and what happens when the idea of home conflicts with the reality.

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Oldham panto set to be a Beauty

Oldham Coliseum Theatre’s nationally-renowned traditional family pantomime is back this year with classic fairy tale, Sleeping Beauty.

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Company Chameleon head to Lowry

Company Chameleon premieres and tours the UK with Witness, their latest production, from October 19 and it culminates in two performances at The Lowry on November 29-30.

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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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Bolton call-out for new plays

The Octagon Theatre in Bolton has opened a call-out for their annual Reveal Festival and Top 5 Readings

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Revival of French Without Tears

English Touring Theatre come to Oldham Coliseum in October with a revival of their highly acclaimed production of Terence Rattigan’s French Without Tears, which enjoyed a sell-out run at the Orange Tree Theatre, Richmond-upon-Thames last 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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Breaking The Code for Exchange

In a major revival of Hugh Whitemore’s Tony-nominated play Breaking The Code BAFTA award-winning actor Daniel Rigby takes on the role of the mathematical genius Alan Turing. Manchester-born Rigby leads a cast of eight in the Royal Exchange’s new production of this play which brings Turing’s story back to Manchester, the city in which he lived, worked and died.

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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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Blood Brothers for Lowry return

Blood Brothers is set to visit Salford's Lowry from November 15-19.

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Cast a dice for homeless drama

An all-female cast has been announced for an innovative new play, which tours the North of England this autumn, co-produced by Black Toffee and Harrogate Theatres.

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China ballet company for Salford

The Lowry is set to host the prestigious National Ballet of China November 22–26 with a run of one of the most enduring love stories in Chinese literature, The Peony Pavilion.

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Ballet premiere set for The Lowry

New Adventures stage the world premiere of Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes at The Lowry from November 29 to December 3.

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Pop-up theatre with political edge

A new interactive pop-up theatre night in Manchester offers alternative perspectives on political issues

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Jumpers for Goalposts in Oldham

Oldham Coliseum Theatre will be presenting Tom Wells’ romantic comedy Jumpers for Goalposts this October, marking the main stage directorial debut of associate director Chris Lawson, who joined the company from London’s Almeida last year.

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Things I Know To Be True for Lowry

Andrew Bovell’s Things I Know To Be True, an international co-production between Frantic Assembly and State Theatre Company of South Australia comes to the Lowry in Salford from November 8-12.

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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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Gatiss stars in Boys In The Band revival

Mart Crowley’s ground-breaking play, The Boys in the Band, will be revived at The Lowry in Salford in November, starring Olivier Award winner Mark Gatiss alongside his husband Ian Hallard.

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Music and more at RNCM

Between September and December Manchester’s Royal Northern College of Music hosts everything from classical music, big band and opera to conversations with Margaret Atwood and Vivienne Westwood as part of the Manchester Literature Festival (October 7-21).

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Hair set for Manchester revival

Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester’s new independent theatre and event space, is to stage its second in-house musical theatre production Hair in November, following the success of Parade.

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Box of Tricks celebrate 10th anniversary

Manchester-based theatre company Box of Tricks celebrates ten years of new play making by bringing back three acclaimed productions and commissioning three brand new plays.

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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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Rufus Hound for musical premiere

Comedian, actor and presenter Rufus Hound will star as lovable menace Mr Toad for the world premiere of the new musical adaptation of The Wind in the Willows by Julian Fellowes.

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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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Hooked up for panto

John Altman returns to Stockport Plaza to star as Captain Hook this festive season in the Peter Pan’ from December 2 to January 8.

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Latest reviews

Katy Owen, Craig Johnson and Kyla Goodey in 946 The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips
French Without Tears
Jacqui Dubois in Ghost
Matt Martin Amy Nuttall as Hermione and Rob Edwards as Leontes
Ian Tilton But John Hughes said it would be Okay
Company Inter_rupted
After the End
The House on Hallowed Ground
Peppa Pig live
Dan Tsantilis Michael Clark
Michael Clark Company

French Without Tears

Terence Rattigan
English Touring Theatre/Orange Tree Theatre co-production at Oldham Coliseum
(reviewer: Alan Hulme)


Bruce Joel Rubin, Dave Stuart, Glen Ballard
Bill Kenwright & Laurie Mansfield at Palace Theatre
(reviewer: Diana Stenson)

The Winter's Tale

William Shakespeare
Octagon Theatre Bolton at Octagon Theatre
(reviewer: David Chadderton)


Aditi Mangaldas
Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company at Lowry, Salford Quays
(reviewer: Carmel Thomason)

After the End

Dennis Kelly
troublehouse theatre at Joshua Brooks, Manchester
(reviewer: David Cunningham)

Peppa Pig's Surprise

Mark Baker and Neville Astley
Fiery Light, in partnership with licensor Entertainment One. at Palace Theatre, Manchester
(reviewer: Carmel Thomason)

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

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

King Lear at The Opera House

Michael Pennington, one of the great Shakespearian actors of his generation, has brought his version of King Lear to Manchester. What is the enduring appeal of the play, does he think?

Kevin Bourke

Feelgood Return To Heaton Park

An exciting cross-arts collaboration based on stories about Heaton Park and the Hall there mark the return of Feelgood Theatre Company to the home of their promenade triumphs.

Kevin Bourke

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