New fringe theatre to bring small-scale musicals to Manchester

Hope Mill Theatre founders Joseph Houston and William Whelton Hope Mill Theatre founders Joseph Houston and William Whelton
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A new 120-seat theatre has been launched in Manchester that aims to focus on staging small-scale musicals.

The independent Hope Mill Theatre – a former cotton mill in Ancoats – will produce shows in-house, as well as hosting musicals and plays by touring companies.

Founders William Whelton and Joseph Houston have already secured a partnership with producer Katy Lipson from Aria Entertainment, which will bring two musical co-productions to the venue in 2016.

Whelton and Houston, both former actors, are self-funding the theatre and have been hosting occasional shows there since October.

The building contains a 120-seat performance space, which can be expanded to 200 seats for certain shows, as well a cafe that is operated during the day and a bar for evening performances.

Whelton told The Stage: “Musical theatre is what we really want to bring to Manchester.

“As a venue, we want it to be a complete cultural hub for anything that’s creative: plays, new writing, revivals. But we certainly want to bring new musical theatre.”

He continued: “We want to commission new musicals, new writing, get new composers out there and give them a platform. And also revive old musicals as well, or musicals that would never tour to Manchester.”

The pair started looking for a space in Manchester last year that would “bridge a gap” in the city between small fringe houses and large-scale venues, such as the Lowry and Home.

Whelton also expressed hope that the venue would challenge people’s expectations of small-scale theatre.

“Rather than people come and expect a venue to be small, dingy, dare I say grotty… We want it to be somewhere that’s a destination; that people are going to come and see great standards of work, and the next generation of up-and-coming creatives,” he said.

A full programming line-up is to be announced by the theatre later in January.