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The Producers and Julie Hesmondhalgh’s Mother Courage lead Royal Exchange season

Julie Hesmondhalgh. Photo: Lee Baxter
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Musical The Producers will be staged by the Royal Exchange in Manchester as part of its new season, which also includes Julie Hesmondhalgh as Mother Courage and Jade Anouka in a new play by Jeanie O’Hare.

The theatre’s autumn and winter season also features Don Warrington as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman.

O’Hare’s new play Queen Margaret opens the season in September, starring Anouka as Margaret of Anjou, in a play directed by Elizabeth Freestone.

Death of a Salesman follows, directed by artistic director Sarah Frankcom, with Warrington in the iconic role of Willy Loman. He returns to the venue having appeared in King Lear and All My Sons.

The Producers will run from November, directed by Raz Shaw, whose credits include Wit, which earned him the best director prize at the UK Theatre Awards in 2016.

Alistair David will choreograph the production, which has musical direction by Caroline Humphris.

Anna Jordan has created a new version of Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children, which runs from February. Hesmondhalgh stars in the title role, with Amy Hodge directing. It is a co-production with Headlong.

Hesmondhalgh told The Stage: “It’s a big role and I am trying not to think about that. I made the mistake the other day of thinking ‘Who has played this over the years?’ and then I saw the level of the people who have and the things they’ve said about the role – and that it’s the Lear for actresses – and I thought ‘Right I will stop reading this now’.”

She said the play was a new interpretation of Brecht’s work and had been written with her in mind.

‘I am just approaching it from scratch rather than being weighed down by the legacy of all these marvellous dames who have done it before,” she said.

Hesmondhalgh also praised the theatre as an “incredible space”  that is open to all.

“I love how egalitarian and open-door it is now,” she said.

Meanwhile, the Studio space will feature The Mysteries, written by Chris Thorpe and directed by Sam Pritchard. It runs from October. The cycle of plays “creates a snapshot of our communities today”.

The plays, developed by Thorpe and Sam Pritchard, have been influenced by communities across England, where they will play before their run in Manchester.

Frankcom said the season would shed light on “everyday contemporary ideas of nationhood”.

“This season we explore the work of some of our most celebrated playwrights Shakespeare, Miller, Brecht, and make some new work inspired by the tradition of sharing stories and making theatre in our communities. These plays are shifted on their axis by some incredible directors, writers and actors, and reshaped for current audiences, inviting us to ask some big questions of ourselves and of our world today,” she said.

The season in full:


Queen Margaret by Jeanie O’Hare

Directed by Elizabeth Freestone

September 14 to October 6, press night

Press Night: Wed 19 September, 7.30am – The Theatre


Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

Directed by Sarah Frankcom

October 11 to  November 17,  press night October 16


The Producers by  Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan

Directed by Raz Shaw

November 30 to January 26, press night December 5


Mother Courage and Her Children by Bertolt Brecht in a new translation by Anna Jordan

Directed by Amy Hodge

February 8 to March 2, press night February 13


The Studio 

The Mysteries by Chris Thorpe

Directed by Sam Pritchard

October 24 to November 11

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