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Royal Exchange appoints Roy Alexander Weise and Bryony Shanahan as joint artistic directors

Roy Alexander Weise and Bryony Shanahan. Photo: Lee Baxter Roy Alexander Weise and Bryony Shanahan. Photo: Lee Baxter
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Roy Alexander Weise and Bryony Shanahan have been appointed joint artistic directors of the Royal Exchange in Manchester.

They succeed Sarah Frankcom, who is leaving to become principal of drama school LAMDA, and will take up their positions in November this year.

Royal Exchange artistic director Sarah Frankcom to leave after 21 years for top LAMDA job

As part of the move, both will become chief executive of the theatre, alongside executive director Stephen Freeman.

Their appointment means the venue returns to a joint artistic leadership model. Frankcom was the theatre’s first solo artistic director.

Weise is currently associate director of the Donmar Warehouse and won the James Menzies-Kitchen directors’ award in 2016, while Shanahan becomes artistic director having been the theatre’s associate director, a position she took up last year.

In a joint statement, they described the Royal Exchange as an “extraordinary theatre”, and said it had been transformed under Franckom.

“She has reimagined the relationship that artists and audiences have with this theatre, championed their voices and celebrated the democracy that the Exchange’s unique space allows. We are really looking forward to building on that dynamic, using it to shape the new work we make and to inform our relationships with communities across Greater Manchester,” they said. Shanahan said sharing stories provided a way “for us to challenge, provoke and discuss and is an important opportunity to bring communities together”.

“These ideas feel fundamental to me and Roy and will help to shape our work in the future,” she said. Weise added: “As artistic directors, we want to give back the opportunities we had so that everyone has access to amazing stories and extraordinary life-defining theatre experiences.”

Executive director Freeman described the pair as “innovative, creative thinkers and inspiring theatremakers”.

“As joint artistic directors, they bring a fresh and invigorating approach to shaping the future of regional theatre, together with the wider team at the Royal Exchange they will reimagine what it means for a producing building to place artists and audiences firmly at the heart of everything we do,” he added.

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