What’s coming up at the theatre in Manchester, Bolton, Oldham and Salford

The Country Wife, at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, from Septermber 12th.
The Country Wife, at the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester, from Septermber 12th.
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It’s been a poor summer weather-wise, but we have had some excitement in the Olympics and the Paralympics.

Now we face the prospect of autumn and then winter, but as the darkness comes earlier the lights go up in our North West theatres as they begin their new season. And there is a great deal to look forward to.

The Royal Exchange, at Manchester, kicks off on September 12th with a “raunchy Restoration romp”, Wycherley’s “The Country Wife”, featuring jealous husbands, innocent women and wicked rakes. This is followed on October 24th by Tennessee Williams’ “Orpheus Descending”, in which a young drifter with a guitar arrives in a town in the Deep South of America and starts a relationship with a middle-aged woman trapped in a loveless marriage.

On November 29th Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy and Melly Still will give us the world premier of “Rats’ Tales”, a dark and magical cycle of folk tales in an evening designed to appeal to everyone with an imagination from eight to 108. The season closes with Peter Whelan’s moving drama familiar to us, “The Accrington Pals”, about the tragedy of World War One.

The Bolton Octagon started its season on September 3rd with Timberlake Wertenbaker’s “Our Country’s Good”, the moving story of a group of convicts transported to Australia who are persuaded into acting a play by a young naval officer: then on October 4th, “Lighthearted Intercourse”, by Bolton’s most famous playwright, Bill Naughton. This production has been compiled from material in Naughton’s personal archive.

For Christmas, starting on November 16th, there will be a new version of J.M. Barrie’s classic “Peter Pan”, with live music and featuring the same creative team behind last year’s successful “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz”. On January 24th Steinbeck’s stage version of “Of Mice and Men”, the tale of two ranch hands in search of the American dream, will be followed in March by Tennessee Williams’ “The Glass Menagerie”, a drama centred on the hopes and fears of a family and a vulnerable girl.

In between in February there will be a brand new production of “Tull”, which explores the life of World War One hero Walter Tull, the first black infantry officer in the British army and the first black footballer to play professionally in Britain. Another new play comes on in April, “Stitched Up”, a hilarious and bawdy medical comedy. The season closes with “Piaf”, a powerful musical drama about the famous Parisian singer.

The Oldham Coliseum is calling its season the Homecoming as they return to their refurbished auditorium in Fairbottom Street. They open with “The Importance of Being Earnest” on October 30th and in November it is panto time again, this year “Cinderella”. 0n January 30th the incomparable comic duo LipService, give Scandi-crime their hilarious spoof treatment in “Inspector Norse”. In February there is an enthralling adaptation of Dickens’ “David Copperfield”: in March a John Godber comedy, “Losing the Plot”, and also in March Alan Ayckbourn’s “Sugar Daddies”. Their season will close with “Blonde Bombshells of 1943”, a musical featuring a live swing band with 1940s classics.

The Library Theatre Company is still on its travels, but again they are producing three plays at the Lowry, Salford. The first, starting on September 27th, is Richard Bean’s provocative comedy “The Heretic” in which science, academia and the chaos of family life collide in an irreverent drama. The Christmas production (November 30th to January 12th) is an adaptation of “Arabian Nights”, a richly imaginative interpretation that will delight children and adults alike. The spring drama (February 21st to March 9th) is Brecht’s “Mother Courage and her Children”, a tragedy of war.

There are so many good things on offer in our region in a wide range of theatres, from large musicals to small studio productions and, of course, many super shows at our own Clitheroe venue, The Grand.

I’m even off to see “The Mousetrap” which, believe it or not, I have never seen, and also to visit London’s famous Globe theatre for the first time to see Taming of the Shrew. So I don’t really mind that autumn is coming and at least it doesn’t rain inside a theatre.

PIPPA MUNRO HEBDEN