Mark Ludmon previews some of the Nothern theatre highlights across the North of England coming up in 2020
Manchester will be treated to a new musical, Back to the Future, based on the 1985 cult film, which has its world premiere at Manchester Opera House from 20 February to 17 May ahead of a proposed London transfer. With music and lyrics by Alan Silvestri and Glen Ballard and a book by the film’s creators Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale, it will star Olly Dobson as Marty McFly with Hollywood and Broadway star Roger Bart as Doc Brown.
The first half of 2020 sees the final season at Manchester’s Royal Exchange under outgoing artistic director Sarah Frankcom. Highlights include Rockets and Blue Lights, a new play by leading playwright Winsome Pinnock. Moving between the past and the present, it unveils the impact of Britain’s role in the transatlantic slave trade. It runs from 12 March to 4 April.
Also at the Royal Exchange are a “bold new interpretation” of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie, directed by Atri Banerjee, from 5 June to 4 July and Tim Foley’s exploration of faith and humanity, Electric Rosary, set in a time where nuns are scarce and robots are commonplace, from 15 June to 4 July in the Studio.
Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre continues to be a powerhouse for musical theatre with a new revival of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella from 9 May to 16 June.
In Bolton, Mina Anwar takes the title role in Willy Russell’s classic comedy, Shirley Valentine, brought to life by director Lotte Wakeham for Octagon Theatre. Telling the story of a woman who escapes her humdrum life for Greece, it runs from 10 to 29 February in the Library Theatre.
Oldham Coliseum is staging a new production of James Fritz’s Olivier Award-nominated play, Four Minutes Twelve Seconds, from 21 February to 7 March. Following the fall-out from an intimate video appearing online, it deals with how we see ourselves and others, the dangers of modern technology and how far parents will go to protect their children. Other highlights include a modern musical reworking of The Jungle Book from 3 to 19 April and a revival of Lee Hall’s 1999 dark comedy Cooking With Elvis, from 11 to 26 September.
Chester’s Storyhouse has three original productions coming up, starting with a new adaptation of Russian writer Nikolai Erdman’s black comedy The Suicide from 8 February to 14 March. This will overlap with a revival of Jessica Swale’s 2013 play, Blue Stockings, about a group of women fighting for equality in the late 19th century, from 14 February to 15 March. Alongside these, there is a new version of Strindberg’s psychological drama Miss Julie, politically charged in Amy Ng’s adaptation for Storyhouse, running from 20 February to 13 March.
Liverpool Everyman presents Our Lady of Blundellsands, described as an “hilariously twisted comic drama” by Jonathan Harvey, creator of Beautiful Thing. Running from 6 to 28 March, it features Josie Lawrence, Annette Badland, Tony Maudsley, Matt Henry, Nathan McMullen and Gemma Brodrick and is directed by Nick Bagnall.
Spanning 20 years, Gareth Farr’s Shandyland is a story of life, love, death and drink at the heart of a small, northern, family-run pub, described as a “shout of frustration from an abandoned working-class community”. This co-production with Greyscale theatre company runs at Northern Stage in Newcastle upon Tyne from 12 to 23 May, at Liverpool Everyman from 27 May to 6 June, at Oldham Coliseum from 9 to 20 June, and at York Theatre Royal from 23 June to 4 July.
Northern Stage will also present a radical new work by award-winning playwright Chris Bush which reimagines the Faust myth, drawing on the works of Christopher Marlowe, Goethe and other versions of the story. Faustus: That Damned Woman will star Jodie McNee as Johanna Faustus and Danny Lee Wynter as Mephistopheles. In collaboration with theatre company Headlong, it runs from 31 March to 4 April after premiering in London at Lyric Hammersmith in January and will tour other venues. Full tour schedule here.
A powerful new play by Lindsay Rodden, called Here, about two young friends and finding sanctuary, will premiere in Newcastle. It is part of The Arriving Project, which involves theatre company Curious Monkey working with people seeking sanctuary in north-east England and Derby. It runs at Northern Stage from 19 to 28 March and Derby Theatre from 22 to 23 April.
Leeds Playhouse will present its first co-production with Kani Public Arts Center in Japan, called Missing People. Written by Brad Birch, it will be performed in Japanese and English with surtitles and directed by Mark Rosenblatt and Nobuhiro Nishikawa. It follows a young Japanese woman who finds strange goings-on when she takes her fiancé Dan to meet her parents back home. It runs from 12 to 21 March.
Leeds Playhouse will also stage the UK premiere of a new musical adaptation of the classic film Monsoon Wedding, brought to the stage by its director Mira Nair. Featuring drama and comedy around a wedding in Delhi, it runs from 22 June to 11 July ahead of a run at the Roundhouse in London.
Leeds Playhouse is also working with Headlong on a new production of August Wilson’s classic play, Jitney – a family drama set in Pittsburgh in the 1970s, focusing on the owner of an unlicensed taxi company, his son and his drivers. It will run in Leeds from 5 to 19 September. Another highlight will be Pam Gems’ Piaf starring Jenna Russell from 27 May to 13 June.
Shows announced by Hull Truck Theatre so far include a new production of modern classic Two by Jim Cartwright, whose other plays include The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, under director Mark Babych. It runs from 5 to 28 March and then transfers to Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough from 31 March to 18 April.
Hans Fallada’s modern classic, Alone in Berlin, about life in the German city during World War Two, will have its first English stage adaptation at York Theatre Royal. Adapted by Alistair Beaton, it tells the story of two ordinary Germans’ resistance to the Nazis. It runs from 3 to 21 March.
Also at York Theatre Royal will be Margaret Atwood’s The Penelopiad, adapted from her novel by the author who is best known for The Handmaid’s Tale. Directed by Juliet Forster with an all-female cast, it is a witty re-telling of the myth of Penelope, left at home while her husband Odysseus goes off to fight in the Trojan War. It runs from 10 to 25 July.
Much-loved children’s story Pippi Longstocking bursts onto the York Theatre Royal stage for the summer holidays in a new adaptation by Mike Akers, with music by Stu Barker. It runs from 31 July to 15 August.
Robert Hastie, artistic director of Sheffield Theatres, will be directing a new production of Shakespeare’s Coriolanus at the Crucible Theatre, from 6 to 28 March. Starring Tom Bateman, it is said to be a contemporary take about the disconnect between the rulers and the ruled. In the Studio, there will be the world premiere of Chloë Moss’ Run Sister Run in a co-production with Paines Plough and Soho Theatre, directed by Paines Plough’s new co-artistic director Charlotte Bennett, running from 27 February to 21 March.
Two plays by Bryony Lavery have been programmed for 2020 by Sheffield Theatres. One is a new adaptation of Dickens’ Oliver Twist, described as “bold, brutal and beautiful”, which will run from 13 to 23 May in association with Ramps on the Moon which puts D/deaf and disabled artists and audiences at the centre of their work. It will premiere at Leeds Playhouse from 28 February to 21 March and continue on a short tour. Lavery’s other play is Oscar and the Pink Lady, adapted from the novel by Éric-Emmanuel Schmitt, which will be directed by Justin Martin.
Later in the year, Here’s What She Said To Me by Oladipo Agboluaje will have its world premiere in Sheffield’s Studio theatre, telling the stories of three generations of woman on two continents through music, ritual, poetry and movement. It runs from 18 June to 4 July. Sheffield People’s Theatre will stage a site-specific show, Everybody’s Got To Leave Sometime, with theatre company Dante or Die, exploring the repercussions of someone creating a personalised funeral plan, running 25 to 30 May.
The community of Doncaster will be getting involved in a new production of Bertolt Brecht’s The Caucasian Chalk Circle at their theatre, Cast, in collaboration with the National Theatre. The classic play has been adapted by Chris Bush with music by Ruth Chan, injected with “plenty of Yorkshire grit and humour”. It runs from 29 to 31 August.
Check for more shows in your area in our preview of touring shows in 2020