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Palace Theatre

The best theatres in Manchester

Unleash your inner thesp or see a groundbreaking play at one of Manchester's best theatres

Written by
Rob Martin
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From museums to galleries and attractions, Manchester's got culture pretty much nailed. But Manchester's theatre scene really is emerging from the pandemic brighter and better than ever. And Manchester theatres are an eclectic bunch, too. Whether you're looking for top-quality new writing or high-end musicals at Hope Mill, full-on opera spectaculars at The Lowry or performances to die for at the Royal Exchange, Manchester's can break a leg with the best of them. 

Manchester theatres

  • Theatre

Inspired by the Off West End Theatres and small producing venues which dominate the London theatre scene, Hope Mill Theatre officially opened its doors in November of 2015, and has become one of the most successful and reputable independent venues in England. It's easy to see why as its ambitious programme never fails to deliver superb quality in an intimate space.

Royal Exchange Theatre
  • Theatre
  • Public and national theatres
With five decades of top quality plays to its name, the Royal Exchange Theatre remains consistently popular. But it's not all about what happens on stage - the building itself is worth the visit alone. Drop an enclosed, seven-sided glass and steel pod into the middle of a grand Victorian cotton exchange in the city centre – replete with high, stained glass domed ceilings, vast sturdy pillars and expansive floorspace – and you've got the Royal Exchange.
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The Lowry
  • Art
  • Arts centres
The Lowry's three theatre spaces present a range of work dazzling in its variety. The Lyric Theatre seats almost 2,000 people, its warm purple interior, enormous stage and superb sightlines making the likes of 'War Horse' and 'Wicked' a much more comfortable (and affordable) experience than you'd get in London. The Quays Theatre offers a smaller, more intimate space, and the Studio is the focus for new companies and community productions.
  • Art
  • Arts centres

Manchester's newest theatre space has two of them, at about 450 and 200 respectively, housed inside this impressive new building which also contains a contemporary art gallery and five cinemas. The theatre's acoustics are astonishing and the programme ambitious.

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Palace Theatre
  • Theatre
  • Private theatres
The history of the Palace Theatre is as impressive as some of the performances that take place on its stage. Known as The Grand Old Lady of Oxford Street, it was built in 1891 and it took a direct hit during the Manchester Blitz. Since then, its fortunes have been mixed, with the likes of Judy Garland, Laurel and Hardy and Noel Coward providing the ups and the depressing slump in audiences across the country in the 1970s providing the downs.
Contact
  • Theatre
  • Private theatres
With its striking architecture resembling a castle straight out of a Hans Christian Andersen tale, you could easily mistake Contact for a children's fun palace. You'd be quite wrong. According to its website, 'Contact's vision is a world where young people are empowered by creativity to become leaders in both the arts and their communities'. Such lofty ideals have resulted in a venue that produces some of the most unconventional, experimental and challenging work in the region.
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Opera House
  • Theatre
  • Private theatres
Dating back to 1912, the Opera House has undergone a number of transformations and renovations – at one point it even became a bingo hall. But new owners, Ambassador's Theatre Group, have invested a lot of time and money in ensuring that the technical facilities match a modern venue and, as a result, both the Opera House and the Palace have been proud hosts of the 'Manchester Gets It First' series of premieres.
The Met
  • Theatre
  • Public and national theatres
At a time when many arts organisations have struggled to maintain their grants from the Arts Council, Bury Met celebrates a £3million award, contributing towards the development of its site and programme in 2014. The award is testament to the valuable work the theatre does in its two performance spaces, and with events such as the Ramsbottom Festival.
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  • Theatre
  • Private theatres
Described by The Guardian as 'the most revitalised regional theatre in the country', The Octagon Theatre continues to produce excellent work inside its main mid­size theatre and studio space. The main space is one of the theatre's greatest assets. Its flexibility allows for work in all formats – end stage, in the round, thrust – so that the presentation of work is as varied as the work itself.
The Edge Theatre & Arts Centre
  • Theatre
The Edge is a lovely venue. It's theatre company produces high quality work and also welcomes touring productions to its fine stage. You can see quite a variety of work.But when you find out that the patrons of the organisation include Julie Hesmondhalgh and John Rylance, there's clearly something else going on. And so there is...
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