What’s On in Manchester – October 2019

The nights are drawing in and the weather is getting colder. Starbucks are selling pumpkin spiced latte and the local scallies are already setting off fireworks. Autumn is certainly well under way. October is the perfect time of year to watch a play, and there are many excellent shows on offer in Manchester this month.

Here are a few suggestions of what you can watch.


On until 9th November 2019

MAME Hope Mill Theatre What's On in Manchester October 2019

Hope Mill Theatre are building a reputation for staging fantastic musicals. Over the last few years, they have had profound success with the critically acclaimed Spring Awakening, staged an excellent revival of Stephen Schwartz’s Rags, and defied controversy with a phenomenal production of Jerry Springer: The Opera. Given their track record, it is only natural to be incredibly excited by Hope Mill’s latest musical revival, MAME.

MAME started life as American writer Patrick Dennis’ novel Auntie Mame, which was turned into a film, before being transferred to Broadway’s Winter Garden Theatre in 1966. The original Broadway production won five Tony Awards, and Jerry Herman’s rousing songs became iconic of the Golden Age of Broadway musicals.

“Life’s a banquet, and most poor sons of bitches are starving to death”. That’s Mame Dennis’ motto. Her eccentric life with her wealthy friends is rudely interrupted when her nephew comes to live with her. Rather than bow to convention, Mame introduces Patrick to her bohemian lifestyle. Her anarchic nature rebels against the forces of order. Will her long-suffering nephew follow his auntie’s example?

Two time Olivier Award-winning Tracie Bennett is playing Auntie Mame, who is undoubtedly one of musical theatre’s greatest female characters.

For tickets, please visit Hope Mill Theatre’s website.


10th – 12th October 2019

Rash Dash Theatre's Mary vs Elizabeth Work in Progress Royal Exchange Theatre What's on in October 2019

I openly admit to being a huge fan of RashDash. They continue to push the boundaries of theatre, creating work that is mind-blowing, visceral, and always has a feminist edge. Their adaptation of Three Sisters dragged Chekhov kicking and screaming into the 21st Century, and was one of my theatre highlights of 2018.

RashDash are a company of performers with a unique blend, combining live music with dance, expressive movement, and artistic performance. They are always a joy to watch, and I often sit in awe at how talented Abbi Greenland, Beckie Wilkie, and Helen Goalen are.

Their new work in progress, Mary vs Elizabeth takes us back to Elizabethan times, depicting the rivalry between Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. I have no doubt that RashDash will put their own creative spin on this tale of two incredible women, who were both rulers in a man’s world.

RashDash have promised us a beheading at the end, and if history is anything to go by, it will be an eventful evening of entertaining, thought-provoking theatre. I am sure it will be better than the recent Mary Queen of Scots film.

Mary vs Elizabeth is a work in progress. You can head to the Royal Exchange’s website to book tickets.


12th October 2019

Signals Sale Waterside Footprint Theatre Cosmic Shambles What's on in Manchester Theatre October 2019
Are we alone in the universe? Searching for signals of extraterrestrial life. Picture credit – Benjamin Thapa.

Are we alone in the universe? Is there alien life out there in space? These are questions that mankind has been asking for centuries.

In the control room of a remote radio telescope, two astronomers are tasked with finding the answers, and they search radio frequencies for signs of alien life. It sounds like an amazing job, but the reality is incomprehensible boredom. Night after night, they drink tea, compile data, and scan the sky for some signals of life on other planets, or just a sense of meaning to the world we live in.

Signals is a dark comedy about being lost in the cosmos with only each other for company, along with a few half-eaten Jaffa Cakes.

It is made in collaboration between Footprint Theatre and the Cosmic Shambles Network.

For tickets, please go to Sale Waterside’s website.


24th – 26th October 2019

Black Men Walking Oldham Coliseum What's on in Manchester Theatre October 2019

On the first Saturday of every month, Thomas, Matthew, and Richard go for a walk across the dramatic landscape of the Peak District. They walk and they talk.

The men find themselves walking backwards through two thousand years of Black history. They embark on a dangerous journey that invokes an element of the supernatural, an encounter with the spirits of their ancestors, and an exploration of what it means to be Black and British today.

This production is inspired by the Sheffield based walking group that a collection of people with African and African-Caribbean heritage founded to improve their health, wellbeing, and build camaraderie.

It is staged by Eclipse Theatre, who are the foremost Black-led national touring company. It is their mission to use the Black British experience to create new work that will enrich the stories being told across mainstream media, increasing diversity across the arts, and the audience.

Please visit Oldham Coliseum’s website for more information and to book tickets.


24th October – 16th November 2019

Light Falls Simon Stephens Royal Exchange TheatreWhat's on in Manchester Theatre October 2019

Light Falls will be the final play to be directed by Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom, before she leaves the Royal Exchange for pastures new, having been appointed the director of LAMDA.

This play connects five relatives across five disparate English towns, from Blackpool to Durham.

A woman wakes up with a stranger next to her. A single mother feeds her baby. A student argues with his lover. A married man flirts with two younger women. One devastating event is going to change their lives forever.

Light Falls is a new play written by award-winning playwright, Simon Stephens, and features original music composed by Jarvis Cocker. It is a richly layered depiction of life in the face of death, showing how love can survive even after we are gone.

Simon Stephens is an excellent playwright, penning some of the best new theatre on British stages, including the National Theatre’s adaptation of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time.

For more information, please go to the Royal Exchange’s website.


29th October – 2nd November 2019

Matt Haig Reasons to Stay Alive HOME Theatre What's on in Manchester October 2019

Matt Haig’s novel, Reasons to Stay Alive is undoubtedly the most profoundly important book I have read. It is an autobiographical account of living with anxiety and depression, that focuses on the things that keep Matt Haig alive, and the things that provide hope when all is dark.

Twenty years ago, Matt Haig stood on the edge of a cliff in Ibiza. He knew he had no future. He knew he would never be happy again. Today, he is a bestselling author, who is married with children. He is alive. He is a lot happier now in a future that he believed couldn’t exist.

Haig’s account of living with depression and anxiety has literally saved thousands of lives. At book events, he is thanked by fans who are alive now because of his book. It gives an insight into mental health, most of all, it is a hugely uplifting book that shows what it is to be alive.

Transferring this book into a piece of theatre is a fantastic idea, namely because it will promote mental health awareness, and encourage conversations and discussions about mental health, that will remove the stigma that goes along with it. Hopefully, it will show somebody in the audience that life is always worth living, no matter how bleak the present is.

You will one day experience joy that matches this pain. You will cry euphoric tears at the Beach Boys, you will stare down at a baby’s face as she lies asleep in your lap, you will make great friends, you will eat delicious foods you haven’t tried yet, you will be able to look at a view from a high place and not assess the likelihood of dying from falling… You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.”

Please visit HOME’s website to book tickets.

If you struggle with mental health, there are several charities that can help, including Mind, Young Minds, Rethink, and SANE.

I also find it helpful to follow Matt Haig on Twitter, as his Tweets are hugely inspirational.

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