Manchester Theatre Guide: Where to See a Show

Theatre | ©  Lloyd Dirks / Unsplash
Theatre | © Lloyd Dirks / Unsplash
Photo of Emma Lavelle
18 April 2017

You don’t need to travel to London’s West End to catch a show. Manchester is home to an eclectic array of world-class theatres, presenting everything from big touring shows to small independent performances. There’s something for everyone here, whether you prefer big budget musicals or eclectic one-off events. Read on to discover six of the best places in Manchester to see a show.

Palace Theatre

If it’s big budget productions, big name stars and award-winning direction that you’re after, the Palace Theatre is the place to head. One of the best equipped UK theatres outside of London, the Palace hosts huge touring musicals alongside ballet, comedy and opera performances and has close ties to Manchester International Festival. The ornate interior has been lovingly preserved, although the capacity has been dramatically reduced since the theatre opened in 1891. Book to see a show here if you like your theatrical experiences to be traditional yet spectacular.

Palace Theatre, 97 Oxford St, Manchester +44 844 871 3019

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Royal Exchange

One of the best places in the city to experience contemporary theatre, the Royal Exchange is conveniently located in the city centre. Despite being located within a Grade II listed building, the theatre itself boasts an impressive futuristic design with three tiers suspended from huge columns below a glass dome. The largest theatre in the round in the whole of the UK, the 360 degree stage means that the audience can be closer to the performance and that shows are designed to work uniquely from every angle.

Royal Exchange, St Anns Square, Manchester, +44 161 833 9833

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Opera House

The sister theatre to the Palace Hotel, Manchester’s Opera House is an impressive commercial theatre that regularly welcomes touring musicals, ballets, concerts and pantomimes inside a Grade II listed building. Originally opened in 1912, the theatre had a brief dalliance as a bingo hall in the 1970s before reopening as a theatre in 1984. Its impressive auditorium can welcome 1,920 spectators on the floor and in the ornate balconies and boxes above.

Opera House, 3 Quay St, Manchester, +44 844 871 3018

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Manchester’s leading home of culture, HOME offers theatrical performances alongside independent cinema, art exhibitions and a popular restaurant and bar. Its theatrical programme tends to focus on experimental and independent productions, offering theatre for the thinking person that breaks the boundaries of traditional musicals and plays. Head here to be challenged by thought-provoking theatre that isn’t afraid to shock. Also keep your eyes peeled for HOME’s contributions to local, national and international festivals throughout the year.

HOME, 2, Tony Wilson Place, First St, Manchester, +44 161 200 1500

Contact Theatre

Tucked away in a dramatic structure behind the University of Manchester, Contact Theatre puts young people at the heart of everything it does. Alongside a diverse programme of performances and workshops within the theatre itself, the company are also known for their productions popping up in unusual locations around the city. Contact works locally, nationally and internationally to get young people involved with and interested in contemporary theatre and the arts.

Contact Theatre, Oxford Rd, Manchester, +44 161 274 0600

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Hope Mill

A wild card on our list, Hope Mill Theatre is located within a former cotton mill in the Ancoats area of the city. Sitting alongside artist’s studios and workshops, the recently opened theatre came about after its owners, Joseph Houston and William Whelton, gave up their life in the London theatre to open a small independent theatre in Manchester that would thrive off the local creative scene. Showcasing a variety of local writing and acting talent, Hope Mill aims to bring something a little different to Manchester’s dramatic scene while enticing young people who may not previously have shown any interest in theatre.

Hope Mill, 113 Pollard St, Manchester, +44 161 275 9141