The Royal Exchange is the sort of place that’s worth visiting even if it isn’t for a theatre event itself. Describing itself as a ‘seven-sided, glass walled capsule, literally suspended from huge marble pillars’ gives you some idea of the somewhat extraordinary nature of this theatre.
Housed in the Victorian cotton exchange buildings, the unusual design doesn’t make it particularly conducive to filling it with seats, though this is all the more beneficial to theatre goers; the result being that all seats are less than 9 metres from the stage. To say that this means events take on a more intimate feel is an understatement as it can sometimes seem as if it’s a personal showing!
I find the building fascinating, and it’s a much more enjoyable experience to watch a show here than at one of the larger theatres, though it’s more modest size does mean that some of the bigger shows have to overlook this venue by necessity.
The Exchange goes out of its way to generate a relaxed informal vibe, inviting people to drop in and relax over a coffee and cake with no obligation to attend the latest production. There is also a restaurant and bar, and the range of events on offer has increased, now providing workshops and music events, resulting in it becoming less strictly theatre and more upmarket community centre-esque.