Friday, 9 August 2013

Black Roses returns to Royal Exchange

Award Winning Play about Sophie Lancaster returns to the Royal Exchange Stage 
THE Royal Exchange Theatre’s acclaimed production of BLACK ROSES: THE KILLING OF SOPHIE LANCASTER – starring Coronation Street’s Julie Hesmondhalgh - is to return in 2014. 

A sell-out success when it premiered last year, audiences will have a second chance to see this moving response to the tragic death of the young gap-year student when it comes back to The Studio at the Royal Exchange from Wednesday 26 February to Saturday 8 March.

The Royal Exchange has been awarded funds as part of Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Programme which means the production will also be able to tour North West community venues and theatre spaces next year, (tour dates yet to be announced) with accompanying participation work and resources. 

Written as an elegy to Sophie by poet Simon Armitage - alongside the words of Sophie’s mother Sylvia Lancaster – the play was brought to the stage for the first time in September 2012 and played to packed houses throughout its run. 

The production features the original cast which includes Rachel Austin as Sophie and Julie Hesmondhalgh (best known as Hayley Cropper in Coronation Street) as Sylvia. It won two Manchester Theatre Awards - ‘Best Studio Production’ and ‘Best Performance in a Studio Production’ (for Julie Hesmondhalgh).

The play tells the story of Sophie Lancaster was beaten unconscious in Stubbeylee Park, Bacup in August 2007 and later died from her injuries in hospital.  She was 20 years old, had just passed her A-levels and was working out what to do with her life. She was killed because she was dressed differently. 

The piece – originally a radio play - provoked an unprecedented response when it premiered on BBC Radio 4 in 2011. The play went on to win the BBC Audio and Music Best Speech Programme of the Year Award.  The Royal Exchange production is co-directed by Royal Exchange Artistic Director Sarah Frankcom and award-winning BBC Radio Drama producer Susan Roberts.

Sarah Frankcom said:   'Sophie's story needs to keep being told, again and again. The award allows us to take Black Roses to communities and audiences we haven't yet engaged with and to build relationships using the play as a springboard. It is also a great example of what we believe theatre can be and do - provocative, challenging and profoundly affecting.' 

Alison Clark-Jenkins, Arts Council Director, North said:
'Black Roses had a very strong impact on audiences when it was first staged last year and so I’m pleased that the Royal Exchange Theatre will now be taking a piece of work with the same high quality production values into community venues in the north.  One of the aims of our Strategic touring fund is to enable people across the country to have improved access to great art visiting their local area and this tour will offer more people, particularly young audiences, the opportunity to experience this powerful work.'

The production supports the ongoing work of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, which promotes respect and understanding of subcultures in our communities. More information is available at

The current printed issue of NORTHERN VOICES No.14, is now available for sale - see below.   There are also a few copies of Northern Voices No.13, with the NV interview with Sophie Lancaster's mum, both can still be obtained see details below:
Postal subscription: £5 for the next two issues (post included). Cheques made payable to 'Northern Voices' should be sent c/o 52, Todmorden Road, Burnley, Lancashire BB10 4AH.
Tel.: 0161 793 5122.

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