Royal Exchange play follows Broadway run for playwright Simon Stephens

The Tony Award winning writer heads up new MA/MFA Scriptwriting route

Professor Simon Stephens leads the new MA/MFA Scriptwriting route which begins in September

Professor Simon Stephens leads the new MA/MFA Scriptwriting route which begins in September

A new play by multi-award winning scriptwriter and University lecturer Professor Simon Stephens will premiere in Manchester – shortly after another of his works concludes a two-month stint on Broadway.

Light Fallsopening at the Royal Exchange on October 24, connects “five relatives in five disparate English towns, from Blackpool to Durham”.

Professor Stephens’ Sea Wall, starring Tony Award-nominee Tom Sturridge, is also enjoying a nine-week run on Broadway, capping off a prolific year for Manchester Metropolitan’s Professor of Scriptwriting.

With original music by former Pulp frontman Jarvis Cocker, Light Falls is described as a “richly layered play about life in the face of death, about how our love survives us after we’ve gone – and about how family, community and kindness help the North survive”.

I am thrilled that the production coincides with my first term as Professor of Scriptwriting at the Manchester Writing School. Our students will be able to see the play and the city will be able to see my work as I start a teaching career in its heart.

The opening of the new play coincides with the first term of Manchester Metropolitan University’s new MA/MFA Scriptwriting route, which Professor Stephens will lead at the Manchester Writing School.

Scriptwriting students will have the opportunity to write a full-length script, with one-to-one expert supervision from the likes of Professor Stephens, who won the Tony Award in 2015 – American theatre’s most prestigious award – for his stage adaptation of A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time, Alistair McDowall, a Bruntwood Prize winner whose play Pomona transferred to the National Theatre in 2015, and Anjum Malik, acclaimed television, film and radio writer. 

Light Falls opens at the Royal Exchange Theatre in October (image: Lee Baxter)

Professor Stephens said: “I am very proud that Light Falls continues my two decade long collaboration with Sarah Frankcom, Artistic Director at the Royal Exchange. It is a play about the North. It was written after a trip with Sarah from Blackpool to Durham. It is about England on the cusp of change. It is about love and death. That it will be Sarah’s last production as she leaves the Exchange as its Artistic Director, means the world.

“It is a poetic play that looks into the hearts of a whole family in the moment of death. It will be staged simply and has a remarkable cast. It also has new music by Jarvis Cocker.

“I am thrilled that the production coincides with my first term as Professor of Scriptwriting at the Manchester Writing School. Our students will be able to see the play and the city will be able to see my work as I start a teaching career in its heart. "

His monologue Sea Wall is coupled in a double-bill with another monologue piece, A Life by Nick Payne. The second half stars Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal. It runs in New York’s Hudson Theatre until September 29. An earlier review of the show described it as “totally disarming in the depth and intensity of the emotions they conjure”.

Professor Stephens said: “Sea Wall is the most direct and simple and honest play I have written. It was written quickly and with my guard down. That it has had the life it has fills my heart and astonishes me.

“It is a simple play. A monologue to be played as directly as possible. That such simplicity might work at the heart of US theatre is astonishing to me.”

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