During my term as General Manager of the Watermill Theatre, because of its seasonality, I needed to secure extra work. One of the board directors, solicitor Laurence Harbottle, was also Chairman of the 69 Theatre Company Limited at Manchester. He kindly introduced me to their Administrator, Robert Scott, and so I was concurrently their Business Manager from 1973 until I joined the Nimrod Theatre in Sydney. The Manchester Company had moved from the University Theatre to the Royal Exchange, where a temporary 'tent' theatre had been designed by Laurie Dennett, seating 450 - the prototype for the bigger and more complex 700 seat theatre in the round that opened in 1976.
I was responsible to Robert Scott for book-keeping, producing production budgets and statements, and the box office. The work included keeping ledgers for The Royal Exchange Theatre Trust, the organisation established to raise funds and commission the new 'module' theatre. I learned a lot at 69 Theatre Company, and am always inspired by visiting this theatre today.
I was able to experience a 'group' led theatre and the processes of a major capital project. There were four artistic directors - Casper Wrede, Michael Elliott, Braham Murray and James Maxwell - with the new theatre being designed by Richard Negri and architects Levitt, Bernstein Associates. The project manager was Michael Williams and all the staff were made to feel part of the client 'group' for the project. This was - and still is - a company of recognised experience and distinction. For instance, actors in the productions of Time and the Conways and The Family Reunion included Dilys Hamlett, Christopher Gable, Edward Fox and Esmond Knight.
Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre: a select bibliography
R.D.H. Scott, The biggest room in the world: a short history of the Manchester Royal Exchange, Manchester, Royal Exchange Theatre Trust, 1976.
David Fraser, The Royal Exchange Theatre Company, An Illustrated Record, Manchester, Royal Exchange Theatre Company, 1988.
Terry Wyke and Nigel Rudyard, Manchester Theatres, Manchester, Manchester Central Library Bibliography of North West England, 1994.
Michael Elliott, 'On Not Building For Posterity', in Ronnie Mulryne and Margaret Shewring, (eds), Making Space for Theatre: British theatre architecture since 1958, Stratford upon Avon, Mulryne and Shewring, 1995.
Exchange Education, Behind the Scenes at the Royal Exchange Theatre: a guide and activity pack for young people age 9 to 14, Manchester, Royal Exchange Theatre Company Limited, 2006.
Braham Murray, The Worst It Can Be Is a Disaster: The Life Story of Braham Murray and the Royal Exchange Theatre, London, Methuen Drama, 2007.
Giles Arkwright Haworth, (ed.), A Year in the Theatre: Greater Manchester, Manchester, Broadfield Publishing, 1993. [Published annually, with details of 700+ productions in Manchester, including the Royal Exchange Theatre Company].
For interviews with Royal Exchange Theatre collaborators, see this site dedicated to Richard Negri.