Repertory lets people with quirky individual ideas bring them to life.
If it's not bombs, it's burning. Manchester's Royal Exchange was uprooted by an IRA bomb in June while Colchester's Mercury Theatre suffered an accidental fire in early September. Resiliently, both theatres carry on, the Exchange erecting its own touring theatre in the exhilarating space of Upper Campfield Market, while the Mercury has postponed its Rattigan a year but promises Macbeth will go ahead as planned November 7-30 in a venue to be announced, while the Studio season will go ahead before the full theatre reopens with the Christmas show Dick Whittington on December 6. Who said the Shakespeare was unlucky? (Details: 01206 573948).
Unconventional spaces can do a world of good. Max Stafford-Clark's spring Three Sisters had a resoundingly apathetic response in London, but following the Prozorovs round a period country house, Rossway Park in Hertfordshire, made for a magical show.
It's been a good time for doubles. Salisbury, under youthful artistic director Jonathan Church, had a bold main stage double of two Aphra Behn plays and a cute studio doubling of Educating Rita and Oleanna (revived at the Chichester Minerva). Even Gilbert and Sullivan came up shining at the New Victoria Theatre in North Staffordshire. Detailed comic acting and showbiz production values in Chris Monks' production of The Pirates of Penzance, plus The Mikado set on a cricket pitch - the quintessentially English setting for this Japanese story pointing up Gilbert's satire at his own country's attitudes of moral evasiveness - indicated an advantage of the repertory system in letting people with quirkily individual ideas bring them to life.
The alternative, gaining ground as theatres find it tougher to finance homegrown seasons, is of more theatres becoming receiving houses for a limited number of touring groups. There's a gain to some extent, bringing in fresh ideas and focusing resources on good shows that can have extended lives. But there is also the danger of homogenisation. Theatres risk losing responses to their local communities. This is tempting in an age when broadcasting and travel risk ironing out community individuality but a director who can push an idea in one theatre may never be able to interest enough theatres to set up a tour, so innovation is limited while theatres lose their sense of identity.
There's little risk of that in Sheffield, where a summer community play United on a Wednesday Night was disappointingly diffuse but at least could not have been happening in any place but the home of the two title teams. Happier was Colchester Mercury's link with the local university on a student cast premi re of Claire Luckham's generational Auntie Karr's Frocks; the Mercury is developing a programme of visiting children's theatre, including a tie-up with Theatre Centre. Farnham at last is flickering back into life as the Redgrave reopens, even if it will mainly be showing films in the near future. More happily, new theatres have opened in Norwich and Scarborough. Norwich Playhouse already has a domestic feel, its wide, shallow stage a possible limitation but also holding the chance to define a production and playing style.
I have yet to learn to love Scarborough's new Stephen Joseph Theatre, converted from a disused cinema. Its two auditoriums seem imprisoned within the old building. And it's already in the red. But Ayckbourn's fine production of Chekhov's Wild Honey pointed up the links between the author's and the director's plays.
For sheer boldness in repertory and production values, nowhere can beat Birmingham Rep these days. A big new main stage play on the monarchy, new studio plays, which sometimes seem routine at the start but end up cunningly individual, have been notable in a season that began with Anthony Clark's gripping revival of The Entertainer and finished with a double dose of Victorian novel adaptations, both immensely theatrical and both mining deep into dark parts of the psyche. The studio revival of Anne Bront 's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall confirmed the impression of its 1995 premi re as a rare mix of dramatic depth and theatrical flair in adapting a novel while David Edgar's new version of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, David Schofield doubling as ego and id versions of the protagonist, vastly improved on the version first seen at the Barbican.
And so to autumn.
South West Exeter Northcott (01392 493493) ATC offer Odon Von Horvath's The Belle Vue to October 5. Unsteady Thirties Europe is reflected in a rundown off-season hotel where a mysterious woman arrives. Ghosts October 10-19 (then Method Madness tour). Northanger Abbey October 25-November 16 is adapted by Cathy Turner.
Bristol Old Vic (0117 987 7877) The Beaux' Stratagem to October 12, Old Wicked Songs October 17-November 9. Jon Marans' play uses Schumann songs as the fulcrum for conflict between a young virtuoso and old musicologist. Final-year students from Bristol Old Vic theatre school join the company to give a rare outing to a Peter Brook legend of the Sixties, Peter Weiss's MaratSade November 15-30.
New Vic Quest Theatre offesr a tale of sex and addiction in Tom Kempinski's Addicted to Love September 26-October 19, and much the same ground seems covered when Out of Joint arrive in Mark Ravenhill's Shopping and Fucking October 22-26, followed by clueless detecting in Lip Service's spoof Move Over Moriarty October 29-November 2. Jane Lapotaire presents her life in art in Shakespeare As I Knew Her November 5-16, and Tamasha bring a story of Pakistanis in Seventies Salford, Ayub Khan Din's East is East December l0-14. America rules over New Year with Miller's The Last Yankee December 18-January 18, followed by two short James McClure comedies PVT Wars and Lone Star January 22-February 15.
Quakers Friars (0117 953 7735) Show of Strength again occupy the medieval room above the registry office in central Bristol with American Jon Robin Baitz's play about culture versus commerce among bookselling folk in The Substance of Fire October 8-26 (also Plymouth Drum September 26-October 5). Boucicault's How She Loves Him October 3O-November 23 revives a 19th-century comedy of mistaken identities. James Wilson's new drama set in a Somerset mansion used as a living history museum is Rough Music November 27-December 21.
Salisbury Playhouse (01722 320333) The Merchant of Venice October 3-26, businessmen adrift in one of the best comedies of recent years, Tim Firth's Neville's Island October 31-November 23.
Salberg Studio A Doll's House October 24-November 16, Bouncers December 4-28.
Southampton Nuffield (01703 671771) Lottery-funded refurbishments confine theatre to the restaurant, with studio-type productions of Jim Cartwright's Two to October 26 (itself set in a bar). Three in a Bed October 29-November 23 is an ingenious triple bill of Sean O'Casey's Bedtime Story, Dario Fo's Waking Up and Robert Forrest's fantasy marriage play Guiser Martin.
The new auditorium is revealed in Peter Pan from December 6-January 18.
South East Basingstoke Haymarket (01256 465566) The Woman in Black to October 5, Bernard Slade romantic confection Same Time, Next Year, October 24-November 16, Aspects of Love December 6-January 11, obsessive fan story Misery January 16-February 8, Twelfth Night February 13-March 8.
Leatherhead Thorndike (01372 377677) Tense Emlyn Williams, Night Must Fall to October 5, Moli re's The School for Wives October 8-26, John Godber's new comedy about executive stress seeking a health farm refuge Gym and Tonic October 29-November 16, Stepping Out November 19-December 14, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat December 17-January 18.
Hornchurch Queen's (01708 443333) John van Druten's Fifties love story Bell, Book and Candle October 2-26, The Woman in Black October 30-November 23.
Southend-on-Sea Palace (01702 342564) Me and My Girl to October 12, Murder on the Nile October 24-November 9, Noises off January 16-February 1. (Also Hull Truck tour.) East Anglia
Ipswich Wolsey (01473 253725) Lady Windermere's Fan October 3-19, The Tempest October 24-November 9, with Shared Experience, Judith Cook's look at local lad Cardinal Wolsey in The Devil's Cardinal November 21 -30, Sheridan Morley's resume of Noel and Gertie January 23-February 8.
Studio Boudicca Productions offer a British premi re with Reggie Oliver's version of Maupassant's marital intrigue Taking Liberties October 29-November 9.
Norwich Norwich Playhouse (01603 766466) Osborne's The Entertainer October 3-19. Hamlet October 31-November 23 as a family tragedy, director Julian Glover as Ghost with wife and son as Gertrude and Hamlet. Malcolm Bradbury's new comedy Inside Trading freely adapts a Thirties German play to post-Leeson Nineties- a kind of bluff your way to a banking great fortune. Charley's Aunt December 31-January 18.
Watford Palace (01923 225671) The late Michael Wall's look at the sinister in the English garden idyll Women Laughing October 4-26, courtroom comedy impro from Peter Wear and Lee Simpson in Court in the Act November 7-30, director Giles Croft's version of old film script Kind Hearts and Coronets January 31-February 22.
Northampton Royal (01604 32533) Equus October 11-26, director Michael Napier Brown's adaptation of Northanger Abbey November 1-30.
Leicester Haymarket (0116 253 9797) Harry Gibson adapts Irvine Welsh's Marabou Stork Nightmares to October 12- a hooligan hallucinates. Sondheim's Sweeney Todd November 8-December 7.
Studio Indian dramatist Girish Karnad's story of a beautiful wife and a cruel husband Naga-Mandala October 18-November 2 is a British premi re. David Henry Hwang's play from a story of Yasunari Kawabati The House of Sleeping Beauties November 13-23 is set in a Japanese brothel in 1972. Paines Plough offer PoW! November 26-30 (see Derby).
Nottingham Playhouse (0115 941 9419) An 18 certificate for media violence satirised in Ben Elton's Popcorn to October 12. Paul Brennen and Stephen Jameson adapt Sillitoe's The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner October 24-November 16, then the techno reflections on Hamlet that Edinburgh could not hold, the extraordinary Robert Lepage in Elsinore November 20-23.
Derby Playhouse (01332 363275) Gym and Tonic October 4-26 (see Leatherhead), down from Newcastle Blood Wedding November 6-23, The Rivals January 31-February 22. Studio Paines Plough in Aidan Healy's boxing drama PoW! October 8-26
South Wales and West Midlands
Cardiff Sherman (01222 230451) Table Manners to October 12, Kes October 23-November 9, David Wood's adaptation of Roald Dahl's The BFG November 27-January 11 (also Mappa Mundi tour).
Milford Haven Torch (01646 695267) Jim Cartwright's The Rise and Fall of Little Voice October 15-26 (also Mappa Mundi tour). Worcester Swan (01905 27322) Stephen Jeffreys' adaptation of Hard Times October 3-26, John Christopher-Wood's domestic comedy out of Shakespeare tragedy Elsie Norm's Macbeth October 31-November 16.
Coventry Belgrade (01203 553055) Manchester Contact visit with The Tempest October 15. She Stoops to Conquer October 17-November 2, Dave Simpson's Girls' Night Out November 18-23, Ayckbourn's Relatively Speaking January 30-February 22 (also Good Company, Dead Funny tours).
Birmingham Repertory Theatre (0121 236 4455) At the National Indoor Arena, Silviu Purcarete's Greek tragedy reconstruction, Aeschylus' Les Danaides October 8-9 (in French with English surtitles).
Main House The Irvine WelshHarry Gibson Trainspotting November 12-16, Ayckbourn's sour Christmas family comedy Season's Greetings December 7-January 18 (also A Doll's House tour).
Studio Tamasha in East is East (see Bristol), Shape Shifting Stories from India, Africa and Ireland in Kathasuniasceal October 30-November 2. Chelsea reports her boyfriend for a racial attack; her trouble starts there in Debbie Isitt's Squealing Like A Pig November 26-December 7 (also touring West Midlands schools and community centres October 30-November 23).
North Staffordshire New Victoria (01782 717962) Romeo and Juliet October 2-19; November 5-16, musical Little Shop of Horrors October 23-November 2; November 18-23; January 20-February 1, Bouncers December 4-January 4.
North West and North Wales
Chester Gateway (01244 340392) Macbeth to October 19, Neville's Island November 1-23, Bouncers December 3-21.
Mold Theatr Clwyd (01352 755114) Anthony Hopkins Theatre (Main house) The House of Bernarda Alba October 2-26.
Emlyn Williams Theatre Greg Cullen's adaptation of Silas Marner to October 5 (then tour - details from theatre), Wendy Kesselman's study of fantasies among French servants My Sister in This House November 8-30.
Liverpool Playhouse (0 151 709 8363) A Midsummer Night's Dream October 2-19, Billy Liar October 23-November 9, John Godber's Dracula November 13-30, Wind in the Willows December 5-January 18.
Manchester Contact Theatre (0161 274 4400) The Tempest at Manchester Nia Centre October 8-12.
Library Theatre (0161 236 7110) Kevin Elyot's My Night With Reg to October 12, Lip Service's Sherlock Holmes comedy Move over Moriarty October 15-19, Hamlet October 25-November 23.
Wythenshawe Forum John Godber's April in Paris October 10-26, (also Contact tour).
Royal Exchange at Upper Campfield Market (0161 833 9833) All's Well That Ends Well to October 19, Priestley time play I Have Been Here Before October 24-November 30, Lady Windermere's Fan December 5-February 1.
Oldham Coliseum (0161 624 2829) Ms Gems on Miss Dietrich, Pam Gems' Marlene October 2-26, Kay Mellor's A Passionate Woman October 30-November 23, Northern Broadsides in Chris Bond's The Blood of Dracula January 13-18 (for over-15s only). John Godber's lottery comedy Lucky Sods January 22-February 15.
Bolton Octagon (01204 520661) Brian Friel's joyously reflective Dancing at Lughnasa to October 5, Alan Bennett's Enjoy October 10-November 2, Victoria Wood's Talent November 7-30. Philip Ridley's weirdly fascinating The Pitchfork Disney January 16-February 8.
Lancaster Dukes (01524 6645) The Woman in Black October 10-26.
Yorkshire and North East Sheffield Crucible (0114 276 9922) Hay Fever October 4-26, The Merchant of Venice November 8-30, The Sound of Music December 13-January 18.
Studio Told by an Idiot with a revenge story in a club setting You Haven't Embraced Me Yet, Tamasha in East is East (see Bristol).
Leeds West Yorkshire Playhouse (0113 244 2111). Quarry The Crucible to October 5, Popcorn October 15-November 9 (see Nottingham).
Courtyard "Green Forms" and "A Visit from Miss Prothero" comprise Alan Bennett's ex-TV Office Suite to October 19. Terrence McNally's A Perfect Ganesh November 1-December 7 brings western women to India, some time after E M Forster. Patrick Barlow's minimalist comedy The Messiah December 12-January 18.
Harrogate Theatre (01423 502116) An educational complex through autumn when Pygmalion (with dashes of My Fair Lady) plays September 26-November 9 in repertoire with Educating Rita October 3-November 9 to be followed by Godber's Teechers November 14-December 7. Romeo and Juliet January 23-February 15.
York Theatre Royal (01904 623568) Ayckbourn's Bedroom Farce to October 12, Macbeth October 18-November 16. More murder, with mayhem, in Lip Service's Move over Moriarty November 27-30. * Scarborough Stephen Joseph Theatre (01723 370541) Round Vanessa Brooks' weight-watching comedy Love Me Slender to October 19.
McCarthy Martin Crimp's missing estate agent drama Dealing with Clair to October 5.
Newcastle Upon Tyne Newcastle Playhouse (0191 230 5151) Lorca's Blood Wedding October 23-November 2 (then Derby), Robert Lepage's Elsinore November 27-30, decribed as "Variations on Shakespeare's Hamlet" Gulbenkian Studio Radical Theatre in Brendan Behan tribute The Begrudgers October 8-12, Told by an Idiot in You Haven't Embraced Me Yet October 30-November 2 (see Sheffield).
Edinburgh Royal Lyceum (0131 229 9697) Communicado's vibrant Cyrano De Bergerac October 11-November 2, The Merchant of Venice November 8-30, David Edgar's Dr Jekyll Mr Hyde January 10-February 1.
Glasgow Citizens' (0141 429 0022) Hamlet to October 19, Jon Pope's adaptation of Dracula November 1-23.
Circle Studio O'Neill marathon Long Day's Journev Into Night October 31-November 23. Stalls Studio Edward Albee's Seascape October 30-November 23.
Perth Theatre (01738 621031) Bleasdale vasectomy comedy Having A Ball October 4-19, Tartuffe November 1-16, Rattigan's In Praise of Love November 22-December 7.
Dundee Rep Theatre (01382 223530) Peter Arnott's adaptation of Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde October15-November 2 (also Northern Stage tour).