Chris Lawson is appointed Oldham Coliseum’s new Chief Executive as the Spring-Summer 2023 season is announced

Chris Lawson, current Artistic Director, is also to become the theatre’s new Chief Executive.

Spring-Summer season includes the world premiere stage production of I, Daniel Blake and Easter family musical Little Mermaid.



Oldham Coliseum Theatre is delighted to announce that Chris Lawson, the Coliseum’s current Artistic Director, is also becoming the theatre’s new Chief Executive.


Chris joined Oldham Coliseum as Associate Director in 2015 from the Almeida Theatre, London, becoming Artistic Director in 2018. Since joining the Coliseum, Chris has overseen co-productions with the likes of Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, Hull Truck, York Theatre Royal and Salisbury Playhouse; led the theatre’s innovative and impactful digital output during the pandemic, including a co-commission with HOME, Manchester, a series of Micro Commissions and an interactive online production, launched new initiatives such as the annual Cultivate Festival, which welcomes 300 artists to Oldham for a week of workshops, talks and opportunities covering all areas of theatre-making; and directed acclaimed productions of such varied plays as Martin McDonagh’s A Skull in Connemara, James Fritz’s Four Minutes Twelve Seconds, Maxine Peake’s Beryl and the Coliseum’s annual pantomime, which in 2022-23 is Robin Hood.


For spring 2023, Chris has programmed a season of world premieres, co-productions and comedies for all ages. 


The world premiere of a new stage adaptation of I, Daniel Blake, a co-production from Northern Stage, Birmingham Rep, Oldham Coliseum Theatre, Cardboard Citizens, English Touring Theatre and tiny dragon Productions. Adapted for the stage by Dave Johns, who played Daniel Blake in the award winning 2016 film, and directed by Mark Calvert, this is a touching and vital story of how people come together in the face of adversity and how sometimes creating a family to support you just isn’t enough. With 14.5 million people living in poverty, this is not fiction. It is reality.

I, Daniel Blake runs from Tuesday 27 June – Saturday 8 July.


Following the phenomenal success of 2022’s Easter production of The Jungle Book, the Coliseum will produce a modern musical adaptation of Little Mermaid for Easter 2023, directed by Sarah Punshon. Co-devised by Pins and Needles and Bea Roberts and based on the Hans Christian Andersen tale we all know and love, this new adaptation for families of all ages is a little bit Pride and Prejudice, a little bit Saved by the Bell, just a touch Chicago and a whole lotta fun.

Little Mermaid runs from Thursday 30 March – Sunday 16 April.


London Classic Theatre return to Oldham with Mike Leigh’s ferocious black comedy Abigail’s Party directed by Michael Cabot.  In her suburban living room, Beverly prepares for the arrival of her guests. She and husband Laurence will play host to neighbours Angela, Tony and Sue. As the alcohol flows and the ‘nibbles’ are handed around, Mike Leigh’s ruthless, achingly funny examination of 1970s British life begins…

Abigail’s Party runs from Tuesday 23 – Saturday 27 May.


York Theatre Royal’s production of Jules Verne’s classic adventure Around the World in 80 Days, adapted and directed by Juliet Forster and presented by Tilted Wig. A rag-tag band of circus performers embark on their most daunting feat yet: recreating the adventures of Phileas Fogg as he sets off on his race around the world.

Around the World in 80 Days runs from Tuesday 11 – Saturday 15 July.


These four productions are included in the theatre’s Season Ticket offer, alongside previously announced productions yet to come from the Autumn-Winter season: Pilot Theatre’s adaptation of Malorie Blackman’s Noughts & Crosses (14 - 18 March) and ThickSkin’s highly visual production How Not to Drown, telling the painful yet uplifting true story of an eleven-year-old asylum seeker (23 - 25 March). The Coliseum’s Season Ticket is a multi-buy discount offering up to 25% off ticket prices.


As is the theatre’s tradition, pantomime 2023 is on sale now. Sleeping Beauty is given the Coliseum’s award-winning and nationally renowned pantomime treatment: we all know the story of the princess cursed to sleep for 100 years, but this panto story doesn’t end there and there’s a whole load more magic and mischief, singing and dancing and slapstick and silliness to follow.

Sleeping Beauty runs from Saturday 11 November 2023 – Saturday 6 January 2024.


The Spring-Summer months are packed with opportunities for families of all ages to enjoy theatre and dance in Oldham. Experience the dangers and delights of Dinosaur World Live (2 – 4 June) and the best of musical theatre meets circus in CIRQUE: The Greatest Show (31 May). Fireman Sam Saves the Circus (29 July) and Milkshake! Live (26 August) bring the small screen to the big stage. Northern Ballet return with their child friendly production Ugly Duckling (29 April), and Joss Arnott Dance present a magical retelling of The Wizard of Oz in Tin Man (17 June).


Music fans have a lot to look forward to with: Don’t Stop Believin’: The End of the Night Anthems Show (20 April), The Magic of the Beatles (21 April), Buddy Holly: A Legend Reborn (9 June) and Fastlove: The George Michael Tribute (21 July).


In the Coliseum’s Studio Liz Richardson tells the true story of a community rocked by tragedy and a rediscovery that helps to keep her and her friends afloat in Swim (16 – 17 June).



Chris’s appointment and the new season announcement come following the recent news that the Coliseum will no longer be part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio from April 2023. Other changes to the leadership team include Susan Wildman, the current Chief Executive, leaving the organisation by mutual agreement, and Jan O’Connor stepping down as the Chair of the Board of Trustees. The trustees wish to place on record their thanks to Susan for all her hard work during her four years as Chief Executive and her previous years’ service as a Trustee and Deputy Chair, and to Jan for her committed service as the Chair over the last two years.


The Board are currently addressing this situation, informed by Arts Council England’s feedback, and are working with Chris to put in place strong foundations for the future of the Coliseum. The change in the Coliseum’s leadership is being further enhanced by the addition of several new Trustees to the Board, who bring with them a wide and complementary range of skills and experience from the corporate finance, marketing and communications, performing arts and charitable sectors.



Chris Lawson, Artistic Director and new Chief Executive, says:

“We have a difficult but exciting job ahead of us, and I’m committed to working with the Board and the Coliseum’s dedicated and amazing staff and volunteers to shape a future for the theatre that builds on our enduring dedication to create work for and with the people of Oldham. I’m honoured that the Board has expressed its confidence that I can lead the company into its next phase, and I’m proud to take on the combined role of Artistic Director and Chief Executive at the Coliseum. The new season of work we announce today has been in the planning for six months. After an unavoidable delay, it is my pleasure finally be able to share it with our audiences.”



Oldham Coliseum Theatre Board of Trustees, comment:

“The Board of Trustees have been working hard in recent weeks to ensure the Company’s stability following Arts Council England’s decision not to include the Coliseum in its National Portfolio from April 2023. While ACE’s decision represents a significant loss of income, we believe there are ways to create an exciting future for the Coliseum, and that now is the right time for Chris Lawson to take on the additional responsibilities of Chief Executive in order to lead the company forward. Chris has excelled as Artistic Director since taking over from Kevin Shaw in 2018, and the Spring 2023 season of ambitious, engaging and relevant shows only exemplifies this. We have every confidence that his appointment as Chief Executive puts the Coliseum in a strong position to continue bringing exceptional theatre to the people of Oldham and beyond for many years to come.”


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