Six new shows, all helmed by female directors, are coming to the Royal Shakespeare Company in the spring/summer of 2018, the company has announced today.
The shows include three of Shakespeare’s most popular titles – Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and The Merry Wives of Windsor; alongside Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi, a revival of a 17th century play by little-known Mary Pix, The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich, and Miss Littlewood, a new musical by Sam Kenyon based on the life of theatre revolutionary, Joan Littlewood. Gregory Doran’s 2016 production of King Lear will join the Royal Shakespeare Theatre repertoire for a limited season after an international tour.
Star names include Christopher Eccleston in his RSC debut as Macbeth, with Niamh Cusack returning to the company to play Lady Macbeth; David Troughton is lined up to play Flastaff in the Merry Wives of Windsor; and Antony Sher returns with the short revival of King Lear.
RSC Artistic Director, Gregory Doran, making the season announcement in Stratford-upon-Avon, said: “Our summer season on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage includes three much loved Shakespeare titles – Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and The Merry Wives of Windsor.
“Polly Findlay will direct Christopher Eccleston in his RSC debut as Macbeth, with Niamh Cusack returning to the company to play Lady Macbeth in what will be a thrillingly dark, modern production.
“Erica Whyman builds on the incredible achievements of her 2016 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation which united 84 amateur performers, 580 children and a professional cast, with her production ofRomeo and Juliet. This violent and devastating tragedy will look in the eye a generation of young people let down by their parents. Young people from our Associate Schools will play the Chorus in Stratford, alongside the professional cast. The production will then tour in 2019, with more young people joining across the country.
“Following a short revival of my production of King Lear with Antony Sher in the title role, we conclude the Royal Shakespeare Theatre season with a change of tone. Fiona Laird will direct the heart-warming comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor, with David Troughton as Falstaff, in a contemporary setting – with more than a hint of reality TV – as we continue to take audiences on our journey through Shakespeare’s canon.
“In the Swan Theatre, we are programming three excitingly diverse plays, with a strong focus on leading roles for women. We open with John Webster’s 1612 The Duchess of Malfi, directed by Maria Aberg, followed by The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich (or The Beau Defeated) written by Mary Pix, Aphra Behn’s 17th century contemporary, and directed by Jo Davies. We conclude the season with a brand new musical, about that inspirational revolutionary theatre maker, Joan Littlewood. Sam Kenyon has written the book, music and lyrics for Miss Littlewood. Erica Whyman will direct the production, developed in collaboration with Theatre Royal Stratford East.
“There is something for everyone here, for the young and the young at heart.”
The company also launched the fundraising campaign Stitch In Time for the restoration and redevelopment of the company’s historic Costume Workshop.
Greg continued: “Up to three million young people will study Shakespeare at school next year. We want them all to have a great first experience of his work, which is why we are continuing our commitment to ‘Shakespeare for the Nation’ by programming powerful and contemporary productions to excite a new generation of theatre-goers, launching our first ever young company and opening up our work behind the scenes.
“We announce today Next Generation ACT, our new young company with 20 gifted young people who might ordinarily find it hard to break into a career in theatre. They have the opportunity to work with us from the point they join until they are 18 years old as a member of the RSC Next Generation ACT company.
“We are touring right across the UK next year with three productions – Hamlet, Matilda The Musical and our new First Encounters with Shakespeare production of Julius Caesar, which will go directly into the heart of communities. We are launching a refreshed RSC Key for 16-25 year olds, reminding them they can see any performance for £5; live-streaming exclusive new events; and introducing a series of ‘behind the scenes’ online open days, giving everyone the opportunity to share in the creative energy and vast skills base in all areas of our work.”
See Thursday’s Herald for our interview with Greg for a detailed look at the forthcoming season. For more information see www.rsc.org.uk