Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Full summer 2015 season announced for the Royal Shakespeare Company

The summer 2015 season opens with Death of a Salesman, Arthur Miller’s 1949 Pulitzer prize-winning play about failed dreams and thwarted ambition.  Artistic Director, Gregory Doran, directs Antony Sher in the role of Willy Loman, the downtrodden salesman of the title. Alex Hassell, who plays Prince Hal alongside Antony Sher’s Falstaff in the RSC’s current productions of Henry IV Parts I & II, will play Willy’s eldest son, Biff.   The production will be designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis with lighting by Tim Mitchell.

The repertoire continues with two plays set in Venice: Shakespeare’s uncompromising tragedies The Merchant of Venice and Othello

The Merchant of Venice will be directed by Polly Findlay, in her first Shakespeare production for the RSC.  Polly’s production of Arden of Faversham currently plays in the Swan Theatre as part of ‘The Roaring Girls’ season. She has directed Protest Song at The Shed at the National Theatre and will direct Treasure Island at the National Theatre at the end of 2014.
Othello will be directed by Iqbal Khan, whose last production for the RSC was an acclaimed Much Ado About Nothing in 2012, set in India.

After more than a decade working in film and television on projects from Star Wars to Holby City, Hugh Quarshie returns to the RSC to play the title role.  He last appeared with the Company in 1996 in Faust and Julius Caesar.  Lucian Msamati also returns to play Iago.  His most recent theatre work includes Little Revolution at the Almeida, The Amen Corner and The Comedy of Errors at the National Theatre, and Clybourne Park which also ran in the West End. His TV work includes Game of ThronesAshes to Ashes and The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency. He last appeared at the RSC in Pericles in 2006.

Death of a Salesman
by Arthur Miller, directed by Gregory Doran, with Antony Sher as Willy Loman
26 March – 2 May 2015

The Merchant of Venice
by William Shakespeare, directed by Polly Findlay
14 May – 2 September 2015
by William Shakespeare, directed by Iqbal Khan, with Hugh Quarshie in the title role and Lucian Msamati as Iago
4 June – 28 August 2015

The Venice season crosses both houses and the themes of the main house Shakespeare productions are reflected in the Swan Theatre repertoire. 

Christopher Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta opens the season, directed by Justin Audibert, in his debut production for the RSC.  Justin last worked as an assistant director with the Company in 2009-2011 and is an Artistic Associate of HighTide Festival Theatre and Associate of Told by an Idiot. The production is designed by Lily Arnold.

The play picks up the themes of racism and revenge seen in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, as it follows the Christian Governor of Malta’s attempts to buy off the invading Turkish fleet with money levied from the island’s Jewish population.  The title character, Barabas, complains bitterly and his entire fortune is seized.  He plans swift and bloody vengeance that threatens to destroy the entire island as men of all faiths ruthlessly pursue their own interests. 

Love’s Sacrifice by John Ford joins the repertoire.  This rarely-performed play is a thrilling revenge tragedy published in 1633, which echoes Othello as it explores the destructive power of jealousy.  It tells the story of the Duke of Pavia, his beautiful wife, Bianca, and his best friend, Fernando, who falls for Bianca.  Racked with jealousy and her own desire for Fernando, the Duke’s sister, Fiormonda, begins to manipulate her brother against his friend with the help of the villainous D’Avalos. 

Matthew Dunster makes his RSC debut with the production. His most recent work includes Mametz (National Theatre Wales), The Lightning Child (Shakespeare’s Globe) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre). 

The final production is Ben Jonson’s great satirical comedy Volpone, set in Venice.  Former RSC Artistic Director Trevor Nunn directs, returning to the Swan Theatre for the first time, which he created and opened in 1986. During his time running the RSC he also created The Other Place and directed most of the Shakespeare canon, alongside other diverse productions such as Nicholas NicklebyLes Miserables and Peter Pan. He last returned to the company in 2007 to direct King Lear andThe Seagull. The productions toured internationally and ran in London before King Lear was filmed in 2008. He last collaborated with Henry Goodman on the award-winning productions of The Merchant of Venice and Summerfolk at the National Theatre in 1999. 

Henry Goodman, who returns to the Company as the ‘Fox’ of the title, was last with the RSC as Richard III in 2003 and has recently been at the National Theatre in The Holy Rosenbergs and as the eponymous Arturo Ui in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui in the West End last year. Volpone is designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis.

The Jew of Malta
by Christopher Marlowe, directed by Justin Audibert
18 March – 8 September 2015

Love’s Sacrifice
by John Ford, directed by Matthew Dunster
11 April – 24 June 2015

by Ben Jonson, directed by Trevor Nunn, with Henry Goodman in the title role
3 July – 12 September 2015

The RSC continues its journey through all 36 of Shakespeare’s plays in the First Folio, making every play an event and sharing his work with audiences everywhere.

Working across the nation over the next two years, the Company will build on the successes of its national outreach programmes leading to the Shakespeare anniversary year of 2016. In a unique collaboration the RSC brings together its 400-strong Learning and Performance Network of schools and regional theatres, the Open Stages network of amateur companies and theatre partners, as well as its long-standing relationships with UK touring venues.

First Encounter: The Famous Victories of Henry V

Following the success of this year’s First Encounter production of The Taming of the Shrew, the RSC has commissioned its next specially-adapted production for younger audiences.

The Famous Victories of Henry V condenses the three great plays of Henry IV Parts I & II and Henry V into a 90 minute adventure for 8 – 13 year olds. Using Shakespeare’s original language, the production introduces notorious bad boy Prince Hal as he swaps his rebellious life on the streets of London for the battlefields of France to become one of the most famous heroes in British history. Hal’s epic journey into adulthood will lead its young audience through a life of scandal, parties, friendships, family feuds, rebellion and new responsibilities, ending in glorious victory as the once infamous Prince of England becomes the brave and noble King Henry V.

The title of The Famous Victories is taken from an early play that may have inspired Shakespeare to write the Henry plays.

The production complements the RSC’s recent History plays and will be directed by Owen Horsley, making his directing debut for the RSC.  Owen is currently assistant director for Gregory Doran on the Henry IV productions and is Artistic Director of Eyestring Theatre Company and Associate Director at Cheek by Jowl.

Following its opening in Stratford-upon-Avon in June 2015, The Famous Victories of Henry V will tour to schools and theatres across England who all form part of the RSC’s long term education partnership programme, the Learning and Performance Network.   The production takes place in the 600th anniversary year since the battle of Agincourt and will be supported by a full education programme. It takes the RSC’s work into the heart of communities and will play in school halls and theatre spaces across the country, including Hull, Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle under Lyme, Southampton and York.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation

The RSC will work with thirteen theatre partners and a vast range of amateur theatre-makers across the UK to produce a play for the whole nation. This special production combines two years of touring as it is created for and will mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016. Of all Shakespeare's plays, this one is especially loved for its delightful comedy, its magical setting and its cavalcade of glorious characters.

A professional RSC company will tour A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation for twelve weeks throughout the spring and summer of 2016. In every location, a new group of amateur performers will play Bottom and the rude mechanicals and local schoolchildren will play Titania’s fairy train. 

Deputy Artistic Director, Erica Whyman, will direct the production, collaborating with:

Northern Stage and Theatre Royal, Newcastle upon Tyne
Hall for Cornwall, Truro
Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
Alhambra Theatre, Bradford
Grand Theatre, Blackpool
Lyric Theatre and Grand Opera House, Belfast
New Theatre, Cardiff
Theatre Royal, Norwich
Theatre Royal; Nottingham
Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Barbican, London

Spring 2015: Recruitment process for the amateur performers begins, as each partner theatre selects amateur groups.  The RSC and partners will share skills with the amateurs through a series of workshops throughout the spring and summer, during which 90 amateur actors will be selected. 

Summer 2015: Schools across the country, some of whom are already involved in the RSC’s Learning and Performance Network, will be invited to take part in workshops for teachers and whole-school activities for students.  Children from local primary and secondary schools in each region will be cast as Titania’s fairy train from September 2015.  Around 480 children across the UK will perform in the production.

Autumn 2015: The amateur performers will prepare for their roles through a training programme with Erica and regional partners and theatre-makers, exploring Shakespeare and other writers. 

January 2016: Rehearsals with the professional company will begin, streamed each week from London, Stratford and two regional locations.  People will be able to follow the whole story online and through a unique broadcast collaboration with the BBC, who will track the amateurs every step of the way from spring 2015 to their moment on stage in the summer of 2016.

February 2016: A Midsummer Night’s Dream will open in Stratford-upon-Avon, then tour across the country, beginning in Newcastle upon Tyne and then playing a week at eleven venues with the individual amateur groups. 

Summer 2016: The company returns to Stratford, where the tour will culminate in a special Midsummer month of performances in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in June 2016, featuring all the amateur actors from around the UK. 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation is a co-production between the Royal Shakespeare Company and amateur theatre companies across the UK. This is an arrangement developed between the RSC and Equity.

Gregory Doran, RSC Artistic Director, said:
“I am looking forward to a summer of great theatre. We have a fantastic programme for 2015 with some truly exciting actors and directors on board.

“We mark the Arthur Miller centenary with one of the greatest plays of the 20th Century, Death of a Salesman, and we have taken Venice as a starting point for the summer season.  We have programmed main stage work which draws on our heritage as the world’s greatest Shakespeare company, and we celebrate the Swan Theatre as the home of work by Shakespeare’s contemporaries, with powerful plays from Marlowe, Ford and Jonson, which resonate with Shakespeare’s themes and the Venice setting as they too explore the idea of the outsider.

“We are proud to be a national company with our heart firmly in the Midlands, and I’m especially thrilled that we have combined two years of touring with a really bold programme to stage A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a play with and for the nation for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death in 2016.”

Erica Whyman, Deputy Artistic Director, said:

“We should all feel as though Shakespeare belongs to us and yet we know that not everyone does.  We want to celebrate Shakespeare’s legacy as we lead up to 2016 and find new ways of bringing the pleasure of his plays to the widest audience.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is probably the play most of us begin with, so it made sense to choose this as a title for this unique celebratory production.  I am excited that we are going to be working with such an amazing range of people all over the country to make it truly ‘a play for the nation’ – and that we will be doing it in collaboration with our thirteen theatre partners and the BBC. 

“There’s some fantastic and unexpected talent out there in the amateur theatre world, and we’ve had the privilege to see so much of it over the last three years of Open Stages. It is a real treat to be able to bring the professional and amateur worlds together in this extraordinary tour.

“We will also build on the great education work happening up and down the country in our 400 strong Learning and Performance Network, by inviting whole schools to explore A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and for some of their young students to be part of Titania’s fairy train.

"It is a glorious challenge to stage this wonderful play with different casts up and down the country, but one which I am honoured to undertake!"

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