Alan Bates has withdrawn from the Royal Shakespeare Company's upcoming production of Timon of Athens in Stratford following a chest infection. Michael Pennington will now take over the title role in the rarely performed Shakespeare play, which opens at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre next month.
Bates has already missed several performances of Antony and Cleopatra which he is also starring in, with Frances de la Tour, as part of the RSC summer festival season. He will now return to that role but, reportedly, feels unable to take on both parts.
Pennington is now rehearsing for the role of Timon. To accommodate the change, the first two previews, scheduled to begin Aug. 5, will be canceled, but the production is still due to open on Aug. 11, as scheduled. Pennington's many stage credits include An Ideal Husband, and last year's Peter Hall season at the Piccadilly where he appeared in The Misanthrope, Major Barbara and Filumena with Dame Judi Dench. He appeared most recently in the West End at the Gielgud in Moises Kaufman's Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde
Pennington will be joined in the cast by John Woodvine (Flavius), Sam Dastor (poet), Richard McCabe (Apemantus) and Rupert Penry-Jones (Alcibiades). Timon of Athens is directed by RSC associate director Gregory Doran. It is the first time that the play will be seen on the Royal Shakespeare stage since 1965.
The play tells the story of Timon, a reach and noble Athenian, whose generosity leaves him penniless. Spurned by his former friends and associates, he retreats to a cave outside the city where he discovers gold and has an opportunity to reject those who earlier rejected him. For further information, contact the Royal Shakespeare box office on 011-44-1789-295623.