Founded formally in 1961 to produce plays at Shakespeare's home town of Stratford-on-Avon, the RSC established a London pied-à-terre at the Barbican in 1982, which it maintained until 2002.
The RSC previously returned to the Barbican for productions of Richard II and last year for Henry IV, Parts 1 and 2. Now they will revive these productions as part of a season that also includes Henry V, to launch Shakespeare's 400th Anniversary year by bringing together his greatest tetralogy of History Plays and presenting them in repertoire.
The majority of the original cast members will reprise their roles, including David Tennant in the title role of Richard II, Antony Sher and Jasper Britton as Falstaff and Henry IV respectively in the Henry IV plays, and Alex Hassell as Prince Hal, who becomes Henry V in the final play.
The RSC will also present A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation, working with thirteen theatre partners and a vast range of amateur theatre-makers across the UK to produce a play for the whole nation. Directed by Deputy Artistic Director, Erica Whyman, a professional RSC company will tour A Midsummer Night's Dream 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.
In a press statement, Gregory Doran, RSC Artistic Director, has commented, "We have loved being back at the Barbican and I am thrilled to give London audiences the very first opportunity to see all four History plays together in repertoire. We have rekindled our relationship very successfully over a three year period, beginning with Richard II, followed by the two Henry IV plays this winter, this spring’s production of A Mad World My Masters, and now four productions at the end of this year to herald in the 2016 Shakespeare jubilee. "Our hope is to extend our residency in the future, showcasing more of our Stratford productions, including those from our Swan Theatre and The Other Place. We will also be building on the strong foundations already created by our Education teams, and look forward to new initiatives to reach young people in the east London boroughs, as well working with the Barbican to programme a rich mixture of events and exhibitions for all visitors alongside our productions."
The Barbican will also see a return of Ivo van Hove's Toneelgroep Amsterdam, presenting King Of Wars, an adaptation of Henry V, Henry VI and Richard III, into one play that integrates live music and video feeds. In this production, the title characters of each of the Shakespeare plays become modern-day political leaders, their fates unfolding in this single play that portrays three different rulers in times of crisis. Each is faced with the life-or-death choice of whether to go to war. Their decision-making and the machinations of their advisors are laid bare, exposing the conflict between national concerns and self-interest in an era of globalisation.
Australia's Malthouse Theatre will present The Shadow King, that transposes King Lear to the story-rich and resource-laden terrain of northern Australia, reimagining Shakespeare's tragedy as a blood-soaked tale of two Indigenous families divided by land, identity and legitimacy. Lear is the head of a remote community wrangling over mining rights, inheritance and wealth. Their story descends into madness and brutality against the distinctive red earth of the Australian outback. It is told through modern English, Kriol languages and a score, including Aboriginal 'dreamtime' songs, performed live by an onstage band. It is directed by Michael Kantor and stars Tom E Lewis, one of Australia's foremost Indigenous actors.
The theatre program will also include Complicite's The Encounter, the story of explorer and photographer Loren McIntyre's search for the source of the Amazon River in 1969 inspired by Petru Popescu’s novel "Amazon Beaming." It is directed and performed by Simon McBurney.
For more information, visit http://www.barbican.org.uk. The box office can be contacted on 0845 120 7511