As previously announced by RSC boss Michael Boyd, the previous season’s collection of great Shakespeare tragedies will be succeeded by a clutch of comedies. And, building on the recent success of unusual themed mini seasons (such as The Jacobeans and The Spanish Golden Age), Gregory Doran will lead Gunpowder, a selection of politically inflammatory pieces assembled to mark the 40th anniversary of Gay Fawkes and the Gunpowder Plot. The comedies will play in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Gunpowder in The Swan.
The comedies will be performed by the RSC Ensemble who will, says the company in a press release, rehearse and train together for twice as long as is normal in U.K. theatre. “The aim,” says the release, “is to create an environment for the actors to test ideas and rigorously investigate the complexities of Shakespeare’s work and the areas focusing on the comedies in particular.” This year, that environment will include new sessions focusing on text, gender, acrobatics and singing as well as theory and practical sessions on the history of comedy in theatre.
The comedies, with principal casting, are as follows:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream — directed by Gregory Doran. Previews begin March 31, 2005, opening April 14. Cast includes Amanda Harris (Titania), Joe Dixon (Oberon), Malcolm Storry (Bottom), Trystan Gravelle (Lysander), Oscar Pearce (Demetrius), Sinead Keenan (Hermia), Caitlin Mottram (Helena) and Jonathan Slinger (Puck).
Twelfth Night — directed by Michael Boyd, previews begin April 22, opening April 28. Cast includes Kananu Kirimi (Viola), Nicky Henson (Sir Toby Belch), Richard Cordery (Malvolio), Meg Fraser (Maria), Forbes Masson (Feste), John McKay (Aguecheek), Peter Bygott (Fabian) and Aislin McGuckin (Olivia).
The Comedy of Errors — directed by Nancy Meckler, previews begin July 15, opens July 27. Cast includes Suzanne Burden (Adriana), Christopher Colquhorn (Antipholus of Epheseus), Cordery (Egeon), Dixon (Antipholus of Syracuse), Masson (Dromio of Ephesus), Slinger (Dromio of Syracuse), Frances Jeater (Emilia) and Kirimi (Luciana). As You Like It — directed by Dominic Cooke, previews begin August 5, opens August 17. Cast includes Lia Williams (Rosalind), Amanda Harris (Celia), Paul Chahidi (Touchstone), Gravelle (Jacques de Boys), Henson (Duke) and Joseph Mydell (Jaques).
The Gunpowder season ensemble includes Barry Aird, Teresa Banham, Michelle Butterly, Nigel Betts, Ishia Bennison, Peter Bramhill, Miranda Colchester, Ewen Cummins, Peter de Jersey, Ian Drysdale, Evelyn Duah, Jon Foster, Geoffrey Freshwater, Kevin Harvey, James Hayes, David Hinton, Michael Jenn, Jonjo O’Neill, Keith Osborn, Fred Ridgeway, Vinette Robinson, Matt Ryan, Mark Springer, Barry Stanton, Julian Stolzenberg and Tim Treloar.
The season includes:
Thomas More by Shakespeare, Anthony Munday and Henry Chettle — written between 1592 and 1595, the play was "banned" and depicts Thomas More’s attempts to quell the race riots in London at the time and his own downfall. Robert Delamere directs, Simon Higlett designs. Previews begin March 9, opens March 24.
A New Way to Please You by Thomas Middleton, William Rowley and Philip Massinger — a black comedy, written in 1632, about a law passed stating that every man aged 80 and every woman aged 60 should be killed as they no longer have a use to society. Sean Holmes directs, Kandis Cook designs. Previews begin March 16, opens March 24.
Believe What You Will by Philip Massinger depicts a Middle Eastern leader who comes out of hiding to find a state from where he can reunite his people, but the Roman Empire threatens war. The play was written in 1631, and will here be directed by Josie Rourke and designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis. Previews begin May 18, opens May 26.
Sejanus: His Fall is by Ben Johnson, written in 1603. It depicts the rise of the Roman Emperor Tiberius’ ruthless chief adviser and his manipulative rise to the top. Of course, the higher they go. . . Greg Doran directs, Robert Jones designs. Previews begin July 20, opens July 26.
Frank McGuinness will premiere a new play, Speaking Like Magpies, on Sept. 19 (previews begin Sept. 21) about the 1605 Gunpowder Plot. Robert Goold directs.
The Other Place will also host a new writing season, consisting of:
Solstice by Zinnie Harris; previews begin March 30, opens April 6. The play depicts the chaos wreaked on a family when they are forced to resettle in an oppressive state. Cast includes Suzanne Burden, Peter Bygottm, Eke Chukwe, Frances Jeater, Neil McKinven, Alan Morrissey, Sally Tatum and Kevin Trainor.
David Greig’s The American Pilot begins previews April 17, opens May 5. When a spy plane crashes in a remote valley in a distant country, the local villagers must decide what to do with the wounded American pilot. Ramin Gray directs. Cast includes Peter Bankole, Paul Chahidi, Stewart W.Fraser, Amanda Harris, Tom Hodgkins, Sinead Keegan, Geoffrey Lumb, Chris McGill, David Rogers, Jonathan Slinger and Malcolm Storry.