By Mark Shenton
04 Feb 2014
The season will also include new productions of The Witch of Edmonton, marking the return of Eileen Atkins to the company, and The Shoemaker's Holiday, both by Shakespearean contemporaries, plus premieres for plays by Phil Porter and Tom Morton-Smith.
Love's Labour's Lost will begin performances Sept. 23, and Much Ado About Nothing (the latter of which will be presented under what may have been an alternative title Love's Labour's Won) will begin performances Oct. 3, before a press opening day Oct. 15 in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon, where they will play in repertoire. Former RSC actor Christopher Luscombe, who last appeared with the company in 1997, will make his RSC directorial debut to helm both productions. His directorial credits include The Merry Wives of Windsor and The Comedy of Errors (both for Shakespeare's Globe) and The Madness of George III and Monty Python's Spamalot in the West End.
Both productions, which will also be broadcast live to cinemas and streamed free to schools, will share a setting based on a splendid country house just before and just after the War, designed by Simon Higlett. Lighting design will be by Oliver Fenwick and music by Nigel Hess. Returning to the RSC are Edward Bennett and Michelle Terry, who will play the lovers in both productions.
Bennett, who was last at the RSC in an earlier production of Love's Labour's Lost directed by Gregory Doran, A Midsummer Night's Dream and Hamlet, will return to play Berowne and Benedick, respectively. He has most recently been seen in the touring production of One Man, Two Guvnors.
Terry, who was part of the RSC Complete Works productions in 2006 of Pericles and The Winter’s Tale, will return to play Rosaline and Beatrice. Other theatre credits include All's Well that Ends Well and The Comedy of Errors (both National) and Tribes (Royal Court, for which she won the Olivier for Best Actress in a Supporting Role).
Also in the Royal Shakepeare Theatre, deputy artistic director Erica Whyman will direct the same company in the world premiere of Phil Porter's The Christmas Truce, beginning performances Nov. 29 prior to an official opening Dec. 9, for a run in rep through Jan. 31, 2015. The play is based on real events in the First World War, when soldiers along the Western Front left their trenches on Christmas Eve, carrying only their courage and humanity, to meet their enemies in No Man's Land to talk, exchange gifts and, incredibly, play football. The play draws on true stories of soldiers in the Warwickshire Regiment and in particular, the experiences of local cartoonist, Bruce Bairnsfather, who worked at the original Shakespeare Memorial Theatre as an electrical engineer, and whose famous comic creation "Old Bill" was hugely popular with the troops.
The Swan Theatre will continue to stage the plays of Shakespeare’s contemporaries. Gregory Doran will direct Eileen Atkins in a new production of the rarely performed Jacobean domestic tragedy by Dekker, Ford and Rowley, The Witch of Edmonton, beginning performances Oct. 23 prior to an official opening Oct. 29, for a run through Nov. 29, playing in repertoire with an extended run of The White Devil directed by Maria Aberg.
Atkins, who is currently appearing as Ellen Terry at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare's Globe, last performed with the RSC in 1997 in The Unexpected Man with Michael Gambon.
The Swan season continues with Thomas Dekker’s festive comedy The Shoemaker’s Holiday, produced for the first time by the RSC. It will be directed by Phillip Breen, who directed The Merry Wives of Windsor for the company in 2012. Performances begin Dec. 11, prior to an official opening Dec. 18, for a run through March 7.
It will play in repertoire with Oppenheimer, a new play written by Tom Morton-Smith about "the father of the atom bomb" J. Robert Oppenheimer. It will begin performances Jan. 15 prior to an official opening Jan. 22, for a run through March 7. As fascism spreads across Europe in 1939, theoretical physicists in California recognize the horrendous potential of atomic fission. The charismatic Oppenheimer spearheads the largest scientific undertaking in human history and races to win the battle of the laboratories to create a devastating weapon which could bring an end not only to the Second World War, but to all wars.
In The Other Place, the RSC will stage Midsummer Mischief, a festival of new plays that will run June 14-July 12 to mark the 40th anniversary of RSC's studio space at Stratford, led by Erica Whyman. The Festival includes a production of The Tempest, a new co-production with The Ohio State University, directed by Kelly Hunter and developed for children with autism.
Public booking for all plays opens March 19, with priority and members booking beforehand. To book tickets, contact the box office on 0844 800 1110 or visit www.rsc.org.uk.