Royal Shakespeare Company's 50th Birthday Season to Feature Patrick Stewart, Pippa Nixon and More

News   Royal Shakespeare Company's 50th Birthday Season to Feature Patrick Stewart, Pippa Nixon and More
The RSC has announced major casting for its 50th birthday season of nine plays in Stratford-upon-Avon's newly transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Swan Theatre.

Patrick Stewart
Patrick Stewart

Amongst many actors returning to a company they have previously worked for are Jonathan Slinger and Aislín McGuckin, who will star in Macbeth; Patrick Stewart, who will play Shylock in The Merchant of Venice; and Pippa Nixon and Jo Stone-Fewings, who will be seen in A Midsummer Night's Dream. The season will also see 25-year-old newcomer Olly Rix starring in Shakespeare's "lost" play Cardenio and Sara Crowe joining the company to play Lady Frugal in The City Madam.

Boyd himself directs Macbeth, the first new production to open in the newly transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre, beginning performances April 16 prior to an official opening April 26, then running in rep through Oct. 6. Slinger, who was previously in the RSC's Histories cycle for which he played the title roles of Richard II and Richard III, was recently seen in the West End in Yes, Prime Minister. In a press statement, Boyd commented, "Jonathan is without doubt one of the finest actors of his generation, and has more than proved himself in the role of disturbed Shakespearean Kings." Aislín McGuckin, who appears opposite him as Lady Macbeth, has previously played played Olivia in Michael Boyd's production of Twelfth Night, as well as appeared in Boyd's productions of Henry VI (both parts 1 and II) and Richard III. The cast also includes Madeline Appiah (Gentlewoman), Jamie Beamish (Porter), Howard Charles (Malcolm), Scott Handy (Ross), Aidan Kelly (Macduff), Caroline Martin (Lady Macduff), Des McAleer (Duncan), Nikesh Patel (Donalbain), Daniel Percival (First Murderer), Daniel Rose (Second Murderer), Steve Toussaint (Banquo) and Christopher Wright (Doctor). Designs are by RSC Associate, Tom Piper, lighting by Jean Kalman, music by Craig Armstrong, sound by Andrew Franks, movement by Struan Leslie and fights by Terry King.

The Merchant of Venice, which begins performances May 13, prior to an official opening May 19 for a run in rep through Sept. 26, brings Patrick Stewart back to the company, where he last appeared as Claudius and Ghost in Hamlet. He is reunited with director Rupert Goold, for whom he has previously played the title role of Macbeth (at Chichester Festival's Minerva Theatre, the West End and Broadway) and The Tempest (RSC). Susannah Fielding (who has appeared at the National in The Hour we Knew Nothing of Each Other, Much Ado About Nothing, Philistines and The Rose Tattoo) plays Portia. The cast also includes Madeline Appiah, Jamie Beamish (Launcelot Gobbo), Howard Charles (Gratiano), Scott Handy (Antonio), Aidan Kelly, Caroline Martin (Jessica), Des McAleer (Duke of Venice/Old Gobbo), Jason Morell (Arragon), David Ononokpono (Morocco), Nikesh Patel (Balthasar), Daniel Percival (Lorenzo), Emily Plumtree (Nerissa), Richard Riddell (Bassanio), Daniel Rose, Steve Toussaint and Christopher Wright (Tubal). Designs are by Tom Scutt, lighting by Rick Fisher, music by Adam Cork, sound by Gregory Clarke, choreography by Scott Ambler and  orchestrations by Alex Baranowski.

A Midsummer Night's Dream, which begins performances July 29, prior to an official opening Aug. 4 for a run in rep through Nov. 5, is directed by Nancy Meckler, who previously directed The Comedy of Errors and House of Desires for the company. Pippa Nixon, who has previously appeared for the RSC in Days of Significance, plays Titania, and Jo Stone-Fewings, last seen for the RSC as Orsino in Twelfth Night, plays Oberon. The company also features Lucy Briggs-Owen as Helena, Alex Hassell as Demetrius, Matti Houghton as Hermia and Nathaniel Martello-White as Lysander, with Maya Barcot (Fairy), Christopher Chilton (Fairy), Kammy Darweish (Egeus), Christopher Godwin (Quince), Michael Grady-Hall (Flute), Felix Hayes (Snug), Chiké Okonkwo (Snout) and Timothy Speyer (Starveling). The production is designed by Katrina Lindsay with lighting by Wolfgang Gobbel.

The Peter Weiss classic, Marat/Sade, The Persecution and Assassination of Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Director of the Marquis de Sade, will be revived in a new production directed by Antony Neilson. It begins performances Oct. 14, prior to an official opening Oct. 20, for a run in rep through Nov. 5. The RSC first produced the play in 1964 under the direction of Peter Brook. In a press statement, Neilson commented, "I look forward to working with the new ensemble on the forthcoming revival of Marat/Sade; a production which will, I hope, cast a fresh and contemporary light on Peter Weiss' seminal play, both formally and contextually; and restore to it at least some of the forceful impact of Peter Brook's and Adrian Mitchell's legendary RSC production." The play is set in post- revolutionary France. The inmates of an asylum present a play about the murder of Jean-Paul Marat under the direction of the notorious Marquis de Sade. As the director of the asylum and his family sit down expecting to see a patriotic display, they are confronted with a performance that is unruly, shocking and outspoken. Movement is by Anna Morrissey, with lighting by Chahine Yavroyan. In the Swan Theatre, the season will open with RSC chief associate director Gregory Doran staging Cardenio, a "lost" play that has been attributed to Shakespeare and John Fletcher. It will begin performances April 14, prior to an official opening April 27, for a season in rep through Oct. 6. After extensive auditions, a newcomer has landed the title part of Cardenio, and Doran has commented, "Olly Rix, a 25 year old graduate from Oxford University and LAMDA can't quite believe he’s landed this major new role. But I believe he will bring something quite exceptional to the role. He's a very exciting new talent." The cast also includes Maya Barcot (Nun), Lucy Briggs-Owen (Luscinda), Christopher Chilton (Priest), Liz Crowther (Duenna), Nicholas Day (Don Bernardo), Christopher Ettridge (Duke), Christopher Godwin (Don Camillo), Michael Grady-Hall (Shepherd), Alex Hassell (Fernando), Felix Hayes (Shepherd), Matti Houghton (Maid), Simeon Moore (Pedro), Harry Myers (Citizen), Pippa Nixon (Dorotea), Chiké Okonkwo (Gerardo) and Timothy Speyer (Master Shepherd). The creative team comprises Niki Turner (designer), Tim Mitchell (lighting), Paul Englishby (music), Martin Slavin (sound), Michael Ashcroft (movement) and Terry King (fights).

Philip Massinger's The City Madam will see Dominic Hill, artistic director of Edinburgh's Traverse Theatre, making his RSC debut to stage a satire on greed and misplaced pride. It begins performances in the Swan Theatre May 5, prior to an official opening May 11, for a run in rep through Oct. 4. In the play, wealthy merchant John Frugal (Christopher Godwin) takes pity on his penniless and dissolute brother Luke Frugal (played by Jo Stone-Fewings) and invites him to live under his roof together with his own haughty wife and two foolishly conceited daughters. As Luke plots to steal from his brother and his daughters arrogantly spurn worthy suitors, John plans to teach them all a lesson. Sara Crowe, who plays Lady Frugal, has previously appeared for the RSC in A Woman of No Importance. The cast also includes Lucy Briggs-Owen (Anne), Christopher Chilton (Dingem), Liz Crowther (Millicent/Secret), Kammy Darweish (Old Tradewell/Fortune), Nicholas Day (Lord Lacy), Christopher Ettridge (Holdfast), Michael Grady-Hall (Scuffle), Alex Hassell (Maurice), Felix Hayes (Mr. Plenty), Matti Houghton (Mary), Nathaniel Martello-White (Goldwire), Andrew Melville (Hoist/Old Goldwire), Simeon Moore (Stargaze), Harry Myers (Getall/Serjeant), Pippa Nixon (Shavem), Chiké Okonkwo (Tradewell), Olly Rix and Timothy Speyer (Penury). The creative team includes costume designs by Tom Piper, lighting by Tim Mitchell, music and sound by Dan Jones, movement by Struan Leslie and fights by Renny Krupinski.

David Greig's Dunsanine, a contemporary sequel to Macbeth previously presented by the RSC at Hampstead Theatre in 2010, is revived in the Swan Theatre by original director Roxana Silbert, beginning performances June 15, prior to an official opening June 16, for a run in rep through July 2. Casting includes Brian Ferguson (Malcolm), Lisa Hogg (Attendant), Joshua Jenkins (Soldier/Lord), Alex Mann (Egham), Mairi Morrison (Attendant), Jonny Phillips (Siward) and Siobhan Redmond (Gruach). The creative team also comprises Robert Innes Hopkins (designer), Chahine Yavroyan (lighting), Nick Powell (music and sound), Anna Morrissey (movement) and Terry King (fights). In a press statement, Silbert commented, "I'm thrilled to be bringing David Greig's Dunsinane to the Swan. It was actually written for the space, so it's like bringing it home. Wonderful, too, that it will be seen after Michael Boyd's Macbeth on the new RST stage providing a gratifying sequel for those who wondered what happened after...."

Harold Pinter's The Homecoming, originally premiered by the RSC in 1965, will be revived in a new production in the Swan, beginning performances July 28, prior to an official opening Aug. 3, for a run in rep through Oct. 15. The cast includes Des McAleer (Sam), Aislín McGuckin (Ruth), Richard Riddell (Joey) and Jonathan Slinger (Lenny). RSC associate director David Farr, who directs, comments, "I directed the 50th anniversary production of The Birthday Party at The Lyric shortly before Harold died. He was very much involved, displaying that characteristic passion for the simple act of making theatre. To direct one of the first productions after his death is a great honor. To direct The Homecoming, which I think is possibly his greatest achievement is a genuine thrill. It will be strange doing it without him." The designer is John Bausor, and lighting is by Jon Clark.

The RSC will also stage a Young People's Shakespeare production of The Tempest touring to schools beginning Sept. 19, then in the Swan Theatre from Sept. 24 to Oct. 15. It is intended as an introduction to Shakespeare for children aged eight upwards and families. It is edited and directed by Tim Crouch, who comments, "The Taming of the Shrew always felt like a natural choice for the RSC's Young People's Shakespeare. Its themes of sibling rivalry, bullying, love, identity and education make it a perfect play for a young, enquiring audience. Shakespeare tells a compelling story but it is not sugar-coated. Its provocation feels particularly relevant in 2011 when the messages of gender equality and emancipation in schools, colleges and elsewhere are still as confused as ever. I am excited about honoring the comedy and the challenge of Shakespeare's play and enabling it to engage theatrically with young and old minds alike. The cast for The Taming of the Shrew is led by two outstanding young actors, David Ononokpono and Madeline Appiah, as Petruchio and Katherina. I am excited to be putting Christopher Sly (played by Jamie Beamish) back where he belongs - deep into the heart of the audience with some opinions of his own." The cast also include Caroline Martin (Baptista), Jason Morell (Grumio/Gremio), Nikesh Patel (Lucentio), Daniel Percival (Tranio), Emily Plumtree (Bianca) and Daniel Rose (Hortensio).

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