Eccleston to play Macbeth at RSC in summer 2018

Steve Orme

Christopher Eccleston and Niamh Cusack will play Macbeth and Lady Macbeth in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s summer 2018 season in Stratford which will also feature its first young company.

At the same time the RSC is beginning a campaign, Stitch In Time, to raise £3 million to restore and develop its costume workshop.

RSC artistic director Gregory Doran said, “up to three million young people will study Shakespeare at school next year. We want them all to have a great first experience of his work, which is why we’re continuing our commitment to Shakespeare For the Nation by programming powerful and contemporary productions to excite a new generation of theatre-goers, starting our first young company and opening up our work behind the scenes.

“Next Generation ACT is our new young company with 20 gifted young people who might ordinarily find it hard to break into a career in theatre. They have the opportunity to work with us from the point they join until they are 18.”

The summer season on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage features three plays, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Doran added, “Polly Findlay will direct Christopher Eccleston in his RSC debut as Macbeth, with Niamh Cusack returning to the company to play Lady Macbeth in what will be a thrillingly dark, modern production.” It runs from 13 March until 22 September 2018.

“Erica Whyman builds on the achievements of her 2016 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation, which united 84 amateur performers, 580 children and a professional cast, with her production of Romeo and Juliet.

“This violent and devastating tragedy will look in the eye a generation of young people let down by their parents. Young people from our associate schools will play the chorus in Stratford, alongside the professional cast. The production will then tour in 2019, with more young people joining across the country.” Romeo and Juliet runs in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from 21 April until 22 September 2018.

King Lear, with Antony Sher in the title role, which has been touring internationally, returns to Stratford from 23 May until 9 June 2018.

“We conclude the Royal Shakespeare Theatre season, said Doran, “with a change of tone. Fiona Laird will direct the heart-warming comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor, with David Troughton as Falstaff, in a contemporary setting—with more than a hint of reality TV—as we continue to take audiences on our journey through Shakespeare’s canon.”

In the Swan Theatre, there will be three plays with a strong focus on leading roles for women. John Webster’s 1612 tragedy The Duchess of Malfi, directed by Maria Aberg, runs from 1 March until 4 August 2018.

It will be followed by The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich (or The Beau Defeated) written by Mary Pix and directed by Jo Davies.

The season concludes with a new musical about revolutionary theatre-maker, Joan Littlewood. Sam Kenyon has written the book, music and lyrics for Miss Littlewood. Erica Whyman will direct the production, developed in collaboration with Theatre Royal Stratford East.

The RSC will tour the UK with three productions in 2018: Hamlet, Matilda the Musical and its new First Encounters with Shakespeare production of Julius Caesar.

The Stitch In Time campaign has already secured £2.1 million from Arts Council England while the Heritage Lottery Fund has given initial support for a National Lottery grant.