Casting for Queen Victoria Stratford premiere

Published: 26 January 2013
Reporter: Steve Orme

The Empress will run in the Swan Theatre

Casting has been announced for the world première of Tanika Gupta’s play The Empress which opens at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford in April.

The play is part of the final season programmed by outgoing artistic director Michael Boyd.

It offers “a fascinating glimpse into the world and character of Queen Victoria” and explores the intimate relationship between the ageing monarch and her Indian attendant, Abdul Karim, alongside the remarkable unknown stories of the Indian Ayahs living and working in 19th century London”.

Beatie Edney, who last appeared in the RSC's London production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses at The Ambassadors Theatre in 1986, plays Queen Victoria.

Also returning to the RSC are Ankur Bahl (Gandhi); Shiv Grewal (Dadabhai Naoroji); Tamzin Griffin (Lascar Sally); Kristin Hutchinson (Lady Sarah); Tony Jayawardena (Abdul Karim); Emily Mytton(Georgina); Anneika Rose (Rani Das); and Ed Woodall (Sir John Oakham).

They are joined by Rina Fatania (Firoza); Japjit Kaur(Ayah); Dominic Lawton (Lascar); Aki Omoshaybi (Serang); and Ray Panthaki (Hari).

The Empress will be directed by Emma Rice, artistic director of Kneehigh. She previously directed Cymbeline for the RSC in 2006 as part of the Complete Works Festival and Don John in 2009.

Emma Rice said, “The Empress is astonishing. My breath was taken away when I first turned the pages of Tanika Gupta's gripping script.

“I gasped at the images, sounds, smells and colours of a time I thought I knew. Facts were re-drawn, re-written and passions ignited.

“Here is an untold history that reaches out and drags us to a new understanding of Victoria, her empire and her legacy.”

The Empress runs in the Swan Theatre at Stratford from 11 April until 4 May, with press night on Wednesday 17 April.