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Disability centre stage in RSC’s Richard III

Published: 8 February 2022
Reporter: Steve Orme

Arthur Hughes who will play the lead in Richard III Credit: Hugo Glendinning
Blanche McIntyre who will direct All’s Well That Ends Well Credit: Dominic Parkes

The Royal Shakespeare Company has unveiled details of three new Shakespeare productions, the start of a partnership with global entertainment platform TikTok and a new national playwriting project to capture the stories of today.

Arthur Hughes will play the title role in Richard III which will be directed by RSC artistic director Gregory Doran in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford. Hughes will make his RSC debut in Wars of the Roses on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage in spring 2022.

Hughes said, “it’s no exaggeration to say that playing Richard at the RSC is a dream come true. Richard is the most murderous and charismatic character in Shakespeare's plays and he’s disabled.

“I’m thrilled not only to be playing this title role at the RSC but also that a major production of this play is putting disability centre-stage. It’s sadly rare in many plays to find a leading disabled character and with this production I hope we prove that disabled talent deserves to be in the spotlight."

Richard III will run from Thursday 23 June until Saturday 8 October before going on tour.

Playing in repertoire with Richard III will be Blanche McIntyre’s contemporary take on Shakespeare’s dark comedy All’s Well That Ends Well. It will run from Tuesday 16 August until Saturday 8 October and will explore themes of romantic fantasy, toxic masculinity and consent. McIntyre’s previous RSC productions include Titus Andronicus in 2017 and The Two Noble Kinsmen in 2016.

The two plays mark the final productions of the company’s ten-year pledge to produce all Shakespeare’s collected plays for the stage. Both will be filmed.

The RSC and TikTok want to inspire the next generation of theatre audiences and TikTok Tickets offers opportunities for young people to see RSC shows for £10 whether they are booking independently or visiting with their school.

The tickets will be available to all 14- to 25-year-olds. The RSC will work with TikTok to provide subsidised travel and support to encourage young people’s access to RSC productions and to help develop diverse audiences of the future.

Anyone in the UK can participate in 37 Plays, a project to capture the stories of today. Working with the RSC’s 12 regional partner theatres, the web site 37plays.co.uk will offer playwriting support and advice to those who are writing a play for the first-time as well as emerging and professional writers. Playwrights Juliet Gilkes Romero and Mark Ravenhill are ambassadors and senior consultants.

Submissions for 37 Plays will open on 1 January 2023 and close on 31 January. Submitted plays will be read by a national panel selected by the RSC’s network of associate regional theatres: the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, the Grand Theatre Blackpool, Hull Truck Theatre, Hall for Cornwall, Intermission Youth Theatre, the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury, Northern Stage, Norwich Theatre, Nottingham Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall, the New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Silhouette Youth Theatre and York Theatre Royal.

The First Encounters with Shakespeare series will resume in the autumn with Twelfth Night, a new production directed by Robin Belfield created in partnership with young people from communities across the English regions to tour to UK theatres and schools. The production, designed by Georgie White, will feature a set made by students from Birmingham Ormiston Academy using reclaimed and recycled materials.

Twelfth Night will tour to theatres and schools in Birmingham, Northampton, Cumbria, Blackpool, Bradford, York, Hull, Nottingham and Suffolk before returning to Stratford for performances from Thursday 10 until Saturday 12 November.