First Encounters for RSC cast in Twelfth Night

Published: 9 September 2022
Reporter: Steve Orme

The cast of Twelfth Night Credit: Simon Hadley

The Royal Shakespeare Company has revealed the cast for its First Encounters with Shakespeare production of Twelfth Night which will tour England in autumn 2022.

Making their RSC debuts are Pérola Congo as Maria, Tyreke Leslie as Antonio and Sir Toby Belch, Daniella Agredo Piper in the role of Viola, Laura Smithers as Olivia and Stanton Wright in the roles of Sebastian and Sir Andrew Aguecheek.

Ibraheem Toure, who appeared in the RSC production of Henry VI: Rebellion earlier in 2022, returns in the role of Orsino. Also returning to the RSC are Emma Manton as Malvolio and Alice Blundell as Feste.

Director Robin Belfield has given Twelfth Night a 21st century update with an environmentally conscious take on Shakespeare’s tale of heartbreak, hoaxes and hidden identities.

With sustainability at its core, the creative team has tried to limit waste and reduce the show’s environmental impact wherever possible. Designer Georgie White has led a team of students from Birmingham Ormiston Academy to design and create a set made from reclaimed, recycled and ethically sourced materials.

Young people from the RSC’s associate schools programme have been involved in many other aspects of the production. A cast of pupils from each venue will play the sailors in the first act and have taken on backstage roles in wardrobe, stage management and lighting.

Aimed at taking Shakespeare to those who have never seen his work live and to younger audiences, the tour focusses on visiting areas of structural disadvantage. First Encounters with Shakespeare productions are 90-minute, abridged versions of the Bard’s plays.

Belfield said, “we want children’s and young people’s first encounters with live theatre and Shakespeare to be fun, engaging and meaningful. So we asked them what was important to them, and two things came across very clearly and consistently: that the show should be a co-creation between the RSC and the young people themselves and that climate crisis should sit at its heart.

“We haven’t resolved all the issues but it’s been an incredibly interesting and important process that will have broader implications and inform the way we work across the whole of the RSC in the future.”

The creative team also includes Simon Slater (music), Asha Jennings-Grant (movement) and Nicky Cox (associate director). To rehearse their parts in the production, host schools throughout the tour will work with RSC creative associates Nicole Joseph, Becky Salt, Ellie Warr and Mykey Young.

The RSC will perform in schools and theatres between 20 September and 12 November. Starting in Birmingham, the production will travel to Northampton, Cumbria, Blackpool, County Durham, Middlesbrough, York, Bradford, Hull, Nottingham, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Suffolk and Stratford.