RSC casts Henry VI open rehearsal project

Published: 2 June 2021
Reporter: Steve Orme

Directors Owen Horsley and Gregory Doran on the first day of Henry VI Part One: Open Rehearsal Project Credit: Ellie Kurttz

Casting has been announced for the Royal Shakespeare Company's Henry VI Part One: Open Rehearsal Project in which audiences will be invited inside the full rehearsal process for the first time in the company's history.

Mark Quartley, who played Ariel in the RSC's live motion-capture production of The Tempest in 2016, will take the role of King Henry VI.

Talbot will be played by Jamie Ballard who last appeared at the RSC in the 2015 production of The Merchant of Venice. He is perhaps best known for playing Harry Potter in the West End production of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child.

Michael Balogun will make his RSC debut as Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York. He was Delroy in Death of England: Delroy by Clint Dyer and Roy Williams at the National Theatre in 2020.

RSC associate artists Mariah Gale, Mark Hadfield and Amanda Harris will play the roles of Margaret, Winchester and Exeter respectively.

The cast also includes James Cooney (Alencon), Marty Cruickshank (Reignier), Oliver Johnstone (Suffolk), Mimî M Khayisa (Somerset), Anna Leong Brophy who makes her RSC debut as Burgundy, Chris Middleton (Duke of Gloucester), Lily Nichol (Joan la Pucelle), Bridgitta Roy (Warwick), Liyah Summer (Bastard of Orleans) and Jamie Wilkes (Charles the Dauphin).

RSC artistic director Gregory Doran said, "this project opens up the process of theatre-making to audiences like never before. It's a voyage of discovery which we hope will yield some perhaps surprising insights into the ways plays get rehearsed and give the opportunity for anybody to benefit from the training that exists here at the RSC, growing their own skills or just discovering something new."

Director Owen Horsley added, "the rehearsal room is a fascinating place filled with imagination, creativity and discoveries. Currently we ask audiences to book for a show with little or no context of how we approached the play or the decisions that were made in the room.

“It’s exciting to consider the prospect of audiences being engaged at an earlier point in the process to deepen their understanding and investment in the theatre experience.

“We won’t be taking Henry VI Part One into a theatre for a live audience but who knows? Maybe one day we’ll be able to offer both—an open rehearsal and then an opportunity to step into the theatre to see the production that you witnessed being made.”

Henry VI Part One: Open Rehearsal Project features music by Paul Englishby, movement by Polly Bennett and fights by Rachel Bown-Williams and Ruth Cooper-Brown.

The daily schedule of activity begins with a warm-up. From noon, online audiences are invited to join a live rehearsal session. This will be followed by an opportunity to join members of the company for a post-rehearsal chat as they answer the audience’s questions about the process.

The Henry VI Part One: Open Rehearsal Project will culminate in a live-streamed final rehearsal room run through from Stratford on Wednesday 23 June, available to watch on demand until midnight on Friday 25 June.

The three Henry VI plays were originally due to be presented in the Swan Theatre from October 2020 until January 2021 by a single company of actors across two performances. They were postponed due to the pandemic.