RSC casts two new Swan Theatre productions

Published: 8 July 2019
Reporter: Steve Orme

The Royal Shakespeare Company has revealed the casts for its productions of Shakespeare’s King John and Hannah Khalil’s new play A Museum in Baghdad in the Swan Theatre, Stratford in winter 2019.

Rosie Sheehy will make her RSC debut in the title role of King John. She played Sonia in Peter Gill’s version of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya at Theatr Clwyd in 2017, Grace in Escape the Scaffold by Titas Halder at Porter's, Cardiff, also in 2017, and Mildred Douglas in Eugene O'Neill’s The Hairy Ape at the Old Vic in 2015.

The cast also features David Birrell (King of France), John Cummins (Pembroke), Houda Echouafni, Ali Gadema (Essex), Nicholas Gerard-Martin (Chatillon), Zed Josef (Robert Faulconbridge), Nadi Kemp-Sayfi (Blanche), Tom McCall (Hubert), Katherine Pearce (Cardinal Pandulph), Richard Pryal (Austria), Zara Ramm (Lady Faulconbridge), Bridgitta Roy (Elinor), Corey Montague-Sholay (Salisbury) and Charlotte Randle (Constance).

Eleanor Rhode will direct at the RSC for the first time. She was at the helm of Ella Hickson’s adaptation of J M Barrie’s Wendy and Peter Pan at the Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh in 2018 and Boudica by Tristan Bernays at Shakespeare's Globe in 2017.

The creative team also includes Max Johns (designer), Lizzie Powell (lighting designer), Will Gregory (music), David Gregory (sound), Tom Jackson Greaves (movement) and Rachel Bown-Williams and Ruth Cooper-Brown (fights).

King John will run in the Swan Theatre from Thursday 19 September until Saturday 21 March 2020. Press night will be Thursday 26 September.

The RSC’s deputy artistic director Erica Whyman will direct A Museum in Baghdad, “a story of treasured history, desperate choices and the remarkable Gertrude Bell”.

In 1926, the nation of Iraq is in its infancy and British archaeologist Gertrude Bell is founding a museum in Baghdad. In 2006, Ghalia Hussein is attempting to reopen the museum despite looting during the war.

These two women seek the same prize: to create a fresh sense of unity and nationhood, to make the world anew through the museum and its treasures. But in such unstable times, questions remain.

Emma Fielding returns to the RSC to play Gertrude Bell. She was last with the company in 2016 in Alice Birch’s Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. Making her RSC debut in the role of Iraqi archaeologist Ghalia Hussein is Rendah Heywood. Further casting includes David Birrell (Leonard Woolley), Houda Echouafni (Layla / chorus), Ali Gadema (kidnapper / chorus), Zed Josef (Salim), Nadi Kemp-Sayfi (Nasiya / chorus), Debbie Korley (Sam York), Richard Pryal, Zara Ramm, Riad Richie (Mohammed) and Rasoul Saghir (Abu Zaman).

Designer is Tom Piper, Charles Balfour is lighting designer, music is by Oguz Kaplangi, movement is by Tanushka Marah and video is by Nina Dunn.

A Museum in Baghdad will run in the Swan from Friday 11 October until Saturday 25 January 2020. Press night will be Tuesday 22 October.