RSC casts two summer plays in Stratford’s Swan

Published: 13 May 2023
Reporter: Steve Orme

The cast of The Empress
The cast of Falkland Sound

The Royal Shakespeare Company is to stage two “timely and evocative” plays, The Empress by Tanika Gupta and the world première of Falkland Sound by Brad Birch, in the Swan Theatre, Stratford in summer 2023.

RSC acting artistic director Erica Whyman said, “the RSC has always believed it’s essential to support and celebrate living writers who can expose new ways of seeing our collective history and conjure a brave new world that we don’t yet understand.

The Empress—now on the GCSE syllabus—presents an extraordinary friendship and a beautiful love story while forensically exposing the blithe injustice of empire. Falkland Sound explores with compassion the human experience of Falkland islanders during the Falklands war and the ferocious politics which informed the British response. Now more than ever it takes courage to speak these truths.”

Set in 1887, the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, The Empress tells the story of 16-year-old Rani Das, ayah (nursemaid) to an English family, who arrives at Tilbury docks from India to start a new life in Britain. On the boat, Rani befriends a lascar (sailor), an Indian politician and a royal servant destined to serve the Queen. Full of hopes and dreams of what lies ahead, they each embark on an “extraordinary” journey.

Making her RSC debut, Tanya Katyal will play Rani Das. Raj Bajaj will play Abdul Karim while Helen Schlesinger will play Queen Victoria.

Completing the company are Francesca Faridany (Lady Sarah), Aaron Gill (Hari), Anyebe Godwin (Serang / lascar), Miriam Grace Edwards (Charlotte / Georgina), Oliver Hembrough (Sir John Oakham / William), Avita Jay (Firoza), Tom Milligan (Freddie), Sarah Moyle (Mary / Susan Matthews), Chris Nayak (Jinnah / Singh), Lauren Patel (Ruby / Asha), Simon Rivers (Dadabhai Naoroji), Anish Roy (Gandhi / lascar), Nicola Stephenson (Lascar Sally), Premi Tamang (lascar / ayah) and Joe Usher (lascar).

The production is directed by Pooja Ghai with design by Rosa Maggiora. Lighting is by Matt Haskins, music and sound by Ben and Max Ringham, movement by Wayne Parsons and casting by Matthew Dewsbury CDG and Martin Poile.

Falkland Sound is inspired by testimonies of those who lived through the Falklands conflict and explores a community and way of life turned upside down by the invasion of the Falkland Islands by Argentine forces in April 1982.

The company includes Eduardo Arcelus (Gabriel), Alvaro Flores (Sebastian / one), Sandy Foster (Rosie / Clare), Anyebe Godwin (Jacob), Joanne Howarth (Mrs Hargreaves / Thatcher), Oliver Hembrough (Geoff / dad), Avita Jay (Sue / three), Tom Milligan (John / two), Sarah Moyle (Mary / Joan), Lauren Patel (Sally), Simon Rivers (Edwin / editor) and Joe Usher (Robbie).

Falkland Sound is directed by Aaron Parsons with design by Aldo Vázquez, lighting by Amy Mae, music by Jack Drewry, sound by Alexandra Faye Braithwaite and casting by Matthew Dewsbury CDG and Martin Poile.

The Empress will run in the Swan Theatre from Friday 7 July until Friday 15 September. It will transfer to the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre, London from Wednesday 4 until Saturday 28 October before returning to the Swan Theatre from Wednesday 1 until Saturday 18 November.

Falkland Sound will run in the Swan from Saturday 5 August until Saturday 16 September.

    Related listings

  • Falkland Sound - Brad Birch (Royal Shakespeare Company)
  • The Empress - Tanika Gupta (Royal Shakespeare Company)

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