Six RSC plays to be standalone events

Published: 28 September 2022
Reporter: Steve Orme

Experimenting with new models: RSC acting artistic director Erica Whyman Credit: Joe Bailey

Royal Shakespeare Company acting artistic director Erica Whyman, who is to leave the company to pursue a freelance career, has announced the company’s artistic programme for 2023.

In the year which marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s first folio, the RSC will present a series of new artistic commissions “which address the question of power, who holds it, who should, how it changes human beings, how power might shift and what could be transformed in our world as a result”.

The season will feature re-imaginings of six Shakespeare titles led by a fresh slate of directors, four of whom will present work in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre for the first time.

Whyman said, “as the RSC embarks on a new chapter, with a fresh and fearless determination to look at ourselves and our world through the lens of Shakespeare’s plays, all our creative activity in 2023 will address questions of power.

“I’ve chosen five plays that would have been lost forever if we didn’t have the first folio which invested enormous lasting power in one playwright who was himself fascinated by how power is apportioned according to race, gender, class and birthright and how rarely the smartest and the bravest people are afforded power.

“In the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, we won’t be in repertory but have chosen to present these six plays as standalone events. We love the benefits of playing in rep and will be returning to it but we’re experimenting with new models.

“This pattern allows each play a very distinct identity and a unique company of actors, allowing us to be more surprising as we reveal the intentions behind each production. The five directors offer different approaches, influences and instincts and share a commitment to release courageous new meaning in the plays.”

The season in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre will open with Elizabeth Freestone’s The Tempest. Alex Kingston will return to the company to play Prospero alongside Jessica Rhodes who will make her debut with the RSC as Miranda. It will run from Thursday 26 January to Saturday 4 March 2023.

Atri Banerjee will make his RSC debut by directing a new production of Julius Caesar from Saturday 18 March until Saturday 8 April. It will then tour to Canterbury, Truro, Bradford, Newcastle, Blackpool, Nottingham, Norwich, York and Salford between April and June.

Artistic director emeritus Gregory Doran will direct his 50th production for the RSC with a new staging of Cymbeline. It will mark a personal milestone for Doran who will have directed every Shakespeare play in the first folio. Cymbeline will run from Saturday 22 April until Saturday 27 May.

Omar Elerian’s “playful and provocative” take on Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It will run in summer 2023 on dates to be announced.

Wils Wilson completes the line-up with a new interpretation of Macbeth. It will open in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in autumn 2023 on dates to be announced.

In July 2023 Paul Ainsworth will direct the RSCs young company of 13- to 18-year-olds recruited from across the country to present their interpretation of Hamlet in the studio, The Other Place. In an abridged version they will explore the unstable state of Denmark through the eyes of the younger generation in the play and how the actions of those in power affect the inheritors of the nation.

The submissions window for the RSC’s nationwide playwriting project 37 Plays will open on 1 January and close on 31 January. 37 Plays is open to anyone in the UK who wants to submit a play with the simple brief of creating a piece of drama that can make people laugh, smile, cry or think. The 37 plays chosen will be announced in April 2023 and will be performed script-in-hand across the UK and online in autumn 2023. Full details are available at the 37 Plays web site.

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