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Michael Boyd, Artistic Director, announces journey for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s next three year ensemble, starting in 2009


There are five elements underpinning our vision for the RSC


  • The Ensemble Principle now informs all aspects of the Company’s work 
  • The dynamic new thrust Royal Shakespeare Theatre is taking shape on schedule in Stratford-upon-Avon
  • New Work, both national and international, is back at the heart of the RSC’s repertoire, with embedded writers creating roles for a specific company of actors
  • Our manifesto to enliven Shakespeare in schools – Stand Up For Shakespeare – becomes a key influence in all of our planning
  • Continued commitment to touring and continuing collaborations with international theatre-makers




Key moments for the next ensemble of actors are the performance of New Work at The Courtyard Theatre for the very first time in 2009, the chance to work with the extraordinary team of associates, the historic opening of the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre in 2010, and the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the RSC in 2011.


This new generation of theatre artists will work together for 3 years, making their mark with innovative approaches to Shakespeare and New Work:  


  • Michael Boyd directs As You Like It and The Grain Store in 2009, and Antony and Cleopatra in 2010.


  • David Farr directs The Winter’s Tale in his first show as RSC Associate Director in 2009. He directs King Lear in 2010, followed by Silence, the new collaboration with Filter in 2011


  • Rupert Goold directs Romeo and Juliet in his first show for the RSC as Associate Director in 2010.


  • Kathryn Hunter, in her newly appointed role as RSC Artistic Associate, takes roles in The Grain Store and A Tender Thing in 2009. She will also appear in King Lear and play Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra, both in 2010.


  • Gregory Doran, RSC Chief Associate Director, directs a stage version of Malory’s Morte D’Arthur in a new adaptation by Mike Poulton in 2010.


  • RSC Literary Associate Anthony Neilson directs The Drunks in 2009.


  • RSC Associate Director Roxana Silbert directs Little Eagles by Rona Munro in 2011.


  • Lucy Bailey makes her RSC debut directing Julius Caesar in 2009.


  • Paul Hunter, Co-Artistic Director of Told by an Idiot, directs The Comedy of Errors in 2009 as the Young People’s Shakespeare show, inspired by Stand Up For Shakespeare and its promotion of the importance of live performance opportunities for younger audiences.




The RSC launches a strand of work which has been 3 years in the planning. Other Russia is an investigation into the dramatic life of the countries that made up the former Soviet Union.  Looking deeply into the theatrical tradition that rivals our own, we will produce a dynamic mix of classics and brand new plays. The season begins with two large-scale new commissions that will be premiered on The Courtyard Theatre stage.


In 2009:


  • The Grain Store by Natal’ia Vorozhbit, directed by Michael Boyd, with new Artistic Associate Kathryn Hunter in the cast. An urgent and epic account of the Ukrainian famine in the 1930s.


  • The Drunks by Mikhail and Vyacheslav Durnenkov.  A dark and freewheeling epic about a soldier returning from Chechnya to his home town as a reluctant war hero. Directed by RSC Literary Associate Anthony Neilson.


Other Russia continues with two further premieres.


In 2011:


  • Little Eagles by Rona Munro. A sweeping history play about the 1960s space race between USSR and USA. The first part of her trilogy looks at idealism against a Cold War backdrop. Directed by RSC Associate Director Roxana Silbert.


  • Silence. A new collaboration with Filter directed by RSC Associate Director David FarrSilence follows a disenchanted British journalist travelling to Moscow to meet a controversial theatre-maker. The piece is an exploration of Russia’s history of artistic suppression, asking what it means to live in a closely monitored but vitally alive state.  Are you truly free to speak out or do you remain silent? After their successful collaboration on the visually stunning Water at Lyric Hammersmith in 2007, Filter once again team up with David Farr to create a multi-sensory narrative about artists and their voices.



Michael Boyd said; “We bring an enormously varied programme of Shakespeare and New Work together with some of the UK’s most innovative directors, designed to excite and challenge audiences who will be able to watch the acting company develop over time.


“We launch Other Russia – a new exploration of Russia and the former Soviet Union countries, drawing on the great Russian theatre tradition with some of Eastern Europe’s most inspirational new writers. I am looking forward to directing The Grain Store on the main stage at The Courtyard Theatre.


“And we intertwine our artistic programme with our continued commitment to passing on the buzz of Shakespeare to young audiences with titles to match the curriculum, and a Young People’s Shakespeare with a physically arresting adaptation of The Comedy of Errors.


“All performed by a single company of 44 actors, training, learning and collaborating during their three years in Stratford, and, we hope, establishing a deep rapport with audiences.


“This particular ensemble is also an historic one, since they will be the actors who open the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre in 2010, and celebrate our 50th anniversary in 2011.”

A return to ensemble


As already powerfully embodied by the collaborative success of The Histories, Michael Boyd now plans the next 3 year ensemble. Taking the Company back to its roots as a centre of ensemble theatre-making, Boyd’s approach demands courage and commitment from the actors. The defining features of the new ensemble will include:


  • – 30 month contracts for the actors
  • – Intensive training in voice, verse, movement and rhetoric as part of the ongoing Artist Development Programme
  • – Postgraduate training in the teaching of Shakespeare as part of our commitment to Stand Up For Shakespeare
  • – Work with some of the most challenging and innovative directors in British theatre
  • – Embedded writers working closely with and writing for a company of actors, as Shakespeare did
  • – A balanced combination of Shakespeare and New Work – using Shakespeare’s dramaturgy to influence approaches to new epic plays
  • – Working on the thrust stage, bringing audiences ever closer to the action
  • – Intensive developmental work on creative projects with theatre artists from all over the world
  • – Public understudy runs.




The season will also be supported by an extensive series of multi-arts events, programmed by Mark Ball, RSC Head of Events and Exhibitions, aimed at building a bridge between the RSC, Shakespeare and new audiences. This will include artists’ residencies, film festivals, debates and symposia, as well as digital projects extending the RSC’s presence online. 


Productions on the thrust stage


In 2009, at The Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, RSC Artistic Director Michael Boyd directs Shakespeare’s romantic comedy As You Like It for the first time. One of Shakespeare’s great comedies, As You Like It subverts the traditional rules of romance, confusing gender roles, nature and politics in a play that reflects on how bewildering yet utterly pleasurable life can be. The production will be designed by Tom Piper.


Newly appointed Associate Director, David Farr, directs Shakespeare’s late play about jealousy, loss and redemption, The Winter’s Tale, in which Shakespeare strips away the trappings of a man’s success in a bewitchingly beautiful exploration of what constitutes true happiness.  David returns to the RSC following his productions of Coriolanus and Julius Caesar in 2003/4 which performed in the Swan Theatre before touring nationally and in London. He was Artistic Director of the Lyric Hammersmith from 2005 – 2008 and prior to this was Joint Artistic Director of Bristol Old Vic from 2002 – 2005.


Lucy Bailey makes her RSC directing debut with a production of Julius Caesar, a masterpiece of political power-play and manipulation which examines the conflict between one man’s ambition and the good of the state. Lucy’s previous productions include Timon of Athens and Titus Andronicus at Shakespeare’s Globe, as well as work with the National Theatre, Chichester Festival Theatre, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Hampstead Theatre and the West End.


In the second year of the ensemble in 2010, the same ensemble of actors will appear in Rupert Goold’s first RSC production as RSC Associate Director – Romeo and Juliet.


In the same season David Farr will direct King Lear; Michael Boyd will direct Antony and Cleopatra and Gregory Doran will direct a new stage version of Malory’s Morte D’Arthur by Mike Poulton (see below)


 Further details and booking dates for 2010 productions to be announced.




New Work at the RSC


Boyd commits to his long-cherished desire to balance new plays alongside Shakespeare.


The New Work team at the RSC has been consolidated and expanded. With the addition of new Literary Manager Pippa Ellis joining Associate Director Roxana Silbert, Literary Associate Anthony Neilson, and Company Dramaturg Jeanie O’Hare, the team is complete.


Tarell Alvin McCraney will join the Company as the new RSC/Warwick International Playwright in Residence.  One of the most gifted writers of his generation, his most recent production in the UK, The Brothers Size (ATC/Young Vic), part of a trilogy of Brother/Sister plays, was nominated for the 2008 Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre. Another part of the trilogy, In the Red and Brown Water will open in October 2008 at the Young Vic, running alongside the returning production of The Brothers Size. His extraordinary play Wig Out! will open at the Royal Court in November 2008, directed by Dominic Cooke.


Tarell will be in the RSC rehearsal rooms embedded with the ensemble acting company creating and developing new work and, as part of this work, he will write a new commissioned play for the company. His post is funded by the CAPITAL Centre at Warwick University and he will teach there as part of his residency.


RSC Associate Director Roxana Silbert directs Rona Munro’s play Little Eagles. Part of a trilogy covering the years from Sputnik to the Apollo Moon landings and beyond, this first instalment charts the Soviet contribution to the space race, from the dark days of the Gulag to the aftermath of the first triumphant flight of Yuri Gagarin. Epic in scale and rich with historical detail, Little Eagles is a bold exploration of a time when one man’s dream became a reality and the world changed forever. The play is a new RSC commission, and was developed in association with Davidson College in the US.


As part of this wide range of new commissions, some will explore the connections between the classical repertoire and new forms of playwriting. Ben Power, Literary Associate at Headlong Theatre, is under commission to do two radical re-workings of classic material. His first, A Tender Thing, will be produced in 2009. Mike Poulton returns with a new version of the original source material of the King Arthur legend.


  • A Tender ThingInspired by and entirely composed of material drawn from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Ben Power’s A Tender Thing is a re-imagining of a masterpiece. An elderly couple cling to each other as time and life ebb from them in this intimate account of brutal mortality. Fate and hope, love and loss are explored as Shakespeare’s words are given a powerful new theatrical context.


  • Morte D’Arthur. Inspired by Sir Thomas Malory’s epic 15th Century Arthurian legend, Mike Poulton achieves a bold and accessible re-telling of the myth at the heart of English culture. Re-uniting the team that created The Canterbury Tales, Chief Associate Director Gregory Doran will direct.

Young People’s Shakespeare

The ‘See it Live’ principles behind the RSC’s manifesto Stand Up For Shakespeare are brought to life in the Young People’s Shakespeare programme. 

The idea behind Young People’s Shakespeare is to create accessible productions, condensed to the bare essentials, which will bring the power of seeing a live, innovative production of Shakespeare to very young audiences around the country.  These shows are the ideal introduction to both the play, and Shakespeare in performance.


This year, primary school children across the country will have the opportunity to see a stripped down version of The Comedy of Errors, created in association with acclaimed theatre company Told by an Idiot, and directed by Paul Hunter. For the first time, the Young People’s Shakespeare production can also be seen at The Courtyard Theatre for five performances during the season, giving more families and schools the chance to experience it in our Stratford home.

RSC on Tour


The Tempest, in association with South Africa’s Baxter Theatre Centre, will tour the UK in the Spring of 2009. Using its South African roots as a basis for the production’s concept and with native South Africans Antony Sher and John Kani playing Prospero and Caliban respectively, Janice Honeyman directs a production which draws on the music, dance and ritual of Africa and is set against a colourful landscape that is vast, beautiful and powerful. Janice will also create a specially adapted version of The Tempest for younger audiences.


The production will open in Cape Town, before performing at The Courtyard Theatre and then embarking on tour dates at Richmond, Leeds, Bath, Nottingham and Sheffield.


Full dates and venue information on www.rsc.org.uk/ontour


Othello, directed by newly appointed RSC Associate Artist Kathryn Hunter, opens in January next year at Warwick Arts Centre, before touring the UK and making a welcome return for the RSC to the Hackney Empire as well as Oxford, Liverpool, and Northern Stage in Newcastle. 


Patrice Naiambana returns to the RSC, taking the title role after spending the last 2 years with the Histories Ensemble. Iago will be played by Michael Gould with Natalia Tena playing Desdemona in her RSC debut.


Full dates and venue information on www.rsc.org.uk/ontour




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