The Royal Shakespeare Company has announced its summer 2019 season, featuring a new work by John Kani plus two Restoration classics and three Shakespeare plays that will tour in rep for the first time.
Cape Town-born Antony Sher will star opposite Kani, the South African actor, activist and playwright, in the latter’s new play, Kunene and the King, in the RSC’s Swan Theatre.
Described as “moving and funny”, it marks 25 years since the first post-Apartheid democratic elections. Running from 21 March to 23 April, it will be directed by fellow South African Janice Honeyman and is a co-production with The Fugard Theatre in association with Eric Abraham.
The RSC is also marking 250 years since David Garrick’s Shakespeare Jubilee in 1769 which launched Stratford-upon-Avon as the centre of “the Shakespeare industry” by staging two Restoration plays in which Garrick enjoyed two of his most successful roles.
The Provoked Wife by John Vanbrugh is a comedy that tackles the realities and challenges of married life and will be directed by Phillip Breen. It runs from 2 May to 7 September, designed by Mark Bailey, with lighting by Tina MacHugh, sound by Dyfan Jones and fights by Renny Krupinski.
Venice Preserved is a tragedy by Thomas Otway, described as “a savage political thriller and a love story of breathtaking intensity”. Running from 24 May to 7 September, it will be directed by Prasanna Puwanarajah and designed by James Cotterill. Both shows will be in the Swan Theatre.
With a new 27-strong rep company of actors, the three Shakespeare productions include a “fierce, exhilarating” version of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy As You Like It, directed by Kimberly Sykes. It will run from 14 February to 31 August, with set design by Stephen Brimson Lewis, costume and lighting design by Bretta Gerecke, music by Tim Sutton, sound by Jonathan Ruddick and movement by Ayse Tashkiran.
Director Justin Audibert promises to turn Shakespeare’s energetic comedy of gender and materialism, The Taming of the Shrew, on its head to offer a fresh perspective on its portrayal of hierarchy and power. It runs from 8 March to 31 August, with design by Stephen Brimson Lewis, costumes by Hannah Clark, lighting by Matt Peel, music by Ruth Chan, sound by Claire Windsor and movement by Lucy Cullingford.
The RSC’s artistic director Gregory Doran will direct Measure For Measure which he sees as a play with “astonishing contemporary resonance”. It will run from 28 June to 29 August, designed by the RSC’s director of design, Stephen Brimson Lewis, with lighting by Simon Spencer, music by Paul Englishby and sound by Steven Atkinson. Fights in all three productions will be devised by Rachel Bown-Williams and Ruth Cooper-Brown.
The three Shakespeare productions will play in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, then tour in repertoire for the first time to six regional theatres in 2019.
Doran said: “This season reflects the power of storytelling in its most essential form, with the actor at the centre of the work.
“With Justin Audibert and Kimberley Sykes, I am creating a company which reflects the nation in terms of gender, ethnicity, regionality and disability – 27 actors who will all appear in two out of the three plays.
“We will build on our commitment to inclusivity and create a truly shared theatrical experience.”
To support the new season, the RSC is making changes to the main auditorium by extending the audience further round the stage at the Circle levels than ever before. Doran said this would create ”new perspectives on the action, truly exploiting the unique qualities of our thrust stage, showing our work in a completely new way. We will then tour all three shows in repertoire, something that is rarely achieved with large-scale productions.”
The RSC has also launched two new opportunities as part of Shakespeare Nation, its long-term commitment to engage with people across the country – one for adults new to theatre, and the other for young people.
The new adult participation project will reach out to 3,000 adults in communities around the country who would not normally engage with theatre or Shakespeare.
The new Shakespeare Ambassadors programme will develop the leadership capacity of young people across the country. Recruited from the RSC’s national network of partner schools, 300 young ambassadors aged seven to 17 will lead a Shakespeare-inspired project in their local communities.
Doran also promised more details later this year on the RSC’s collaboration with Florida-based spatial computing company, Magic Leap, “on how we are exploring the limitless creative opportunities of theatre and digital innovation”.
The summer 2019 season begins in February, with priority booking available from September 2018.