Royal Shakespeare Company to return to Newcastle after two year absence

The Northern Echo: Pippa Nixon (Rosalind) in rehersal for As You Like It Pippa Nixon (Rosalind) in rehersal for As You Like It

After a two year absence the Royal Shakespeare Company is returning to Newcastle for a three-week season in the autumn.

The traditional season, introduced in 1977, saw productions transfer from Stratford-upon-Avon theatre to the North-East. It was axed in 2011 with artistic director Michael Boyd saying the RSC needed to concentrate on its home base.

Now it’s being re-instated. The RSC’s new artistic director Gregory Doran says, “Our special relationship with the North East of England is a source of great pride to the company.

The audiences in Newcastle are wonderful and the actors enjoy their time performing in this great cultural city very much.”

He’s been joined at the RSC by Erica Whyman, who quit as artistic director of Northern Stage in Newcastle to become deputy artistic director of the RSC in Stratford.

“She brings significant understanding of Newcastle and the potential for future partnerships, and we are all looking forward to working together over the coming years.”

The annual North-East season began after Newcastle was chosen as its third base in addition to Stratford and London. Overseen by Trevor Nunn, that first season featured productions starring Ian McKellen, Judi Dench, Donald Sinden and Francesca Annis.

At one point the season extended over six weeks with a dozen shows spread over three venues with Newcastle Playhouse and The People’s Theatre used as well as the Theatre Royal.

In the past two years only single productions have toured in the past two years to the Theatre Royal, whose first production at the “new” Gray Street theatre in 1837 was a Shakespeare play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The three-week season at the Theatre Royal announced today (Friday, February 8) will feature a trio of productions that are being staged first in Stratford this summer - Hamlet, As You Like It and All’s Well That Ends Well. This autumn 2013 RSC season is the last to be programmed by the company’s former artistic director Michael Boyd.

An ensemble cast will feature across all three plays. Pippa Nixon and Alex Waldmann lead the cast as Rosalind and Orlando in Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy As You Like It (Oct 29-Nov 2). The production features a score by twice Mercury nominated, Brit Award winner English folk musician Laura Marling. The director is Maria Aberg, whose past RSC work includes King John and (as associate director) The Winter’s Tale and Pericles.

Hamlet (Oct 18-26), sees the return of Charlotte Cornwall to the RSC after an absence of 32 years to play Gertrude. Taking the title role of the Prince of Denmark is Jonathan Slinger, who plays Prospero in The Tempest and Malvollo in Twelfth Night as part of the World Shakespeare Festival last year. He’s also played the title role in Michael Boyd’s Macbeth and the same director’s Histories ensemble, as Richard II and Richard III. RSC associate director David Farr directs.

Slinger and Cornwall also feature in Shakespeare’s rarely seen All’s Well That Ends Well (Nov 5-9), is directed by Nancy Meckler. The cast also includes Greg Hicks and Joanna Horton.

Public booking for the season opens on February 15. Theatre Royal box office 08448-112121 and online theatreroyal.co.uk

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