NEWS: RSC announces Winter 2016 season, marks Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary

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The Royal Shakespeare Company has announced its winter 2016 season, marking Shakespeare’s 400 anniversary with seven productions in its Stratford-upon-Avon home, including three productions in the Swan Theatre, which itself celebrates its 30th anniversary.



  • King Lear directed by Gregory Doran, with Antony Sher in the title role, David Troughton as Gloucester and Paapa Essiedu as Edmund
  • Cymbeline directed by Melly Still, extends its run in repertoire with King Lear
  • The Tempest directed by Gregory Doran, with Simon Russell Beale as Prospero, conjuring Prospero’s magical island in an innovative new staging, in collaboration with Intel and in association with The Imaginarium Studios, as the RSC’s family show for 2016


  • The Two Noble Kinsmen by Shakespeare and Fletcher, directed by Blanche McIntyre, plays in repertoire with:
  • The Rover by Aphra Behn, directed by Loveday Ingram
  • A new play by Anders Lustgarten, The Seven Acts of Mercy,  premieres at the end of the year

NEW FOR 2016

  • The Other Place reopens in March, with a festival of new work in July
  • The Play’s The Thing,  a new permanent exhibition in the Swan Wing celebrating the RSC’s theatre making history opens on 25 June

The RSC brings Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary year in Stratford-upon-Avon to a close with a powerful programme, matching two major Shakespeare titles with two irreverent Jacobean comedies and a new play from Anders Lustgarten, which plays out across 400 years between Caravaggio’s Naples and the housing estates of Bootle.

RSC Artistic Director, Gregory Doran, said:

“We will draw this extraordinary jubilee year in Stratford-upon-Avon to a close by staging two of Shakespeare’s greatest plays – King Lear and The Tempest – and by marking the 30th anniversary of our Swan Theatre with two new productions of plays from its very first season and a visceral new play by Anders Lustgarten.

“Inspired by the spectacular masques of Shakespeare’s day, we have set ourselves the challenge of creating the most technologically advanced production we have ever staged in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, working with Intel and The Imaginarium Studios.  We will blend ancient theatre skills with innovative digital technology to conjure up Prospero’s island, inhabited by fantastical characters, in Shakespeare’s most magical late play The Tempest.

“I cannot think of a clearer way of showing the ‘infinite variety’ of Shakespeare’s work and the inspiration he has provided over the centuries. Shakespeare is for everyone and we want to share his legacy with the widest possible audience.  His inheritance is for the many, not the few.

“Earlier in 2016, all over the UK, people can come and see our landmark production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, tune in on Shakespeare’s birthday to ‘The Shakespeare Show’, celebrating his influence in all the arts and broadcast live on BBC Two,  or encourage their children to watch our free Schools’ Broadcasts in the classroom.

“And, of course, the whole town of Stratford-upon-Avon will be buzzing with live theatre, events, workshops, films and exhibitions as we continue to celebrate its greatest son here, across the UK and in cinemas and on tour around the world. If you’ve never been to his home town in Stratford-upon-Avon, or seen his work on stage, this surely must be the time to do so.”

Full listings


Cymbeline by William Shakespeare
Directed by Melly Still
Press night: Tuesday 10 May 7pm
Extended season from 29 April – 15 October 2016.  Live in cinemas, distributed by Picturehouse Entertainment – 28 September 2016 and selected encore dates.

Shakespeare’s rarely performed romance, directed by Melly Still, has an extended season.   Cymbeline, played by Gillian Bevan, is Queen of a divided Britain. When Innogen, the only living heir, marries her sweetheart in secret, a furious Cymbeline banishes her new husband.  Distracted by this marriage, Cymbeline is blind to a powerful figure behind the throne who is plotting to seize power. In exile, Innogen’s husband is tricked into believing she has been unfaithful and begins a scheme to have her murdered.  Innogen runs away in disguise on a journey which will eventually reconcile the lovers and reunite Cymbeline with a lost heir.

The production is designed by Anna Fleischle, with lighting by Philip Gladwell and music by Dave Price.
Audio-described performances, 23 July and 11 August, captioned performances 4 June and 30 September.

King Lear by William Shakespeare
Directed by Gregory Doran
In repertoire from 20 August – 15 October 2016.  Live in cinemas, distributed by Picturehouse Entertainment – 12 October 2016 and selected encore dates.
Press night: Thursday 1 September, 7pm

Following his performance as Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s great 20th century American tragedy, Death of A Salesman, Antony Sher returns to Stratford-upon-Avon to play King Lear, one of the greatest parts ever written by Shakespeare.

As age begins to overtake him, King Lear decides to divide his kingdom amongst his children and live out his days without the burden of power.  He allows vanity to cloud his judgement and misjudging his children’s loyalty, soon finds himself stripped of all the trappings of state, wealth and power he had taken for granted.  Alone in the wilderness, he is left to confront the mistakes of a life that has brought him to this point.

The production is directed by Gregory Doran and designed by Nikki Turner.
Audio-described performances, 23 July and 11 August, captioned performances 4 June and 30 September.

The Tempest by William Shakespeare
In collaboration with Intel and in association with The Imaginarium Studios
Directed by Gregory Doran
In a straight run of performances from 8 November 2016 – 21 January 2017
Press night: Thursday 17 November, 7pm

The RSC concludes the 400th anniversary year with a new production of Shakespeare’s late play, The Tempest, which marries his work with cutting edge technology.

This captivating story of magic, spells and spirits sees the RSC’s skills at theatre-making come together with the digital power and creativity of Intel and the expertise of Imaginarium in pushing technical boundaries, to create a truly innovative production which provides the perfect introduction to Shakespeare for families, and a magical and unforgettable experience for a new generation.

On a distant island a man waits. Robbed of his position, power and wealth his enemies have left him to live out his days in isolation. But this is no ordinary man, and this no ordinary island. Prospero is a magician, able to control the very elements and bend nature to his will. When a sail appears on the horizon, he reaches out across the ocean to the ship that contains the men who wronged him. Creating a vast magical storm, he wrecks the ship and washes his enemies up on the shore. When they wake they find themselves lost on a fantastical island where nothing is as it seems.

The Tempest will be directed by Gregory Doran and designed by Stephen Brimson Lewis, with Paul Englishby composing the music.  RSC Associate Artist, Simon Russell Beale, returns to the Company after 20 years to play Prospero. He last performed with the RSC as Ariel in Sam Mendes’ production of The Tempest in 1996.

Audio-described performances 10 December and 7 January, captioned performances 15 December and 20 January.


The RSC marks the 30th birthday of the Swan Theatre by staging two new productions of plays from its first season and a newly commissioned play.

The Two Noble Kinsmen by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher
Directed by Blanche McIntyre
In repertoire from 17 August 2016 – 9 February 2017
Press night: Wednesday 24 August, 7pm

Two best friends, knights at arms, are captured in battle and imprisoned. From their window they see a beautiful woman and both fall instantly in love with her, turning from intimate friendship to jealous rivalry in the space of a minute. One is released and goes AWOL in the woods of Athens, searching for a way to be near his beloved. When the jailer’s daughter frees the other, and follows him into the forest herself, the stage is set for absurd adventures and painful confusions in this study of the intoxication and strangeness of love.

Attributed to Fletcher and Shakespeare and written around 1613-14, The Two Noble Kinsmen is based on Chaucer’s The Knight’s Tale. This tragicomedy was the first production staged in the Swan Theatre when it opened 30 years ago, with Gerard Murphy and Hugh Quarshie as the ‘kinsmen’ of the title.

Blanche McIntyre (The Oresteia, Home 2015, As You Like It, Shakespeare’s Globe 2015) directs, making her RSC debut. Audio-described performances, 12 November and 11 January, captioned performances 2 November and 20 December.

The Rover
by Aphra Behn
Directed by Loveday Ingram
In repertoire from 8 September 2016 – 11 February 2017
Press night: Thursday 15 September, 7pm

Three wandering cavaliers, exiled from Cromwell’s England, meet up in a Spanish colony as carnival begins.  Meanwhile three wealthy sisters escape their overbearing brother and disappear into the city in search of love. As night falls and the wine flows, chaos ensues. Passions run high as lovers meet, men are conned and swords drawn. Aphra Behn’s anarchic restoration comedy is rich with seduction, intrigue and danger in the topsy-turvy world of the carnival.

Arguably the first ever professional female playwright in England, Behn’s is a strong voice of early feminism.  Written in 1677, The Rover was last staged in 1986 as part of the Swan Theatre’s first season, with Jeremy Irons as Wilman.   It makes a return now to celebrate this much loved theatre in its 30th year.

Loveday Ingram (The Merchant of Venice, 2001) returns to the RSC to direct.  Her recent work includes Richard III (Nottingham Playhouse/York Theatre Royal, 2013), These Shining Leaves (Park Theatre), and Outlying Islands (Theatre Royal Bath, 20016).  Design is by Lez Brotherston and lighting by Tim Lutkin.

Audio-described performances, 22 October and 19 November, captioned performances 5 and 25 January.

The Seven Acts of Mercy by Anders Lustgarten
In repertoire from 24 November 2016 – 11 February 2017
Press night: Thursday 1 December, 7pm

Naples,1606. Inside an unfinished church, a painting is emerging from the darkness. The Seven Acts of Mercy is Caravaggio’s masterpiece – and his first painting since he killed a man and fled Rome. As the artist works, he is fuelled by anger, self-loathing and his driving need to create a work that speaks of compassion in a violent world. Bootle, the present day: a retired dock worker teaches his grandson, as around them a community is disintegrating under the pressure of years of economic and political degradation. With all he has left, a book of great works of art, he tries to open the boy’s eyes to the tragedy and beauty of the life he faces. And the boy reciprocates in the only way he knows.

Playing out across a gap of 400 years, Anders Lustgarten’s visceral new play confronts the dangerous necessity of compassion, in a world where it is in short supply.

This will be the first play by Anders Lustgarten to be produced by the RSC. He won the inaugural Harold Pinter Playwright’s Award for If You Don’t Let Us Dream We Won’t Let You Sleep at the Royal Court Theatre Downstairs and is adapting David Peace’s The Damned United for a National Theatre tour. His latest play, Lampedusa, about the current refugee crisis has had two successful runs at the Soho Theatre and Hightide Festival, and will go on tour during this year.

Audio-described performances, 18 and 28 January, captioned performances 12 January and 9 February.


The RSC will open the doors to a new The Other Place in March 2016, with a brand new studio theatre, new rehearsal room and a new café bar, as well as a home for 30,000 costumes. A new discovery tour will take visitors on a journey from Page to Stage, from the first day of rehearsals to the first performance, with an opportunity to look inside the RSC’s costume store for the very first time. Booking open now. Tickets £8.50, plus concessions and group rates.

The first RSC performances in The Other Place will take place in late summer, commissioned from a provocation in 2015, when Deputy Artistic Director, Erica Whyman, asked twenty writers, theatre makers and directors to explore whether anything is truly unsayable in Britain in the 21st Century. Led by Erica and playwright, Mark Ravenhill, the event included conversations with Rev. Giles Fraser, graphic novelist, Darryl Cunningham, and journalist, Lucy Mangan. There were some astonishing, passionate and provocative responses, two of which will be presented in a festival of new work in late July.   Further details to be announced in Spring 2016.

The Other Place has been made possible thanks to the support of private and public funders, including very generous donations from ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND, THE GATSBY CHARITABLE FOUNDATION, BACKSTAGE TRUST, J PAUL GETTY JR CHARITABLE TRUST and a new creative partnership with the UNIVERSITY OF BIRMINGHAM, Founding Partner of The Other Place.


Live Cinema Broadcasts around the world from Shakespeare’s home town, distributed by Picturehouse Entertainment.

Hamlet – 8 June 2016 and selected dates worldwide.

Cymbeline –   28 September 2016 and selected dates worldwide.

King Lear – 12 October 2016 and selected dates worldwide

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Press Releases on Twitter
Press Releases
MyTheatreMates publishes a selection of daily press releases sent to us by publicists of the relevant show or theatre. We are not responsible for any inaccuracies contained within these materials.

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