The RSC have today announced their 2019 winter season, which is to include a Shakespeare play, two new works, and a brand new family musical.
The new season will include the world stage premiere of a new musical adaptation of David Walliams’ best-selling novel, ‘The Boy in the Dress’. Directed by Gregory Doran, and featuring music and lyrics by Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers and a book by former RSC playwright in residence Mark Ravenhill, the heartwarming comedy musical will play for eighteen weeks in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, from November 2019 to March 2020.
“‘I think I might be different. I might not be the same’.
Dennis is twelve years old and his school football team’s star striker. But when Mum leaves home, life is tough. The only reminder Dennis has of Mum is a photo of her in a beautiful yellow dress. A dress rather like the one on the cover of Vogue on sale at Raj’s newsagents. And also a bit like the one that Lisa James, the coolest girl in the school, is sketching in her note book. What do you do if you like both football and dresses? And what will Mr Hawtrey the headteacher do when he discovers that his strict uniform code has been broken by a boy in a dress?”
David Walliams said: “I’m delighted to be working with the Royal Shakespeare Company to bring this, my first children’s novel, to the stage. It’s now 10 years since ‘The Boy in the Dress’ was first published and we’ve come a long way in that time. Ultimately, I wanted to write a story that encouraged people to recognise that difference can be celebrated, that it’s ok to be yourself. I’ve always loved musicals and, somehow, I’d always imagined this book to be made into a musical so to be working with the RSC, Mark Ravenhill and song-writing partners Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers on this new production feels like a dream collaboration.”
Mark Ravenhill said: “I first came across ‘The Boy in the Dress’ when I was Playwright in Residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company back in 2012. I remember thinking that it was such a gripping, entertaining and life-affirming story with all the ingredients of a great stage show. The Royal Shakespeare Company has a fantastic track record of producing family shows so when David suggested making his novel into a musical, I thought, let’s go for it! Creating and commissioning new work is very much at the heart of the RSC’s mission, and a musical collaboration of this kind is the perfect celebration of all of that energy, talent and generosity coming together to create, what will hopefully be a really fantastic theatre experience for audiences of all ages.”
Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers added; “We’re beyond excited to be working with the RSC on our first musical theatre collaboration. We are both big fans of David’s books, so when he approached us about writing the soundtrack to a new musical version of ‘The Boy in the Dress’ for the RSC, we were genuinely delighted. There’s a real freshness, cheekiness and heart to David’s writing which we’ve worked really hard to capture in the music. It’s been a really exciting and rewarding journey and we can’t wait to share the show with audiences when it premieres in Stratford-upon-Avon this winter”.
‘The Boy in the Dress’ will feature design by Robert Jones, choreography by Aletta Collins, lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Paul Groothius, and is supported by RSC Production Circle members Elizabeth Boissevain and Andrew Jeffreys, Charles Holloway and Kathleen J. Yoh. The musical is suitable for all the family, and the RSC has scheduled some performances on Wednesdays in January 2020 to begin at 5pm, to encourage family attendance.
Deputy RSC Artistic Director Erica Whyman is to curate a new season of work in the Swan Theatre, including William Shakespeare’s ‘King John’, Hannah Khalil’s ‘A Museum in Baghdad’, and Juliet Gilkes Romero’s ‘The Whip’.
In her RSC debut, Eleanor Rhode will direct William Shakespeare’s ‘King John’, which will play in the Swan Theatre from from 19th September 2019 to 21st March 2020.
‘”Mad world! mad kings! mad composition!’
Richard the Lionheart is dead. His brother John is King of England. Threatened from all sides by Europe, the English noblemen and even his own family, King John will stop at nothing to keep hold of his crown”.
This vivid production of Shakespeare’s rarely performed tale of a nation in turmoil vibrates with modern resonance, exploring contemporary issues of nationhood.
The play will feature design by Max Johns, lighting by Charles Balfour, and music by Oguz Kaplangi. The production will be filmed for later broadcast to cinemas as part of the company’s ‘Live From Stratford-upon-Avon’ series.
Erica Whyman directs Hannah Khalil’s ‘A Museum in Baghdad’ for the Swan Theatre. A story of treasured history, desperate choices and the remarkable Gertrude Bell, the production will run from 11th October 2019 to 25th January 2020.
“In 1926, the nation of Iraq is in its infancy, and British archaeologist Gertrude Bell is founding a museum in Baghdad. In 2006, Ghalia Hussein is attempting to reopen the museum despite the looting during the war.
Collapsing the decades that separate them, these two women seek the same prize: to create a fresh sense of unity and nationhood, to make the world anew through the museum and its treasures. But in such unstable times, questions remain. Who is the museum for? What rights do we have to try and shape someone else’s history? And why does that matter when people are dying?”
‘A Museum in Baghdad’ was co-commissioned by the RSC and the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh, and features design by Tom Piper, lighting by Charles Balfour, and music by Oguz Kaplangi.
Directed by Kimberley Sykes (Dido, Queen of Carthage, 2017; As You Like It, 2019), Juliet Gilkes Romero’s provocative new play ‘The Whip’ will run at the Swan Theatre from 1st February to 21st March 2020, and questions, when the personal collides with the political, what is the right thing to do, and how much must it cost.
“As the 19th Century dawns in London, politicians of all parties come together to abolish the slave trade once and for all. But the price of freedom turns out to be a multi-billion pound bailout for slave owners rather than those enslaved.
As morality and cunning compete amongst men thirsty for power, two women navigate their way to the true seat of political influence, challenging members of parliament who dare deny them their say”.
The work of Juliet Gilkes Romero was supported through the RSC’s collaboration with the University of Birmingham.
Following the success of the RSC’s 2018 ‘First Encounters with Shakespeare’ production of ‘The Comedy of Errors’, the series continues with a new production of ‘The Merchant of Venice’. The production will be directed and edited by Robin Belfield, and co-presented by Adobe, who will create a digital learning experience through Adobe Spark and Creative Cloud.
‘The Merchant of Venice’ will open at local schools, followed by a week of performances in the Swan Theatre, before embarking upon a seven-week tour of schools and regional theatres across the nation. For over a decade, the RSC’s ‘First Encounters’ Programme has been enjoyed by over 100,000 people, in the heart of communities. This really is Shakespeare for everyone!
In association with Underbelly, a UK -based live entertainment company, the RSC once more brings together some of the biggest names in UK comedy this autumn, as part of a fortnight of live performance on the Royal Shakespeare stage. The programme, which runs from Thursday 12th to Saturday 21st September, offers its audiences the best in new music and comedy. Past events have seen Al Murray, David Baddiel, Jenny Eclair and Russell Kane all taking to the RSC stages. Further details of acts will be announced in February 2019.
According to RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran, “Our Winter season ensures Shakespeare’s spirit is alive in the most exciting writers of today and demonstrates, as a company, we are investing in those new voices in order to better understand and reflect upon the world we live in.
Continuing our commitment to producing theatre that is relevant to everyone, this season brings together perhaps Shakespeare’s most contemporary of history plays and three new works, each of which – in their own way – channel Shakespeare’s spirit through beautifully crafted storytelling, richness of character and looking in the eye the biggest questions of our time. Building on a successful tradition of new work created by the RSC for Christmas, we open our season with our new musical production of The Boy in the Dress, adapted by Mark Ravenhill, which I will direct. Based on the much-loved children’s novel, this funny and life-affirming story has been over six years in the making and features the coming-together of some of the UK’s best-loved creative talent: comic writer and performer, David Walliams, and chart-topping songwriters Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers. It’s a beautifully crafted story about football and fashion, and a passionate celebration of individuality.
We are now two thirds of the way through our project to stage every Shakespeare play in the First Folio. For our 25th Shakespeare production in the canon, we welcome emerging talent Eleanor Rhode in her RSC debut directing King John in the Swan Theatre. When I directed this fascinating play in 2001, it was only the fourth time the play had been produced by the RSC in its entire history. Since then, it has been explored much more frequently which surely attests to a growing interest in how the play speaks to our world today.
The cross-fertilisation of the classics and new writing has always been part of the RSC and Deputy Artistic Director Erica Whyman will curate a new season of plays to accompany King John in the Swan Theatre. Together, these plays shine a spotlight on two fascinating – if overlooked – moments in British imperial history: the founding of the nation-state of Iraq and the government bail-out of British slave-owners to secure the Abolition of Slavery Act in 1833. As with all great history plays, Hannah Khalil’s A Museum in Baghdad directed by Erica Whyman and Juliet Gilkes Romero’s The Whip directed by Kimberley Sykes demonstrate a deep respect for telling untold stories, exploring issues of power, responsibility and identity through the lens of a group of remarkable human beings, navigating their own place within a changing world”.
Deputy Artistic Director Erica Whyman added, “As we approach 2019, there’s no way of escaping the fact that we, as a nation, are looking long and hard at our position within the wider world, which is why it feels like an appropriate moment to reflect, not only upon the state of our own nation, but also upon what nationhood means to us today. Like Shakespeare’s King John, A Museum in Baghdad and The Whip are plays which aren’t afraid to confront big issues and ideas. What does it mean to be a post-imperial nation? Black-British? Middle Eastern British? Fundamentally, this is a season about what it means to be ‘British’ and what responsibility must we take for our past as we embark on an uncertain future.
“It’s particularly thrilling to have two ambitious, historical works by women performed alongside the epic yet intimate King John in the Swan Theatre. In doing so we are helping to ensure that new writing remains central to what we do and that we continue to channel the inquiring spirit of Shakespeare’s own age through the interrogation of our own history and place in the wider world, in all of its complexity and contradiction”.
Booking Information –
- RSC Major Supporters, Artists Circle and RSC Gold Patrons – Monday 18th February
- RSC Silver Patrons – Tuesday 19th February
- RSC Bronze Patrons – Thursday 21st February
- RSC Members – Monday 25th February
- RSC Subscribers – Monday 11th March
- Public Booking – Monday 18th March