RSC Makes History with Chronological EnglandDate: 2 April 2001
The RSC makes theatrical history this month when its landmark This England project culminates in the chronological staging of Shakespeare's history plays. All eight plays will be performed over five days across three central London venues (the Barbican Theatre, the Pit and the Young Vic).
This England is one of the most ambitious projects the RSC has ever undertaken. The cycle traces five royal reigns and 88 years of England's turbulent history through productions of Richard II, Henry IV parts one and two, Henry V, Henry VI parts one, two and three, and Richard III.
Audiences will have two opportunities to see the whole cycle performed chronologically. The first cycle opens on 9 April and the second on 16 April before concluding on 21 April, two days before the 437th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth. In addition, a special rehearsed reading of Edward III recently attributed to Shakespeare and the "prequel" to This England, will take place on 9 April at the Barbican Theatre.
The RSC project involves four directors and 79 actors, including some of Britain's finest classical performers. Playing the five kings are Samuel West (Richard II), David Troughton (Henry IV), William Houston (Henry V), David Oyelowo (Henry IV) and Aidan McArdle (Richard III). They're joined by Desmond Barrit, Fiona Bell and Clive Wood among others.
The RSC's millennial event has been more than a year in the making - and much longer still in the planning. Richard II, the first production in the cycle, opened in Stratford-upon-Avon in March 2000.
Commenting on This England, RSC artistic director Adrian Noble said: "This will be an amazing opportunity for audiences to see English history unfolding before their eyes and the chance to follow the political and private lives of characters played by the same actors throughout more than one play. I think it will proved to be an incredibly exciting and thought-provoking event in theatrical history and a landmark in the RSC's own heritage."