Full casting has been announced for Trevor Nunn’s Ian McKellen-headed Royal Shakespeare Company productions of King Lear and The Seagull (See News, 23 May 2006). In addition to McKellen, the casts of the plays – which run in rep from 24 March to 23 June 2007 at the company’s Stratford home prior to a world tour and expected West End transfer (See The Goss, 12 Dec 2006) – will include Romola Garai, Frances Barber, Jonathan Hyde, Ben Meyjes, Monica Dolan and William Gaunt.

William Gaunt, whose recent stage credits include Gates of Gold and Humble Boy, makes his RSC debut sharing the role of Sorin (playing alternate nights with McKellen) in Chekhov’s 1896 drama about aspiration and failure. In Shakespeare’s King Lear, which marks the final production in the RSC’s year-long Complete Works festival, Gaunt will play Gloucester.

Frances Barber – who plays Arkadina in The Seagull and Goneril in King Lear - played opposite McKellen in the Old Vic’s Aladdin in 2005/6. She was Whatsonstage.com Award-nominated for her role as Nurse Ratched in the 2004 West End run of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and recently starred as Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra at Shakespeare’s Globe.

Romola Garai, who plays Nina in Chekhov’s drama and Cordelia in the Bard’s, has many film credits to her name, including Inside I’m Dancing, Vanity Fair, Nicholas Nickleby, I Capture the Castle, Scoop and the forthcoming Atonement, Paradise, Amazing Grace and Kenneth Branagh’s As You Like It (in which she plays Celia).

Sylvester McCoy – perhaps still best known as the seventh Doctor in Doctor Who - last worked for the RSC in 2001, when he played Mr Beaver in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at Sadler’s Wells. He was recently on stage in Me and My Girl and Arsenic and Old Lace on tour. McCoy will play the Fool in King Lear.

The company for King Lear and The Seagull also features: Monica Dolan (seen in the West End last year in the title role of Shared Experience’s Jane Eyre), as Regan and Masha; Jonathan Hyde (last seen on stage in Jumpers at the National) as Kent and Dr Dorn; Ben Meyjes (Phaedra at the Donmar, Journey’s End in the West End) as Edgar and Medvedenko; and Richard Goulding, who has been plucked from his acting course at Guildhall to take on the role of Konstantin in The Seagull.

Others in the ensemble are: Ben Addis, Adam Booth, Russell Byrne, Julian Harries, John Heffernan, Peter Hinton, Seymour Matthews, David Weston, Guy Williams, Philip Winchester, Zoe Boyle, Naomi Capron and Melanie Jessop. The productions are designed by Christopher Oram, with lighting by Neil Austin, sound by Fergus O’Hare and music by Steve Edis.

Meanwhile, in other Shakespeare-related casting, Lisa Dillon, Sam Troughton and Christopher Ravenscroft will join Olivier Award winner and Whatsonstage.com nominee Eve Best in Samuel West’s Sheffield Crucible staging of As You Like It, which transfers to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon as part of the RSC’s year-long Complete Works Festival (See News, 25 Aug 2006).

Dillon, who plays Celia, previously appeared alongside Best in Hedda Gabler (which won the latter last year’s Best Actress Olivier) at the Almeida and Duke of York’s. Her other West End credits include The Master Builder, for which she won the Critics’ Circle Best Newcomer Award, and the RSC’s Othello.

Troughton - whose stage credits include Nathan the Wise at Hampstead, Buried Child and The Coast of Utopia at the National – will play Orlando. Ravenscroft – most recently seen in the West End in Summer and Smoke with Rosamund Pike – will play Duke Frederick and Duke Senior.

Also in the As You Like It are: Christopher Brandon, Olivia Darnley, Richard Glaves, Patrick Godfrey, Natalie Grady, Drew Mulligan, Harry Peacock, Christopher Saul, Michael Taibi and Daniel Weyman. The production – which is the last directed by West before he steps down as Sheffield artistic director in April (See News, 21 Dec 2006) – runs at Crucible from 7 to 24 February 2007 (previews from 31 January), before heading to Stratford, where it’s at the Swan Theatre from 6 to 10 March.

- by Caroline Ansdell