Greg Hicks (pictured), Darrell D'Silva, Mariah Gale, Noma Dumezweni and 2009 Whatsonstage.com Award nominee Katy Stephens are amongst the names in the Royal Shakespeare Company's new “long ensemble”, which will work through to 2011. The first two productions will be The Winter’s Tale, directed by new RSC associate David Farr, and artistic director Michael Boyd's As You Like It.

Greg Hicks, who has a long association with the RSC, will lead the company as Leontes in The Winter’s Tale, reuniting with director David Farr with whom he has previously collaborated on Coriolanus and Tamburlaine. His other recent credits for the RSC include the title role in Dominic Cooke's production of Macbeth and the Ghost in Michael Boyd's Hamlet starring Toby Stephens, both in 2004.

The Winter’s Tale, which runs in rep from 9 April to 3 October 2009 (previews from 31 March) in the Courtyard Theatre, Stratford, focuses around the false accusation of King Leontes that his wife Hermione has committed adultery. The play, first performed in 1611, includes the most famous Shakespearean stage direction: “Exit, pursued by a bear”, describing the death of Antigonus.

Darrell D'Silva (Polixenes) was last seen at the RSC in Tony Harrison's adaptation of Hecuba in 2005, with previous credits including A Midsummer Night's Dream and Doctor Faustus. Noma Dumezweni (Paulina) is on the board of RSC and last appeared for the company in 2006 playing Grace Mugabe in Breakfast With Mugabe. Last year she played the producer in Rupert Goold's acclaimed revival of Six Characters in Search of an Author.

The cast is completed by Kelly Hunter (Hermione), Tunji Kasim (Florizel), Samantha Young (Perdita), Adam Burton, Brian Doherty, Phillip Edgerly, James Gale, Gruffud Glyn, Paul Hamilton, John Mackay, Patrick Romer, David Rubin, Oliver Ryan, Simone Saunders, Sam Troughton, Larrington Walker and Hannah Young. Design is by Jon Bausor, lighting by Jon Clark, music by Keith Clouston and choreogrpahy by Arthur Pitta.

Shakespeare's classic comedy of mistaken identity and cross-dressing As You Like It opens on 28 April (previews from 18 April), running in rep in the Courtyard Theatre to 3 October 2009. Directed by Michael Boyd, it features a return to the RSC for both Mariah Gale (Celia) and Katy Stephens (Rosalind). Gale is currently performing in the RSC's London season at the Novello theatre (Hamlet, A Midsummer Night's Dream). Stephens was a member of the two-year Histories ensemble, which recently earned her a nomination in the 2009 Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers' Choice Awards (click here to visit the awards site).

The cast also features Jonjo O'Neill (Orlando), currently playing Edmund in Rupert Goold's production of King Lear, and Forbes Masson (Jaques), who is another returning member of the Histories ensemble. Geoffrey Freshwater, Sandy Neilson and James Tucker also rejoin the company having been involved in the award-winning Histories season.

The company is completed by Richard Katz (Touchstone), Clarence Smith, Peter Shorey and RSC debutants David Carr, Dyfan Dwyfor, Christine Entwisle, James Howard, Ansu Kabia, Debbie Korley, Dharmesh Patel, Peter Peverley, Sophie Russell ad James Traherne. RSC associate Tom Piper (The Histories) designs, with movement by the RSC's newly appointed head of movement Struan Leslie, lighting by Wolfgang Goebbel, music by John Woolf and fight direction by Terry King.

- By Theo Bosanquet