Director Rupert Goold and actor Patrick Stewart will reunite at the Royal Shakespeare Company this spring for The Merchant of Venice, which forms part of the RSC’s 50th birthday season in the soon-to-be-reopened Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon. The new production, in which Stewart will play Shylock alongside Susannah Fielding as Portia, joins the rep from 19 May to 26 September 2011 (previews from 13 May).

Goold and Stewart previously worked together on the RSC’s 2006 production of The Tempest, which transferred to the West End, and most famously, on the multi award-winning 2007 Chichester production of Macbeth, which transferred to the West End and Broadway and was subsequently filmed. Following Macbeth, Stewart returned to the RSC in 2009 to play Claudius to David Tennant’s Hamlet, which also transferred to the West End and which won Stewart both Olivier and Whatsonstage.com Awards for Best Supporting Actor.

As previously reported, the anniversary programme includes a review of “50 years of RSC commissions”, including major new productions of Marat/Sade (first performed in 1964), directed by Anthony Neilson, and Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming (premiered by the RSC in 1965), directed by David Farr; as well as, a reimagining of Shakespeare’s Don Quixote-inspired “lost play” Cardenio, directed by RSC chief associate Gregory Doran; the first major outing for Philip Massinger’s 1632 comedy The City Madam in nearly 50 years; a reprisal of David Greig’s recent hit Dunsinane; and new productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream and Macbeth, directed by, respectively, Nancy Meckler and artistic director Michael Boyd.

The birthday season of nine plays will be performed by two companies of actors performing across both the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres, which have just reopened after a four-year, £112.8 million redevelopment. Other actors announced today Jonathan Slinger (who’ll take the title role in The Scottish Play and also appear in the Pinter), Jo Stone Fewings, Sara Crowe, Aislin McGuckin, Christopher Godwin, Pippa Nixon, Siobhan Redmond, Jamie Beamish, Des McAleer and Olly Rix.

Commenting on the programme, Michael Boyd said: “‘It’s 50 years since Peter Hall founded the Royal Shakespeare Company: 50 years that have seen the Company play a vital role at the beating heart of British theatre, working with, learning from and training a who’s who of playwrights, actors, directors and theatre practitioners. Now we reopen with a season that celebrates this rich heritage and signals our intent for the decades to come.”

For full production dates and further information, visit www.rsc.org.uk.