The Royal Shakespeare Company has announced its winter 2012/13 season, along with a new three-year touring and education partnership with five leading regional theatres.

The new season kicks off in October, following the culmination of the World Shakespeare Festival which runs this summer as part of the ongoing Cultural Olympiad.

Among the productions that will be presented at the company’s Stratford-upon-Avon home are a new staging of Russell Hoban’s The Mouse and his Child which will play in rep in the recently refurbished Royal Shakespeare Theatre with a new production of The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Hoban’s story is often acclaimed as one of the classics of 20th-century children’s literature, centring on two clockwork mice thrown on a scrap heap who then have to begin a dangerous quest for a place to belong. It is adapted for the stage by Tamsin Oglesby and will be directed by Told By An Idiot’s co-artistic director, Paul Hunter.

According to press material, “(the production) continues the RSC’s long tradition of creating and staging new adaptations of much-loved childhood tales – including Beauty and the Beast, The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, The Heart of Robin Hood, and Matilda The Musical (currently playing in the West End).”

A World Elsewhere

Meanwhile, the Swan Theatre will host a season of plays under the banner ‘A World Elsewhere’, exploring “what was going on in the rest of the world in Shakespeare’s lifetime”. Speaking at a press briefing in London to announce the new season, outgoing artistic director Michael Boyd described it as the “thank god it’s not Shakespeare” celebration, allowing the company and audiences an opportunity to recover from this summer’s epic World Shakespeare Festival.

A World Elsewhere is curated by chief associate director Gregory Doran and associate director Roxana Silbert and opens with Doran’s “startling discovery” of The Orphan of Zhao. Often referred to as the ‘Chinese Hamlet’, the revenge tragedy traces its origins to the fourth century BC.

This will be followed by Pushkin’s Boris Godunov, adapted by Adrian Mitchell and directed by Michael Boyd in his last production as artistic director – “it’s my swansong in the Swan”, Boyd said today - and Bertolt Brecht’s Galileo in a new translation by the RSC’s new writer in residence, Mark Ravenhill, directed by Roxana Silbert.

A World Elsewhere will also see the company stage a specially commissioned Japanese epic. Anjin: The English Samurai tells the story of William Adams, the first Englishman in Japan, who was shipwrecked off the coast in 1600. He arrived at a pivotal moment in Japanese history, and became close to the Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu.

The play, which is billed as “a major Anglo-Japanese cultural event”, is co-authored by Mike Poulton and Sho Kawai and will feature a cast of British and Japanese actors.

This production, directed by Gregory Doran, builds on a long relationship between the RSC, Thelma Holt and the Japanese media company Horipro. It will be spoken in both Japanese and English with surtitles and transfers direct from Tokyo to Sadler’s Wells for just ten performances in January 2013.

Michael Boyd, who finishes his tenure as artistic director at the end of this year, commented in a statement: “Hot on the heels of the enormous ambition of the World Shakespeare Festival, this winter season will be my last with the RSC, although I and our team of associates will be planning further into 2013 to give my successor breathing room as they take over the helm.”

“With work from some of the best classical and contemporary writers from Shakespeare, Brecht and Pushkin to Mark Ravenhill, James Fenton and Adrian Mitchell, we have shaped a season which offers provocation and celebration in equal measure.”

Regional partnership

Along with its new season, the RSC today announced a new touring and education partnership with five leading regional theatres. Commencing in April 2012, the RSC will team up with Hull Truck Theatre Company, Newcastle Theatre Royal, York Theatre Royal, Hall for Cornwall and Nuffield Theatre, Southampton. Each venue will act as a “hub” in its local area for three-year programmes offering training, development and performance opportunities for artists, students and teachers, supported by RSC practitioners.

The partnerships, which aim to grow the RSC’s Learning and Performance Network (LPN), will also allow the company to “take its work right into the heart of communities, into both schools and local theatres” - the idea being that the same company of actors will perform special version of Shakespeare to schools during the day and at theatres in the evenings.

Speaking today, Boyd said the initiative was borne out of a job swap he undertook with a school headmaster and the aim is to revolutionise the company’s small-scale touring to ensure that they do successfully attract new audiences to Shakespeare. Among the productions will be a new RSC Young People’s staging of King Lear by Tim Crouch, which will tour all five locations this autumn (dates to be announced) – “we think eye-gouging for nine-year-olds is absolutely right”, Boyd joked.

Teresa Threadgall, head of learning at Newcastle Theatre Royal, said: “This is a very exciting partnership for us and we are looking forward to working with the RSC on various collaborative projects both in the Theatre Royal and also across the communities of the North East. It’s a great opportunity for us to build on and apply extra resource and fresh knowledge to the work we already have underway in the wider community.”


Amongst other topics discussed during a Q&A session at today’s press briefing were: the timetable for new artistic director recruitment and succession, a Broadway transfer and recoupment for Matilda the Musical, the possibility of retaining the temporary Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, lack of progress on securing a permanent London home for the company and good Olympic ticketing news. For more on each titbit, click on the relevant Related Link below…