Harriet Walter (pictured) will don crowns twice over the coming months: first in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s celebration of a range of English kings and queens through the ages, The Hollow Crown; and then, more specifically, as Elizabeth I for Mary Stuart at the Donmar Warehouse.

The Hollow Crown was devised in 1961 by John Barton for the RSC. Through letters, songs, speeches, poems and music, it explores the changing role of the monarchy in this country, from Richard II's soliloquy at Pomfret Castle through to Malory's Morte D'Arthur, by way of Victoria's naïve description of her own coronation and many other episodes. Since its premiere, more than 70 actors have performed in the four-hander, which has toured the world and returned regularly to Stratford, last in 2002 as part of the RSC's Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations.

For the new dates – from 3 to 19 March 2005 – at Stratford’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Walter will be joined by three other stage stalwarts: Alan Howard, Donald Sinden and Richard Johnson. The production fills part of the gap left by Hecuba whose Stratford performances, due to run from 19 February to 26 March 2005, were cancelled in order to allow star Vanessa Redgrave more time to recover from a recent operation (See News, 12 Jan 2005. That production will now open at the West End’s Albery Theatre on 7 April 2005 (previews from 26 March).

Walter takes to the stage as Queen Elizabeth, opposite Janet McTeer (whose stage credits include The Duchess of Malfi, A Doll’s House and Petruchio in the Globe’s all-female Taming of the Shrew) as her eponymous cousin and political rival in Mary Stuart, at the Donmar Warehouse from 20 July to 3 September 2005 (previews from 14 July). Peter Oswald’s new version of German playwright Friedrich Schiller’s 1800 romantic tragedy will be directed by Phyllida Lloyd (See News, 8 Nov 2004).

Walter's many other recent theatre credits include Dinner, Deep Blue Sea, Much Ado About Nothing, The Royal Family, Life x 3 and US and Them; while on screen, she's been seen in Onegin, Sense and Sensibility, The Governess, Keep the Aspidistra Flying and Hard Times.

In other casting news, Fiona Shaw is now confirmed to appear alongside Ralph Fiennes, Simon Russell Beale, Paul Rhys and John Shrapnel in Julius Caesar, which will run from 20 April to 14 May 2004 (previews from 14 April) at the Barbican Theatre prior to a European tour to Paris, Madrid and Luxembourg (See News, 21 Jan 2005). Shaw, who took the title role in director Deborah Warner’s Medea to award-winning success in the West End and on Broadway, will play Portia.

The epic production also features Ginny Holder, Clifford Rose, Anthony Mark Barrow, David Glover, Jim Hooper, Alex McIntosh, Tim Potter, Paul Shearer, Struan Rodger and John Rogan in the 30-strong cast as well as a chorus of 100 extras (See The Goss, 11 Jan 2005). The production is designed by Tom Pye, with lighting by Jean Kalman, music by Mel Mercier and sound by Christopher Shutt.

- by Terri Paddock