The productions opened in Stratford-upon-Avon in November and December of 2002, before embarking on a UK regional tour and then visiting Ann Arbor, Michigan in the US. Both were originated in association with the University Musical Society and the University of Michigan as part of the RSC's continuing programme of residencies with the American institution. They are produced in the West End by Duncan C Weldon and Paul Elliott.
Commenting on the return of the RSC, which has not been seen at the London venue since the 1987 production of Kiss Me Kate (also backed by Weldon and Elliott), Old Vic CEO Sally Greene said: "It is very exciting to see the RSC back at the Old Vic after so many years; especially with these productions which have already enjoyed such great success internationally and all around the country."
Since withdrawing its annual London residency from the Barbican Centre in 2002, the RSC has performed in several different spaces in the capital including the Roundhouse, the Young Vic, the Gielgud and the Theatre Royal Haymarket in which Adrian Noble's production of Ibsen's Brand, starring Ralph Fiennes, will also be mounted from June 2003.
The cast for the Old Vic productions include: Kate Best, Claire Carrie, Simon Coates, Richard Copestake, Lindsey Fawcett, Alison Fiske, Michael Gardiner, Greg Hicks, Chuk Iwuji, Keiron Jecchinis, Adam Kay, David Killick, Tom Mannion, Ciaran McIntyre, Karl Morgan, James O'Donnell, Patrick Romer, Lucy Tregear and Hannah Young.
Shakespeare's comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor is directed by Rachel Kavanaugh and designed by Peter McKintosh, with music by Terry Davies and movement by Scarlett Mackmin. The political tragedy Coriolanus is directed by David Farr, who has just taken over as joint artistic director of the Bristol Old Vic, and is designed by Ti Green, with music by Keith Clouston and movement by Lorna Marshall. Both productions have lighting by Hartley T A Kemp and sound by Gregory Clarke.
At the Old Vic, the double bill follows Michael Grandage's Sheffield Crucible production of The Tempest, starring Derek Jacobi and Daniel Evans, and the newly arrived English Touring Theatre production of King Lear, with Timothy West in the title role, which opens on 25 March 2003.
- by Terri Paddock