London’s Royal Court will make double inroads into the Royal Shakespeare Company later this year, with Court artistic director Dominic Cooke helming the RSC’s Christmas production of Arabian Nights, and actor and former Court associate director Richard Wilson (pictured) returning to the stage to make his RSC debut playing Malvolio in Twelfth Night. The productions will have straight runs back-to-back in the RSC’s Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.

First up, Twelfth Night, directed by RSC chief associate Gregory Doran, will run from 21 October to 21 November 2009 (previews from 15 October). Wilson will be joined in the cast by Nancy Carroll as Viola and Alexandra Gilbreath as Olivia. The actresses last appeared opposite each other as Rosalind and Celia in Doran’s 2000 RSC production of As You Like It.

Richard Wilson remains best known from his TV role as Victor Meldrew in One Foot in the Grave. On stage, his recent acting credits include Whipping It Up, What the Butler Saw and Waiting for Godot. His directing credits include The Woman Before, Rainbow Kiss, Playing the Victim, Where Do We Live (all at the Royal Court) and Antony Sher’s Primo.

Twelfth Night is followed, from 15 December 2009 (previews from 5 December) to 30 January 2010, by Cooke’s revival of his own adaptation of Arabian Nights. Originally created and performed at the Young Vic in 1998 and followed by an international, this version will be expanded and developed specially for the Courtyard Theatre. Cooke worked on the original tales held in 18 volumes at the British Library to come up with his adaptation.

Prior to taking up his position as artistic director of the Royal Court, Dominic Cooke was an associate director at the RSC, where he directed Macbeth, As You Like It, Pericles, The Winter’s Tale, the Olivier Award-winning revival of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and, most recently, the 2008 touring production of Noughts and Crosses.

Arabian Nights will make his debut in the 1,000-seat Courtyard Theatre, the RSC’s main house during the ongoing refurbishment of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Cooke commented today: “For a long time I’ve wanted to come back to Shahrazad and the 1001 nights, and it’s a fantastic moment to come back to the RSC and re-conceive the work for the dynamic space of the Courtyard.”

- by Terri Paddock