Cheek by Jowl's Declan Donnellan will launch the Royal Shakespeare Company's new actors' academy this autumn with an inaugural production of Shakespeare's classic tragedy, King Lear. The production will open at Stratford's Swan Theatre on 23 September, before visiting the Newcastle Playhouse (15-19 October) and the Young Vic in London (23 October - 9 November) and then embarking on a short international tour.

Unveiled last year as part of a bundle of radical plans for a shake-up in Stratford, the RSC Academy is being created to give young actors a better grounding in classical theatre with full hands-on training and educational opportunities. For this first production, Donnellan will take on a company of 16 actors, newly graduated from drama schools this year. During an intensive ten-week period this summer, the company will be trained in stage Shakespeare as well as rigorously rehearsed for King Lear.

Donnellan is best-known as one half, with designer Nick Ormerod, of the Cheek by Jowl production company, whose latest project, Tony Kushner's Homebody/Kabul is currently receiving its UK premiere at the Young Vic. Donnellan's many other productions include School for Scandal, Much Ado About Nothing, Antigone, Boris Godunov and The Winter's Tale.

King Lear will be designed by Cheek by Jowl's Ormerod, with lighting by Judith Greenwood, movement by Jane Gibson and original music composed by Paddy Cuneen.

- by Terri Paddock