The Royal Shakespeare Company has added a fortnight to its upcoming London season for Othello (See News, 2 Apr 2004). The production inaugurates the new Trafalgar Studios – two new spaces carved from the West End’s 650-seat Whitehall Theatre (See News, 7 Apr 2004) – where it opens on 3 June 2004 (previews from 26 May) and will now run up to 17 July 2004, instead of 3 July as originally scheduled.

The production, which marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s tragedy, finishes a five-week tour of Japan this Saturday, having first been seen in a straight run from 12 February to 3 April 2004 at Stratford’s Swan Theatre.

Directed by Gregory Doran, whose RSC productions of The Taming of the Shrew, The Tamer Tamed and All’s Well That Ends Well transferred to the West End earlier this year, Othello sees two South African actors, one black and one white, playing the leads of Othello and Iago for the first time in the UK (See News, 18 Feb 2004).

Sello Maake ka Ncube (Othello) and Antony Sher (Iago) last worked together, also with Doran, in a 1995 production of Titus Andronicus at the Market Theatre in Johannesburg, South Africa. Co-starring as Desdemona is Lisa Dillon, who won both the Critics’ Circle Award for Most Promising Newcomer and the Ian Charleson Award for The Master Builder (See News, 3 Feb & 29 Mar 2004).

In other RSC news, the company’s mobile theatre tour returns this autumn, in time for its 24th anniversary, with a double bill of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, directed by David Farr (joint artistic director of Bristol Old Vic), and The Two Gentlemen of Verona, directed by Fiona Buffini (Dinner).

On various dates between 13 September 2004 and 15 May 2005, the productions will visit leisure centres and schools around the UK with a specially created theatre auditorium. They will also visit Davidson College in North Carolina, USA. Taking a break from touring, they will be performed in repertoire at the RSC’s Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon from 18 November 2004 to 26 February 2005.

Also in Stratford, Laurence Boswell’s staging of Beauty and the Beast will return to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre for a second Christmas season, running from 23 November 2004 to 16 January 2005. During its limited season this past Christmas, the family fable was seen by 90,000 people.

- by Terri Paddock