Theatre News

Cast announced for new RSC play Ben and Imo

Two stage and screen stars lead the new play

Samuel Barnett and Victoria Yeates, photos supplied by the production

Samuel Barnett and Victoria Yeates are set to make their Royal Shakespeare Company debuts in the upcoming production of Mark Ravenhill’s Ben and Imo.

Directed by Erica Whyman, the play tells the story of the creative collaboration between composer Benjamin Britten and Imogen Holst. The piece is set in 1953, leading up to Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, where Britten has just nine months to compose a new opera, Gloriana.

Ravenhill said today: “I first wrote about Benjamin Britten and Imogen Holst for BBC Radio Three in 2013, to mark the centenary of Britten’s birth. One artist who has been celebrated and commemorated, one whose life and work have been largely forgotten.

“During the pandemic, I returned to my research and rebuilt the Ben and Imo material from the ground up to make a new play for the theatre. I found these two complex and passionate characters – and their commitment to their art – to be a great solace during my lockdown isolation. Their story, I think, still poses urgent questions about how we make art today.”

Barnett, known for his current role in Feeling Afraid as if Something Terrible is Going to Happen at the Bush Theatre, takes on the role of Britten, with Yeates, who played Sister Winifred in Call the Midwife and Bunty in the Fantastic Beasts films, plays Holst.

The production is scheduled to run from 21 February to 6 April 2024, at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.

The creative team includes Soutra Gilmour (designer), Jackie Shemesh (lighting), Conor Mitchell (music), Carolyn Downing (sound), Pippa Hill (dramaturg), and Matthew Dewsbury CDG (casting).