Theatre News

RSC marks First World War centenary with Love's Labour's double bill

The company has also commissioned a new family play based on the Christmas truce of 1914

Soldiers during the Christmas truce of 1914, which has inspired a new play at the RSC
Soldiers during the Christmas truce of 1914, which has inspired a new play at the RSC

The Royal Shakespeare Company will stage Love's Labour's Lost in rep with Love's Labour's Won – the alternative title for Much Ado About Nothing – later this year as part of a season marking the centenary of the First World War.

Directed by Christopher Luscombe, making his RSC debut, the productions will run in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST) from September.

Edward Bennett (Hamlet) and Michelle Terry (The Taming of the Shrew) will play the lovers in both plays – Berowne and Benedick and Rosaline and Beatrice in Love’s Labour’s Lost and Love’s Labour’s Won respectively.

Edward Bennett and Gregory Doran at the 2009 WhatsOnStage Awards
Edward Bennett and Gregory Doran at the 2009 WhatsOnStage Awards
© Dan Wooller

The productions, which run from 23 September 2014 to 14 March 2015, will "share a setting based on a splendid country house just before and just after the War", designed by Simon Higlett.

The action of Love’s Labour’s Lost will be set just before the outbreak of the war in 1914, with Love Labour's Won set in the 1918 aftermath.

RSC deputy artistic director Erica Whyman will then direct the same company in her first production in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, The Christmas Truce.

Written by Phil Porter, the play for families has been specially commissioned and is inspired by the 1914 truce, when soldiers along the Western Front left their trenches on Christmas Eve to meet their enemies in No Man’s Land.

Artistic director Gregory Doran said: "This story is rooted in local history, drawing on the stories of the Warwickshire Regiment and the memoires of the famous wartime cartoonist, Bruce Bairnsfather, who also happened to have begun his career installing electric light into the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre for the first time."

The Christmas Truce, which runs from 29 November 2014 to 31 January 2015, will be designed by Tom Piper, with lighting by Charles Balfour and music by Sam Kenyon.

Elsewhere in the RSC's winter 2014 season, Gregory Doran will direct Eileen Atkins in Ford and Dekker’s domestic tragedy The Witch of Edmonton, which runs rep in the Swan Theatre as part of the 'Roaring Girls' season. Atkins last performed with the RSC in 1997 in The Unexpected Man with Michael Gambon.

This is followed in the Swan by a revival of Thomas Dekker’s festive comedy The Shoemaker’s Holiday, produced for the first time by the RSC, directed by Phillip Breen; this plays in rep with the premiere of Oppenheimer, a new play by Tom Morton-Smith about ‘the father of the atom bomb’, J Robert Oppenheimer.

Also announced today is Midsummer Mischief (14 June-12 July 2014), a festival of new plays marking the 40th anniversary of The Other Place led by Erica Whyman.

And on 23 April 2014 there will be a fireworks display from the top of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to mark Shakespeare's 450th birthday.