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RSC to adapt Maggie O'Farrell's Hamnet as Swan Theatre's reopening production

Lolita Chakrabarti has penned the script for the world premiere play

Artwork for Hamnet

The RSC has revealed that a world premiere stage production of Hamnet is set to re-open its newly refurbished Swan Theatre next spring.

Based on the best-selling novel by Maggie O'Farrell (which won the 2020 Women's Prize for Fiction and has sold over 1.5 million copies worldwide) and adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti (Life of Pi), the piece explores "the imagined life of William Shakespeare and the woman and family who influenced his work." It examines how the death of Agnes Hathaway and Shakespeare's 11-year-old son Hamnet gives birth to something extraordinary.

Co-produced by Neal Street Productions, in association with Hera Pictures, the production will be helmed by acting artistic director Erica Whyman, who said: "I could not be more thrilled to be directing this adaptation of Hamnet. Maggie's beautiful novel moved and inspired me in the darkest days of lockdown as it did for so many. It is high time we heard the compelling story of Agnes Hathaway and her children, voices that have been somewhat neglected, and who offer a wholly new perspective on ‘her Poet'.

"It has been a privilege to collaborate with Lolita and her adaptation is also a celebration of the power of theatre. It is especially fitting that this production will reopen the unique Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, evoking as it does a different time in the town, one that not only gave birth to our house playwright but one which knew what it was to live through waves of pandemic, of grief and recovery. I am delighted to be collaborating once more with Tom Piper, Prema Mehta and Oğuz Kaplangi, all of whom relish the theatrical possibilities of the Swan and the emotional power of this story.

"The Swan will have been closed for three years, and we have missed it very much. I am enormously proud of our recent history of premiering bold and ambitious new work in that space, from Oppenheimer to Hecuba to Seven Acts of Mercy to Miss Littlewood. When we closed in 2020 we were midway through a season which included A Museum in Baghdad and The Whip and the latter has recently been included in the GCSE syllabus. It remains an essential part of the RSC's programme to commission and produce vivid new plays with an epic imagination and Hamnet marks the beginning of a wonderful year back on that intimate stage."

Tom Piper serves as designer for the production, with Prema Mehta as lighting designer and Oğuz Kaplangi as composer. Additional creative team and cast members are to be confirmed.

Hamnet runs from 1 April 2023 for an 11-week season, with a press night set for 12 April.

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