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Michael Boyd announces final RSC season, Ravenhill responds to Candide

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How to top the World Shakespeare Festival, a 50th anniversary season and the “most-awarded West End musical in history”, Matilda?

Outgoing artistic director Michael Boyd today announced the final season he’s programmed for the Royal Shakespeare Company, with highlights including world premieres of new plays by Mark Ravenhill and Tanika Gupta, and a new production of Hamlet starring Jonathan Slinger. Boyd steps down in September, handing over to his long-time chief associate director Gregory Doran.

In the Royal Shakespeare Theatre

His final season, which runs from January through to summer 2013, will include new productions in Stratford-upon-Avon’s main house, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (which only fully reopened in February 2011), of the bard’s The Winter’s Tale, As You Like It and All’s Well That Ends Well, directed by Lucy Bailey, Maria Aberg and Nancy Meckler respectively.

RSC regular leading man Jonathan Slinger takes the title role in Hamlet for RSC associate director David Farr. Slinger and Farr have collaborated on World Shakespeare Festival productions of Twelfth Night and The Tempest as part of the London-bound “What Country Friends Is This?” series. Slinger’s other recent company credits include the Macbeth, directed by Boyd, an Lenny in Pinter’s The Homecoming.

Hamlet will run in repertoire with As You Like It and All’s Well That Ends Well, with all three productions performed by a single, cross-cast company.

In the Swan Theatre

The Swan Theatre’s 2013 programme will commence with the world premiere of The Empress, a new play by Tanika Gupta, making her RSC debut, directed by Kneehigh artistic director Emma Rice. The play centres on Queen Victoria and her growing attachment to one of her Indian manservants in the royal household.

Rice’s standalone production will be followed by another three-play repertoire performed by another single company, comprising: Michael Fentiman’s new production of Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus; Sean Foley, also making his RSC debut directing Thomas Middleton’s satirical Jacobean classic A Mad World My Masters, which has never before been performed at the RSC; and Mark Ravenhill’s new, as-yet untitled play, directed by Lyndsey Turner.

Ravenhill, author of Shopping and Fucking and the RSC’s current playwright in residence, has written the piece in response to Voltaire’s renowned 1759 satire on blind optimism, Candide, which challenged the Panglossian view that “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds”.

Swansong statements & stats

Commenting on his final season, Michael Boyd said today in a press statement: “The last 12 months, in which we've celebrated the RSC's 50th birthday in Stratford, opened the most awarded West End musical in history, and launched the World Shakespeare Festival right across the UK, point to the healthiest possible future for theatre. I'm very proud to be programming my last season in our new space with many of the theatre artists who have contributed to its success in the last year, before handing over to Greg Doran who will take the company on to its next decade.”

Boyd’s executive director Vikki Heywood, who steps down along with Boyd this year, added some impressive figures to the recent roll call of achievements, with full financial results due to be released at the company’s September AGM. She said: “The RSC is on great form as we prepare to hand over to the new leadership team. We've had a terrific first full year in our new home (the Royal Shakespeare Theatre fully reopened in February 2011 after a two-year, £112m refit) … We've welcomed more than 500,000 visitors (as well as those who've bought tickets to see a show) through the doors in the last 12 months. With both main houses fully open now, we increased the number of seats available by almost 50% and have played to 84% capacity in Stratford (89% across all locations) in 2011/12.

“Since April, we have celebrated Shakespeare all over the country with artists from every imaginable place in the world, staging more than 70 productions, as well as events and exhibitions, for the World Shakespeare Festival. More than 70 partners have joined us with a million tickets on sale. The scale and reach of the Festival has been extraordinary, and we are only half way through. The RSC alone has already sold more than 250,000 tickets.

“We are delighted that Matilda The Musical continues to win praise from critics and audiences alike, as we begin our preparations for a Broadway transfer in Spring 2013, with our co-producing partners, the Dodgers. Since opening in October at the Cambridge, we've played to more than 300,000 people at an average capacity of 95%. Following our record-breaking seven Olivier awards in April, we've played to 100% houses and advance sales for the Olympic summer period are very healthy.”

Full dates for the RSC’s summer 2013 season have not yet been announced. Public booking will open on 15 October 2012.


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