The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has announced casting for it’s forthcoming world-premiere production of Hamnet at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Based on Maggie O’Farrell’s best-selling novel, Hamnet is adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti (Life of Pi) and directed by RSC Acting Artistic Director Erica Whyman.
Agnes Hathaway will be played by Madeleine Mantock (Blithe Spirit – West End) in the play, with William Shakespeare played by Tom Varey (Ackley Bridge). The role of John/Will Kempe will be played by Peter Wight (Vera Drake).
The company also includes; Sarah Belcher (Joan), Will Brown (Burbage/Father John), Haydn Burke (Ensemble), Ajani Cabey (Hamnet/Thomas Day) Faye Campbell (Ensemble), Frankie Hastings (Eliza), Karl Haynes (Ned), Alex Jarrett (Judith), Hannah McPake (Jude), Rose Riley (Tilly/Caterina), Elizabeth Rider (Mary), Harmony Rose-Bremner (Susanna) and Obioma Ugoala (Bartholomew).
The play is a co-production with Sam Mendes’ Neal Street Productions, who are currently co-producing the National Theatre’s production of The Lehman Trilogy – which Sam Mendes directed – at the Gillian Lynne Theatre in London. They are also co-producing the National’s new production of Jack Thorne’s The Motive and the Cue, which comes to the National in April 2023 starring Johnny Flynn, Tuppence Middleton, Mark Gatiss and Janie Dee.
Hera Pictures are also co-producing.
The play will be the first production in the RSC’s newly renovated Swan Theatre, joining shows including The Empress and Falkland Sound.
Writer Lolita Chakrabarti said in a press statement: “Writing this play was made even more challenging due to the huge impact Maggie O’Farrell’s novel has had. Every reader seems to have a very personal relationship to this story. Shakespeare is studied, examined and lauded across the world and at times, it has felt presumptuous of me to add my own flavour to this iconic man. When I began researching sixteenth century Stratford and London I was instantly drawn to the diversity in England at that time. It no longer surprises me that there were all kinds of people here. That is how the world works – immigration has always been a reality and as expected, many of those people integrated into British society. There are limited facts about Agnes/Anne Hathaway but I love playing with history and fiction and moulding them together so that one informs the other. It is a great privilege to look at the Shakespeares through my detailed research and personal lens. This woman behind the playwright is a fascinating character and after studying Maggie’s book, it is clear to me now that her son was the inspiration for one of our greatest pieces of English literature.”
The production will feature Set and Costume Design by Tom Piper, Lighting by Prema Mehta, Sound by Xana, Music by Oğuz Kaplangi, Casting by Amy Ball CDG, Movement by Ayse Tashkiran and Fights by Kate Waters.
More about the principles
Making her RSC debut in the role of Agnes Hathaway is Madeleine Mantock. Madeleine made her West End stage debut in 2021 playing Elvira in Blithe Spirit at the Harold Pinter Theatre. For TV, Madeleine recently played Macy Vaughn in CBS studios series Charmed and Miss Clara in the BBC’s The Long Song. Other TV credits include The Tomorrow People (Warner Brothers), Age Before Beauty (BBC) and Into the Badlands (AMC). Madeleine’s film credits include Breaking Brooklyn (Montage Films), The Truth Commissioner (BBC Films) and Edge of Tomorrow (Warner Brothers).
Joining Madeleine, and also making his debut with the RSC, is Tom Varey playing William Shakespeare. Tom’s previous theatre credits include Death Watch (The Print Room), One Arm (Southwark Playhouse), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Liverpool Everyman) and A Taste of Honey (Trafalgar Studios). For TV, Tom played Bert Middleton in the ITV drama serial The Village and Will Simpson in the long-running soap Ackley Bridge. He went on to play Cley Cerwyn in the HBO drama Game of Thrones. More recently, Tom played Jack Morris in the four-part BBC One drama Ridley Road. Other TV and film credits include Fifteen Love, Death in Paradise, No Offence and Dark Angel.
Returning to the RSC for the first time since 1997, Peter Wight will play John/Will Kempe. His previous roles for the RSC include The Spanish Tragedy, Much Ado About Nothing, Barbarians, A Clockwork Orange and Hamlet. Throughout his prolific stage career, Peter has enjoyed residencies at theatres including the National Theatre, Harold Pinter Theatre, Royal Court, Duke of York’s Theatre, the Lyric Hammersmith, Sheffield Crucible and the New York Armory. Recent stage credits include Hamlet, Oresteia (Park Avenue Armory Theatre), Uncle Vanya and The Birthday Party (Harold Pinter Theatre), Rosmersholm (Duke of York’s).
As a screen actor, Peter is perhaps best known for his collaboration with Mike Leigh on Meantime, Naked, Vera Drake, Another Year and Mr Turner.
For TV, Peter enjoyed long-running roles in the BBC sitcom Early Doors and police drama Out of the Blue. More recently, Peter has appeared in A Confession (ITV), This Time with Alan Partridge (BBC1), Vanity Fair (ITV/Amazon), The Crown (Netflix), Brief Encounters, I Want My Wife Back and Our Zoo.