The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in Stratford-upon-Avon has announced its new season of plays for winter 2023 and spring 2024, including five new productions.
The season is the last for Acting Artistic Director Erica Whyman (Hamnet), who is stepping down in June to make way for new Co-Artistic Directors Daniel Evans and Tamara Harvey.
Highlights of the new season include an adaptation of John Masefield’s The Box of Delights; Isobel McArthur (Pride and Prejudice – sort of) to adapt Thomas Heywood’s The Fair Maid of the West; new play Ben and Imo by Mark Ravenhill about Benjamin Britten and Imogen Holst; and the return of Tracy-Ann Oberman’s The Merchant of Venice 1936.
The Winter 2023 part of the season kicks off with Justin Audibert (The Taming of the Shrew) back at the RSC to direct Piers Torday’s magical reimagining of John Masefield’s much-loved festive children’s classic The Box of Delights.
Playing in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from 31 October 2023 to 7 January 2024, with design by Tom Piper (Hamnet, The Tempest), the show was originally produced for Wilton’s Music Hall in 2017.
Justin Audibert is currently Artistic Director of the Unicorn Theatre, but is set to go to Chichester to take over from Daniel Evans as Artistic Director of the Chichester Festival Theatre.
In the Swan Theatre, Olivier award-winning playwright Isobel McArthur will make her RSC debut directing and adapting Thomas Heywood’s Elizabethan comedy The Fair Maid of the West.
The show will play from 2 December 2023 to 14 January 2024, designed by Ana Inés Jabares-Pita (As You Like It).
Olivier Award-winning director Isobel McArthur wrote and starred in Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of), which was awarded Best Entertainment or Comedy Play at the 2022 Oliviers and is now touring the UK.
The spring 2024 part of the season will see Eleanor Rhode direct a new production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from 30 January to 30 March 2024.
And in the Swan Theatre, Mark Ravenhill’s new play, Ben and Imo will tell the story of the creative relationship between composer Benjamin Britten and Imogen Holst, daughter of Gustav and an accomplished musician in her own right.
Playing from 21 February to 6 April 2024, Ben and Imo will be directed by Erica Whyman.
The Swan Theatre will also see the return of The Merchant of Venice 1936, adapted by Tracy-Ann Oberman and Brigid Larmour, starring Oberman as Shylock, from 24 January to 10 February 2024.
Finally, the RSC will produce a new First Encounters production for 8 to 13 year olds, with a new production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The play will tour schools and theatres across the UK during spring 2024, and play the Swan from 21 to 30 March 2024.
The production is directed by Philip J Morris, Artistic Director of Trybe House Theatre.
Coming to the West End in September is the RSC’s successful stage adaptation of Maggie O’Farrell’s best-selling novel Hamnet, directed by Erica Whyman, which will transfer to the Garrick Theatre, running from 30 September 2023 to 6 January 2024.
Erica Whyman, Acting Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, said in a statement: “I am properly proud to be announcing this, my last season as Acting Artistic Director. To lead this organisation out of the pandemic has been a privilege and I am enormously proud of the strong foundations I leave for its next chapter. All these productions will celebrate the power of imagination, from Shakespeare’s delicious fantasy of fairies and lovers to Imogen Holst and Benjamin Britten wrestling with the rigours of a Royal Commission, to the faith a child has that Christmas is worth fighting for. Not to mention the glorious Bess, our Fair Maid, whose adventures in a man’s world will be exuberantly re-imagined, and a new Romeo and Juliet which will insist we properly imagine what it is to be young in a dangerous world. This season and the artists who lead it -Isobel, Mark, Eleanor, Justin, Piers, Philip, Tracy-Ann and Brigid – embody the qualities I hope have defined my tenure; courage, honesty and ingenuity. I am grateful to them and all the artists and staff who have walked these last wild and rewarding years with me.”