Stratford-Upon-Avon gets back to business with Ben Jonson’s potent black comedy, The Alchemist, which opens in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Swan Theatre next month.
Polly Findlay returns to the RSC after directing The Merchant of Venice in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre last year, to direct Ben Jonson’s hilarious satire that revels in just how vain humans can be.
When London is hit by an outbreak of the plague, the wealthy Lovewit flees to the country, leaving his townhouse in the hands of his trusted butler, Jeremy. But no sooner has his master left than Jeremy begins turning the house into a den of criminal activity.
Assuming an alias, he recruits fellow conman Subtle and prostitute Doll Common to help him and sets out to rip-off half of London.
Soon every knock at the front door is another unwitting victim begging to be relieved of their cash. Things couldn’t be going better for the gleeful trio until they receive a very unwelcome visitor.
Ken Nwosu (Othello, The Merchant of Venice, 2015) returns to the RSC to play butler-turned-fraudster, Face. Mark Lockyer, who last appeared on the Swan stage in Gregory Doran’s 2004 production of Othello, plays Face’s con-artist aid, Subtle.
Siobhán McSweeney, who played Ruth Cheetham in hit Channel 4 drama No Offence, and recently featured in Polly Findlay’s production of As You Like It at the National Theatre, plays their partner in crime, prostitute Dol Common. Ian Redford also returns to the RSC to play Sir Epicure Mammon. Ian last appeared on the Swan stage in The Roaring Girls season in 2014.
The full cast of The Alchemist is Will Bliss, John Cummins, Ruth Everett, Gabriel Fleary, Theo Fraser Steele, Natey Jones, Richard Leeming, Mark Lockyer, Tom McCall, Joshua McCord, Siobhán McSweeney, Hywel Morgan, Ken Nwosu, Ian Redford, Rosa Robson, Tim Samuels, Timothy Speyer and Eleanor Wyld.
The Alchemist runs in the Swan Theatre (in repertoire) from May 26 – August 6 before moving to London’s Barbican for a season from September 2 – October 1.