Political intrigue & a Dickens of a classic, the RSC’s 2017 winter season

The Royal Shakespeare Company today launched its winter 2017 season with the announcement of David Edgar’s new adaptation of A Christmas Carol and the premiere of Mike Poulton’s thrilling Cicero Plays.

RSC artistic director Gregory Doran said: “We so often return to old stories to make sense of the world around us.

“In a year which has seen more than its share of political intrigue and unease, we complete our exploration of Rome and see how Shakespeare, his contemporaries and today’s writers seek inspiration in myth and history”.

In the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Angus Jackson directs Coriolanus as the final Shakespeare production of the Rome season, transporting audiences back to the very beginnings of the Republic.

Sope Dirisu takes the title role of the unwilling leader who vows revenge after he is banished from Rome.

Sope first worked with the RSC in 2012 playing Pericles as part of the RSC’s Open Stages initiative and recently played Mohammed Ali in One Night in Miami at the Donmar Warehouse.

It is followed by Christopher Luscombe’s production of Shakespeare’s bittersweet comedy of unrequited love, Twelfth Night and David Edgar’s new adaptation of A Christmas Carol.

This is David Edgar’s first Dickens adaptation since the multi-award winning production of Nicholas Nickleby in the 1980s.

David’s history with the RSC began with Destiny in 1976 and includes Pentecost and, most recently, Written on the Heart.

In the Swan Theatre Christopher Marlowe’s Dido: Queen of Carthage will be directed by Kimberley Sykes. Kimberley delves into Marlowe’s darkly humorous and unsettling tale of sacrifice to create a world where gods meet man and fate hangs by an unforgiving thread.

Gregory Doran then directs Imperium, Mike Poulton’s thrilling new stage adaptation of Robert Harris’ best-selling Cicero trilogy.

Staged as six plays, presented in two performances, this epic event traces the triumphs and disasters of Rome’s greatest orator, as he defends Rome’s Republic against the predatory attacks of political rivals, discontented aristocrats and would-be military dictators.

Told through the eyes of Cicero’s loyal secretary, Tiro, this is a backstage view of Rome at its most bloody and brutal.

Mike Poulton’s most recent work with the RSC was his stunning adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies.

This summer, the RSC’s creative engine room, The Other Place, continues to nurture new voices with another Mischief Festival of new work, talks, events and debates, from May 24 until June 17.

The festival includes a double bill of two new plays: Myth, is a theatrical experiment set in one wine-fuelled evening as a dinner party descends into chaos, co-written by Matt Hartley and Kirsty Housley.

It is accompanied by The Earthworks, by Tom Morton-Smith (who wrote the acclaimed Oppenheimer for the RSC), a funny and touching one-act play about a journalist and a scientist who meet on the eve of the activation of the Large Hadron Collider.

Romola Garai will lead a new cast as the Duchess of Marlborough, with Emma Cunniffe returning as Queen Anne, in Helen Edmundson’s gripping play, Queen Anne, which plays at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from June.

The production plays in London at the same time as the RSC’s previously announced The Tempest at the Barbican Theatre.

Said Gregory Doran: “Coriolanus will be the last of Shakespeare’s Roman plays in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and I am delighted that Angus Jackson will direct Sope Dirisu in the title role. Sope is a rising talent and he will make a truly exciting Coriolanus.

“Mike Poulton’s brilliant new adaptation of Robert Harris’ thrilling Cicero trilogy will cover this huge canvas in six plays, across two evenings, and we will match the whole season with a programme of talks and events marking 2000 years since the death of Ovid.

“Ovid’s stories were Shakespeare’s greatest inspiration and this will be a chance for people to gain a greater appreciation of these wonderful tales.

“Chris Luscombe will be back with us to direct Twelfth Night and we will premiere David Edgar’s wonderfully funny and surprising adaptation of A Christmas Carol.”

RSC deputy artistic director Erica Whyman said: “Shakespeare was a daring new writer in his time and I’m delighted we are continuing our commitment to seek out radical and urgent stories and new ways to tell them.

“Both plays in our next Mischief Festival have come out of our R&D programme over the last couple of years.

“It is great to have Tom Morton-Smith back with a play about love, grief and the meaning of the universe, set the day before the Large Hadron Collider is switched on for the first time.

“And Kirsty Housley and Matt Hartley have upended a dinner party in a powerful exploration of how we cope with the truth of impending climate crisis.”

For full details and dates go to www.rsc.org.uk

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