In taking on the coveted roles in Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, the duo are pitting themselves against David Tennant and Catherine Tate, who will take on the same roles in a West End production of the play which opens a week later.
Speaking at the unveiling of the Globe season’s casting today, Artistic Director Dominic Dromgoole played down the imposed rivalry, saying “you can’t have enough Shakespeare” in London, and that in a city of 11 million people there are “more than enough to see both productions”.
The casting marks Laurence Olivier Award-winning actress Best’s return to the capital’s stage after several years absence. Following London stage roles in Mourning Becomes Electra at the National Theatre, Hedda Gabler at the Almeida and Duke of York’s theatres – for which she won the 2006 Best Actress Olivier Award – and A Moon For The Misbegotten at the Old Vic – for which she received a further nomination in 2007 and a subsequent Tony Award-nomination for its Broadway transfer – Best headed over the pond. Her recent work has included The Homecoming on stage in New York, acclaimed US TV series Nurse Jackie and recent hit British film The King’s Speech, in which she played Wallace Simpson.
Best’s co-star Edwards can currently be seen in Peter Hall’s production of Twelfth Night at the National Theatre. His work also includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream opposite Judi Dench at the Rose theatre Kingston and the role of Hannay in hit comedy The 39 Steps, which he originated at the Tricycle theatre before transferring with the show to the West End and Broadway.
The pair is directed in Much Ado About Nothing by Royal Court associate Jeremy Herrin, making his Shakespearean debut. Herrin’s work includes the acclaimed productions of That Face and The Priory at the Royal Court, where he returns to direct The Heretic, which opens tonight.
Also joining the 2011 season at Shakespeare’s Globe is multi-Laurence Olivier Award-winner Janie Dee, who Dromgoole said would “spice up” the usually older-cast part of the Countess of Roussillon in All’s Well That Ends Well.
Dee’s recent work on the London stage includes Woman In Mind and Shadowlands in the West End and Twelfth Night at the Regent’s Park Open Air theatre. A hugely versatile actress, she has won Laurence Olivier Awards in both play and musical categories, for Carousel in 1993 and Comic Potential in 2000.
Other details confirmed today about the Globe’s biblical-themed season – which celebrates the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible – include the casting of relative newcomer Joshua McGuire (Posh at the Royal Court) in the role of Hamlet, which opens at the Globe on 23 April before embarking on a small-scale tour. Dromgoole said he hoped the casting of young talent McGuire was a testament to the Globe’s ability to spot rising stars in the mould of Gemma Arterton and 2011 Laurence Olivier nominee Michelle Terry, who both appeared as near-unknowns in Love’s Labour’s Lost at the Globe in 2007.
Paul Hilton (Rosmersholm at the Almeida theatre, In Celebration at the Duke of York’s) is to take the title role in Doctor Faustus in what Dromgoole described as a “great marriage of actor and part”.
Poet and playwright Tony Harrison (Fram at the National Theatre) will write the Globe’s version of the Mystery plays in August, returning to the medieval stories 26 years after his acclaimed adaptation for the National Theatre.
The season – entitled The Word Is God – opens on Palm Sunday, 17 April, with a cover-to-cover reading of the King James Bible, recited by 20 actors over the course of eight days until Easter Monday. The “possibly demented” event, said Dromgoole, sees the Globe “nodding our head to a great work of literature”.
Other productions in the season include the return of last year’s Anne Boleyn and Chris Hannan’s new modern satire The God Of Soho, which Dromgoole described as a “great shake-up for anyone that thinks we are a heritage theatre”.