Dominic Rowan, Elliot Cowan, Jamie Parker and William Gaunt are to lead the company at Shakespeare’s Globe this summer.
Speaking at the press launch of the season today, Shakespeare’s Globe Artistic Director Dominic Dromgoole said it was “a massive pleasure to present Shakespeare’s plays here for the first time” and stressed that he wanted Henry IV Parts 1 and 2 and Henry VIII to be enjoyed as individual plays rather than presented as part of the full History Cycle.
Taking the role of the oft-married Tudor King, Rowan returns to Shakespeare’s Globe after starring in last year’s productions of As You Like It and A New World: A Life Of Thomas Paine. A London stage regular, in recent years Rowan has been seen in Under The Blue Sky in the West End, After Dido at the Young Vic, Happy Now? at the National Theatre and A Voyage Round My Father at the Donmar Warehouse and West End. He is currently appearing in The Misanthrope at the Comedy theatre.
Parker, who appeared in the hugely successful stage and screen versions of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, is to play Prince Hal in Henry IV Parts 1 and 2, following his appearance in the Globe’s 2009 season. He is joined by London stage regular Gaunt (The Family Reunion, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s King Lear) as Worcester and Shallow.
Cowan, who appeared alongside Rachel Weisz in A Streetcar Named Desire at the Donmar Warehouse last year, takes the title role in Lucy Bailey’s production of Macbeth, set in 11th century Scotland, which opens the season on 23 April. Cowan, whose other stage work includes The Revenger’s Tragedy at the National Theatre and Frost/Nixon at the Donmar Warehouse, is joined on stage by Globe regular Laura Rogers as Lady Macbeth and Keith Dunphy as Macduff.
Playwrights Howard Brenton and Nell Leyshon were also on hand at today’s launch to talk about their new plays which join the Shakespeare productions in this year’s season. Brenton, whose play Anne Boleyn dramatises the life and legacy of Henry VIII’s second wife, said he had “always wanted to write a play about the Tudors” and has taken as his focal point Anne’s contribution to religious reform in Tudor England.
Leyshon said it was a “great privilege” to be the first woman playwright to have a play staged at the Globe, and that she was keen to prove that women can write big plays because “I have heard it said so often that they can’t”. She sets out to do that with Bedlam, an account of life at the Bethlem Royal Hospital for the insane in the mid-18th century, centring on the binge-drinking, gin sellers and voyeuristic visitors to the asylum. Though based on truth, Leyshon said the play was a fictional account because she “wanted to take some liberties” with history in order to “have some fun”. She added: “I wanted to write something exuberant for the Globe.”
While the Bankside venue prepares to open its new season, the reach of last year’s season will continue in cinemas through the Globe’s partnership with Opus Arte, the Royal Opera House’s screening initiative. The Globe’s 2009 productions of Romeo And Juliet, As You Like It and Love’s Labour’s Lost were all filmed by Opus Arte during the season and are to be screened in selected cinemas in the coming months, followed by DVD and Blu-ray releases of the productions. Dromgoole said the intention was to make Globe productions available to download online in the near future.