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RSC confirms three year Barbican collaboration

Published 10 September 2013

Antony Sher will star in Royal Shakespeare Company productions of Henry IV Parts I & II at the Barbican theatre next year as part of a three year collaboration between the prestigious Stratford-upon-Avon company and the East London venue.

Details of the productions, which will follow the RSC’s Artistic Director Gregory Doran’s previously announced David Tennant-led Richard II at the Barbican this December, were revealed at a press event today outlining Doran’s first full season of programming since taking over the company.

Alongside a packed season of Shakespeare plays and rarely performed Jacobean productions that will run at the company’s permanent home in Stratford-upon-Avon, the three year Barbican collaboration, which will begin this winter and run to an as yet unannounced 2015/2016 season, marks a decisive move by the company to once again forge a London base, with Doran having stating it was “absolutely vital” to do so earlier this year.

Playing as part of Doran’s aim to stage each of Shakespeare’s plays in the following six years, the Artistic Director’s productions of Henry IV Parts I & II will transfer to the Barbican in December 2014 following runs in Stratford-upon-Avon and a UK tour of major regional venues.

Acclaimed actor Sher will return to the company that has seen him tackle many of Shakespeare’s most famous leading roles to play the rogue knight Falstaff. Boasting a career spanning more than five decades, audiences have been lucky enough to have had the opportunity to watch Sher grace the London stage in many productions in recent years. As well as his current starring role as the infamous psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud in Hampstead theatre’s Hysteria, Sher’s credits include National Theatre appearances in The Captain Of Köpenick and Travelling Light, and Broken Glass in the West End.

The double Olivier Award winner will be joined in the cast by a collective of RSC regulars including Alex Hassell, who follows appearances at Shakespeare’s Globe in productions including The Tempest, The Storm and Measure For Measure to return to the London stage as Hal, London theatre regular Jasper Britton (Trafalgar Studios’ The Last Cigarette, Race and Private Lives at Hampstead theatre) as the title monarch Henry IV and Evening Standard Theatre Award winner Paola Dionisotti, who will play Mistress Quickly following numerous roles in London across her six decade career including Apologia at the Bush theatre, Square Rounds,  Countrymania and The Wondering Jew at the National Theatre.

Doran today described himself to be “delighted” about the collaboration, commenting: “We have thoroughly enjoyed working together as we plan the transfer of my production of Richard II to the Barbican this autumn and we will continue to expand our collaborative partnership next year with Henry IV Parts I & II over the winter of 2014/15… The Barbican is internationally renowned for its artistic programming and I am especially pleased that, alongside the plays, we will be working together with the Barbican on a creative learning programme of events and education projects.”

The Head of Theatre at the Barbican, Toni Racklin, was keen to share his delight too, saying: “Our Theatre and Dance programme has built a reputation of bringing high-quality Shakespeare to London audiences and we have a long history of working with internationally renowned companies. We are delighted to be able to announce today that our relationship with the RSC will continue beyond Richard II with more brilliant plays and with both organisations’ education departments working together to realise an exciting and unified creative learning programme.”

Spreading the reach of its productions to an even wider audience, Richard II and Henry IV Parts I & II will also be the latest productions screened in cinemas across the world as part of the RSC’s partnership with Picturehouse Entertainment, while schools will also be invited to tune into free streamings as part of the organisation’s many educational offerings.

Explaining the importance of the company’s continued commitment to reaching a wider audience away from its Midlands home, Doran explained: “The next three years span two significant anniversaries for Shakespeare; the 450th anniversary of his birth in 2014 and 400th anniversary of his death in 2016. These landmark dates have helped to frame our programming over this jubilee period. Central to this aspiration is our intention to stage each of Shakespeare’s plays just once in the next six years to 2019, making every play an event.  This means a whole generation of students and theatregoers can journey with us through Shakespeare’s Complete Works – on stage in Stratford-upon-Avon, on tour, in London, online or live on screen.”

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