ROMANS are set to invade the RSC in Stratford next year.
The company marks 2,000 years since the death of poet Ovid with a new Rome season featuring Shakespeare’s four great bloody political thrillers on the RST stage.
Julius Caesar and Antony & Cleopatra will run from March through to September, followed by Titus Andronicus, running from June to September, and Coriolanus, the dates of which have yet to be confirmed.
Angus Jackson, who recently directed the sell-out RSC productions of Oppenheimer and Don Quixote, is season director for the Rome season.
He will direct the opening and closing plays of the season, Julius Caesar and Coriolanus. Iqbal Khan returns to the company to direct Antony & Cleopatra, with Josette Simon taking on the role of Cleopatra after her last RSC appearance in Michael Boyd’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1999. Blanche McIntyre will direct Titus Andronicus, following on from this summer’s production of The Two Noble Kinsmen.
Julius Caesar begins the season, with the politics of spin and betrayal turning to violence in a race to claim the empire, after the all-conquering Caesar returns from war.
Next is Antony & Cleopatra. Following Caesar’s assassination and his own rise to power, Mark Antony chooses a life of decadent seduction with Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt, where his military brilliance deserts him and his passion leads the lovers to their tragic end.
The decay of Rome reaches its violent depths in Shakespeare’s bloodiest play Titus Andronicus. Titus is a ruler exhausted by war and leaves Rome in disarray, with rape, cannibalism and brutality filling the moral void at the heart of a corrupt society.
Coriolanus concludes the season, as famine stalks Rome and the citizens rise up. The rioting is halted by war and Caius Martius leads the Roman Army to victory, but the people turn against him and he is banished. He vows revenge and returns at the head of the Volscian army to march on Rome.
The Rome season will also include a number of productions in the Swan Theatre, including the world premiere of a new play by Phil Porter, Vice Versa, inspired by Plautus’ comedies; Oscar Wilde’s Salomé; and Christopher Marlowe’s Dido, Queen of Carthage.
RSC Artistic Director, Gregory Doran, said: “Exactly 2000 years after the death of Roman poet Ovid, whose work has inspired artists for millennia, we stage Shakespeare’s four great political thrillers in a new season touched by the influence of Rome.
“Ovid was probably Shakespeare’s greatest inspiration and his stories are sprinkled throughout his plays, most prominently the comedy of Pyramus and Thisbe in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
“But today, some of those fantastical stories are being forgotten and our appreciation of Shakespeare’s plays will be lessened if that happens. Who was Proserpina, and why did she “let her flowers fall”? What happened when glistering Phaeton lost the manage of his father’s chariot? And why was Niobe “all tears”. We will uncover all this and more next year as we celebrate 2000 years of Ovid’s influence.”
Away from Rome, the Swan will also host the RSC’s ongoing Chinese Classics translation project with a staging of Frances Ya-Chu Cowhig’s version of Snow in Midsummer based on the classical Chinese drama by Guan Hanqing; and the world premiere of a new Richard Bean play, The Hypocrite, presented with Hull Truck Theatre and Hull UK City of Culture 2017.
Visit www.rsc.org.uk for further details.