Over 70 adult non-professional performers from England will have the opportunity to take to the stage of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon this Spring, with the premiere of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s epic new production of Henry VI: Rebellion. The production, which features a cast of 118 people in total, opened on Friday 1 April with non-professional adult participants from Bradford (1 April) and Nottingham (2 April) taking up the roles of the people of England for the show’s first two public performances.
Among the cast of Henry VI: Rebellion are 25 professional actors who will be joined by 93 members of the Royal Shakespeare Community gathered from across England, including 74 adults from Blackpool, Bradford, Canterbury, Cornwall, Norwich and Nottingham who are part of the RSC’s Shakespeare Nation adult community participation programme, and 19 young performers aged 13-17 from the RSC’s Next Generation Act young acting company. Henry VI: Rebellion, a fresh new take on Henry VI: Part Two, hurtles through one of the most turbulent periods in English history, asking the question: can the people ever really decide their own future?
Ian Wainwright, RSC Learning National Partnerships Producer, said: “Last week over 70 members of our adult community participation programme, Shakespeare Nation, gathered together on the stage of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to take part in technical rehearsals for Henry VI: Rebellion. Hailing from 6 English towns and cities these are people from all walks of life, most of whom have little or no experience of Shakespeare either as a performer or theatre-goer.
“It has been fantastic to see their confidence develop whilst gaining a passion for Shakespeare. Each group will take part in up to five performances of the play, and I can’t wait to see them take to the stage between now and June.”
Director of Henry VI: Rebellion, Owen Horsley, said: “Out of the 37 plays in the canon Henry VI Part Two – or as we are calling it, Henry VI: Rebellion – has more characters than any other play. There are 85 characters on the cast list, which may explain why these plays are rarely done.
“One of the reasons for this wide array of characters is a series of scenes that Shakespeare writes that concerns the people of England, who in various ways interact with the royal family. This gave us an idea!
For many years the RSC has built incredible relationships across the UK with partner theatres through Shakespeare Nation and our youth programme, Next Generation Act.
“After 18 months of developing these links online this production seemed the perfect opportunity to be ambitious. So, for the people of England, we have cast the people of England.
“This is an extremely exciting project as it allows this history play, written over 400 years ago, to respond directly to the state of the nation – and at points put nearly 50 people on the RSC stage.”
The professional cast for Henry VI: Rebellion includes: Oliver Alvin-Wilson (York), Lucy Benjamin (Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester), Richard Cant (Gloucester/Lord Saye), Daniel J Carver (Clifford/Horner), Angelina Chudi (Hume), Paola Dionisotti (Winchester/Humphrey), Felixe Forde (Bevis), Minnie Gale (Margaret), Ashley D Gayle (Smith), Conor Glean (Dick), Ben Hall (Suffolk), Jack Humphrey (Clerk), Nicholas Karimi (Warwick), Al Maxwell (Bolingbroke/ Holland), Georgia-Mae Myers (Margaret Jourdain), Peter Moreton (Salisbury), Sophia Papadopoulos (Suffolk’s Messenger), Mark Quartley (Henry VI), Aaron Sidwell (Jack Cade), Yasmin Taheri (Neighbour), John Tate (Captain/Stafford), Ibraheem Toure (Whitmore), Emma Tracey (Spirit), Daniel Ward (Buckingham) and Benjamin Westerby (Somerset).