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BLOG: RSC’s Winter 13 season to feature David Tennant as Richard II and Hilary Mantel adaptations

Gregory Doran today announced his first season as artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

In news that will thrill theatregoers and sci-fi fans alike, David Tennant returns to the stage as Richard II in Stratford-upon-Avon between 10 October and 16 November 2013. The play will transfer to London’s Barbican Theatre from 9 December.

This production not only reunites the Scot with Doran, who directed him in the critically acclaimed sell-out run of Hamlet in 2008-9, but also with the Polonius in that production, Oliver Ford Davies.

Those who missed Tennant’s Hamlet owing to the actor’s indisposition will be crossing their fingers that his back holds out this time. If his performance in that production is anything to go by (I was one of the lucky ones who saw him in previews in London), we’re in for a treat.

Purists and naysayers (yes, I mean you, Jonathan Miller and Sunday Telegraph critic Tim Walker) may choose to be dismissive of “that man from Doctor Who”, but this is to ignore Tennant’s undoubted stage talent.

It will be interesting to see what the Tennant/Doran combination brings to Shakespeare’s lyric tragedy. Two other star names have tackled the rôle in recent memory (fellow heartthrob Eddie Redmayne at the Donmar Warehouse in 2011 and Old Vic artistic director Kevin Spacey in 2005, not to mention Ben Whishaw in BBC mini-series The Hollow Crown), so you could argue the world doesn’t need another Richard II just yet.

But Tennant, who declares himself daunted yet excited about tackling the rôle, has confidence in his director’s ability to surprise.

Doran also promises a special Christmas show in the shape of Wendy and Peter Pan, Ella Hickson’s new take on the JM Barrie classic. Can we expect a feminist reimagining, I wonder?

Wendy and Peter Pan, of course, follows in the tradition of RSC winter family shows – previous productions include The Mouse and His Child, while runaway hit Matilda the Musical is still showing to packed audiences in in London’s West End and will shortly hit Broadway.

Jeremy Herrin, currently preparing to move This House from the Cottesloe to the Olivier at the National, will direct the adaptations of Hilary Mantel’s historical novelsWolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. The world premieres will play in repertoire from December.

Mantel’s notoriously long and involved books, which chart Thomas Cromwell’s rise to power in the Tudor Court, could prove tricky for Mike Poulton to adapt – but who better to help out than the author herself? Mantel describes how she will contribute to the productions in this video for The Guardian.

Mantel hasapparentlydiscovered that some of the material she couldn’t use in her Man Booker prize-winning novels fits perfectly with the theatrical approach. Doran also revealed that he already has an actor in mind to play Cromwell – but for now, he’s not sharing.

By Laura Pledger

Image: Gregory Doran, artistic director of the RSC

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The Reviews Hub - Features
Our Features team is under the editorship of Nicole Craft. The team is responsible for sourcing interviews, articles, competitions from across the country. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.