With gender inequality increasingly becoming a thing of the past on the British stage there is naturally some excitement surrounding the recent cast announcement from The Royal Shakespeare Company for the first two plays in their upcoming ‘Roaring Girls’ season. Led by Royal Shakespeare Company Deputy Artistic Director, Erica Whyman these rarely performed Jacobean plays reveal some of the great parts written for and about women.
The season opens with The Roaring Girl by Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker which was last performed by the RSC back in 1983. Leading the cast as the fearless ‘Governess of London’s underworld’ Moll Cutpurse is Lisa Dillon.
After his father denies him permission to marry poor girl Mary, Sebastian seeks out the help of the feisty and fearless ‘Roaring Girl’ Moll Cutpurse. A tale of deceit, scheming and petty vendettas unfold, with Moll proving she has the world wrapped around her finger along the way.
Moll is described by director Jo Davies as a ‘Force of nature’ and with the rôle previously played by Dame Helen Mirren, Dillon has some very big boots to fill.
Second up in the season is the anonymously written Arden of Faversham in which Sharon Small makes her RSC debut playing Alice, the largest rôle for women in all Elizabethan drama. Said to be based on a true story and last performed by the RSC in 1982, the play has been attributed variously to Thomas Kyd, Christopher Marlowe and Shakespeare himself.
A grizzly tale of deceit and desperation, The Arden of Faversham tells the story of cheating wife Alice and her lover’s plots to free herself from marriage by murdering her wealthy husband Arden. A deadly game of cat and mouse ensues and husband, wife and lover find themselves wound in a tangled web of ruthless assassination. Described by director Polly Findlay as ‘Slapstick with an incredibly dark heart’, the play is promisingly impressive.
The productions are cross cast including:
Joe Bannister, Ian Bonar, Peter Bray, Elspeth Brodie, Colin Brown, Faye Castelow, Keir Charles, Liz Crowther, Geoffrey Freshwater, Lizzie Hopley, Joan Iyiola, Tony Jayawardena, Christopher Middleton, Ken Nwosu, Tom Padley, Ian Redford, David Rintoul, Jay Simpson, Timothy Speyer and Harvey Virdi.
Both plays tell the tales of strong, leading women in a time that was essentially a man’s world and are renowned for moving away from the very royal stereotype of plays from the era, choosing instead to focus on the ‘street life’ of the time. Catch them while you can.
The Roaring Girl runs at the Swan Theatre from April 9th – September 30th 2014.
Arden of Faversham runs at the Swan Theatre from April 30th- October 2nd 2014.
Tickets are available from www.rsc.org.uk.
Picture: Helene Fjell