THE CENTENARY of the First World World War will be commemorated with a season of work at the RSC in Stratford next winter.
It will include Phil Porter’s specially-commissioned new play The Christmas Truce, which will draw on true stories of soldiers in the Warwickshire Regiment and in particular, the experiences of local cartoonist, Bruce Bairnsfather, who worked at the original Shakespeare Memorial Theatre as an electrical engineer, and whose famous comic creation ‘Old Bill’ was hugely popular with the troops.
The story is inspired by real events exactly 100 years ago, when soldiers along the Western Front left their trenches on Christmas Eve, carrying only their courage and humanity, to meet their enemies in No Man’s Land to talk, exchange gifts and play football.
Deputy Artistic Director Erica Whyman will direct The Christmas Truce, described as “uplifting” play, and aimed at audiences of all ages.
As part of a season, Christopher Luscombe returns to the RSC to direct two Shakespeare comedies set in the shadow of war.
Love’s Labour’s Lost and Love’s Labour’s Won (usually known as Much Ado About Nothing) will play in repertoire in the RST. Both productions will share a setting based on a country house just before and just after the War.
In Love’s Labour’s Lost, the mischievous Rosaline tests Berowne’s high-minded resolve in the summer of 1914. At the end of the play the merriment is curtailed as the lovers agree to submit to a period apart, unaware the world around them is about to be transformed by a war to end all wars.
Love’s Labour’s Won begins four years later in the autumn of 1918 with a world-weary Benedick and Claudio returning from the trenches to a post-war house party, where Claudio falls in love with Hero and Benedick reignites his altogether more combative courtship with Beatrice. Youthful passions run riot before peace ultimately breaks out.
The season will also see the RSC continues to stage the plays of Shakespeare’s contemporaries in the Swan Theatre. Extending the ‘Roaring Girls’ season, Artistic director Gregory Doran will direct Eileen Atkins, who returns to the RSC stage for the first time since 1997, in a new production of Dekker, Ford and Rowley’s rarely-performed Jacobean domestic tragedy The Witch of Edmonton, which will play in repertoire with an extended run of The White Devil, directed by Maria Aberg.
Also being staged is Dekker’s festive city comedy of class, conflict and cobblers in love, The Shoemaker’s Holiday,
directed by Phillip Breen.
And Angus Jackson directs the world premiere of Tom Morton-Smith’s new play Oppenheimer, about J Robert Oppenheimer, looks into the heart of the Manhattan Project to create the atom bomb.
Visit www.rsc.org.uk for further details and ticket information.