Artistic Director, Gregory Doran, today announced the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) Winter 2019 season which includes the world stage premiere of a new musical adaptation of The Boy in the Dress, based on the best-selling novel by David Walliams with songs by Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers. The new musical, directed by Gregory Doran, plays for eighteen weeks in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from November 2019 to March 2020.

David Walliams said: “I’m delighted to be working with the Royal Shakespeare Company to bring this, my first children’s novel, to the stage. It’s now 10 years since The Boy in the Dress was first published and we’ve come a long way in that time. Ultimately, I wanted to write a story that encouraged people to recognise that difference can be celebrated, that it’s ok to be yourself. I’ve always loved musicals and, somehow, I’d always imagined this book to be made into a musical so to be working with the RSC, Mark Ravenhill and song-writing partners Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers on this new production feels like a dream collaboration.”

Mark Ravenhill said: “I first came across The Boy in the Dress when I was Playwright in Residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company back in 2012. I remember thinking that it was such a gripping, entertaining and life-affirming story with all the ingredients of a great stage show. The Royal Shakespeare Company has a fantastic track record of producing family shows so when David suggested making his novel into a musical, I thought, let’s go for it! Creating and commissioning new work is very much at the heart of the RSC’s mission, and a musical collaboration of this kind is the perfect celebration of all of that energy, talent and generosity coming together to create, what will hopefully be a really fantastic theatre experience for audiences of all ages.”

We’re beyond excited to be working with the RSC on our first musical theatre collaboration. We are both big fans of David’s books, so when he approached us about writing the soundtrack to a new musical version of The Boy in the Dress for the RSC, we were genuinely delighted. There’s a real freshness, cheekiness and heart to David’s writing which we’ve worked really hard to capture in the music. It’s been a really exciting and rewarding journey and we can’t wait to share the show with audiences when it premieres in Stratford-Upon-Avon this winter”.

The Boy In The Dress will show at RSC from 8 November 2019 - 8 March 2020.

Deputy Artistic Director, Erica Whyman, will curate a new season of work in the Swan Theatre including King John, directed by Eleanor Rhode; A Museum in Baghdad by Hannah Khalil, directed by Erica Whyman in a co-commission with Edinburgh’s Royal Lyceum Theatre; and The Whip by Juliet Gilkes Romero which will be directed by Kimberley Sykes.

Gregory Doran said “Continuing our commitment to producing theatre that is relevant to everyone, this season brings together perhaps Shakespeare’s most contemporary of history plays and three new works, each of which – in their own way - channel Shakespeare’s spirit through beautifully crafted storytelling, richness of character and looking in the eye the biggest questions of our time.

“Building on a successful tradition of new work created by the RSC for Christmas, we open our season with our new musical production of The Boy in the Dress, adapted by Mark Ravenhill, which I will direct. Based on the much-loved children’s novel, this funny and life-affirming story has been over six years in the making and features the coming-together of some of the UK’s best-loved creative talent: comic writer and performer, David Walliams, and chart-topping songwriters Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers. It’s a beautifully crafted story about football and fashion, and a passionate celebration of individuality.

“We are now two thirds of the way through our project to stage every Shakespeare play in the First Folio. For our 25th Shakespeare production in the canon, we welcome emerging talent Eleanor Rhode in her RSC debut directing King John in the Swan Theatre. When I directed this fascinating play in 2001, it was only the fourth time the play had been produced by the RSC in its entire history. Since then, it has been explored much more frequently which surely attests to a growing interest in how the play speaks to our world today.

“The cross-fertilisation of the classics and new writing has always been part of the RSC and Deputy Artistic Director Erica Whyman will curate a new season of plays to accompany King John in the Swan Theatre. Together, these plays shine a spotlight on two fascinating – if overlooked – moments in British imperial history: the founding of the nation-state of Iraq and the government bail-out of British slave-owners to secure the Abolition of Slavery Act in 1833. As with all great history plays, Hannah Khalil’s A Museum in Baghdad directed by Erica Whyman and Juliet Gilkes Romero’s The Whip directed by Kimberley Sykes demonstrate a deep respect for telling untold stories, exploring issues of power, responsibility and identity through the lens of a group of remarkable human beings, navigating their own place within a changing world.”

Deputy Artistic Director Erica Whyman added; “As we approach 2019, there’s no way of escaping the fact that we, as a nation, are looking long and hard at our position within the wider world, which is why it feels like an appropriate moment to reflect, not only upon the state of our own nation, but also upon what nationhood means to us today. Like Shakespeare’s King John, A Museum in Baghdad and The Whip are plays which aren’t afraid to confront big issues and ideas. What does it mean to be a post-imperial nation? Black-British? Middle Eastern British? Fundamentally, this is a season about what it means to be ‘British’ and what responsibility must we take for our past as we embark on an uncertain future.

“It’s particularly thrilling to have two ambitious, historical works by women performed alongside the epic yet intimate King John in the Swan Theatre. In doing so we are helping to ensure that new writing remains central to what we do and that we continue to channel the inquiring spirit of Shakespeare’s own age through the interrogation of our own history and place in the wider world, in all of its complexity and contradiction”.

First Encounters with Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice

Building on the success of the 2018 production of The Comedy of Errors, the RSC First Encounters with Shakespeare series continues with a new production of The Merchant of Venice directed and edited by Robin Belfield. The production will open at local schools followed by a week of performances in the Swan Theatre. The production will then embark upon a seven-week tour of schools and regional theatres across England. Adobe will co-present the 2019 tour which, for the first time, will include a digital learning experience through Adobe Spark and Creative Cloud.

For over a decade the RSC has been taking First Encounters productions - edited versions of the plays performed using Shakespeare’s original language - on the road into the heart of communities and they have been enjoyed by over 100,000 people to date.

In collaboration with our Regional Theatre Partners and Associate Schools, this production also sees 24 young actors from the RSC’s Next Generation Company take on the parts of Jessica and Lorenzo, the two young people caught up in a clash between family, money and culture. Next Generation ACT is made up of young people under the age of 18 who show a talent for performance but otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to develop it. Next Generation ACT is a national company with young people drawn from each of the English regions meaning that wherever the production plays, the roles of Jessica and Lorenzo will be taken by young people from that area.

Live at The RSC: Stand up Comedy

The RSC, in association with Underbelly, brings together some of the biggest names in UK stand-up comedy this Autumn as part of a fortnight of live performance on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage.

Underbelly last visited the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in 2015 with Comedy Hullabaloo, a five-day festival which saw over 5,000 visitors watch 25 of the UK’s best comedians in iconic and intimate settings across Stratford-upon-Avon.

The programme, which runs from Thurs 12 to Sat 21 September, forms part of Live at the RSC, which offers audiences the best in new music and comedy.

Past events have seen Al Murray, David Baddiel, Jenny Eclair and Russell Kane all taking to the RSC stages.

For more information rsc.org.uk