The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and Neal Street Productions, in association with Hera Pictures, have today announced casting for the world-premiere of Maggie O’Farrell’s Hamnet adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti and directed by RSC Acting Artistic Director Erica Whyman.
The hotly anticipated production will make its world premiere in the newly restored Swan theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon this April, after selling out its eleven-week run.
This production marks the official re-opening of the Swan Theatre for the first time in over three years following the pandemic and a period of major refurbishment which began in January 2022
Making her RSC debut in the role of Agnes Hathaway is Madeleine Mantock, with Tom Varey playing William Shakespeare, also making his RSC debut. Peter Wight returns to the RSC for the first time since 1997 to play John/Will Kempe.
The company also includes; Sarah Belcher (Joan), Will Brown (Burbage/Father John), Haydn Burke (Ensemble), Ajani Cabey (Hamnet/Thomas Day) Faye Campbell (Ensemble), Frankie Hastings (Eliza), Karl Haynes (Ned), Alex Jarrett (Judith), Hannah McPake (Jude), Rose Riley (Tilly/Caterina), Elizabeth Rider (Mary), Harmony Rose-Bremner (Susanna) and Obioma Ugoala (Bartholomew).
Lolita Chakrabarti said; “Writing this play was made even more challenging due to the huge impact Maggie O’Farrell’s novel has had. Every reader seems to have a very personal relationship to this story. Shakespeare is studied, examined and lauded across the world and at times, it has felt presumptuous of me to add my own flavour to this iconic man. When I began researching sixteenth century Stratford and London I was instantly drawn to the diversity in England at that time. It no longer surprises me that there were all kinds of people here. That is how the world works – immigration has always been a reality and as expected, many of those people integrated into British society.
There are limited facts about Agnes/Anne Hathaway but I love playing with history and fiction and moulding them together so that one informs the other. It is a great privilege to look at the Shakespeares through my detailed research and personal lens. This woman behind the playwright is a fascinating character and after studying Maggie’s book, it is clear to me now that her son was the inspiration for one of our greatest pieces of English literature.”
Warwickshire, 1582. Agnes Hathaway, a natural healer, meets the Latin tutor, William Shakespeare. Drawn together by powerful but hidden impulses, they create a life together and make a family.
As William moves to London to discover his place in the world of theatre, Agnes stays at home to raise their three children but she is the constant presence and purpose of his life.
When the plague steals 11-year-old Hamnet from his loving parents, they must each confront their loss alone. And yet, out of the greatest suffering, something of extraordinary wonder is born.
The production is adapted for the stage by award-winning playwright Lolita Chakrabarti, whose writing credits include Red Velvet, Invisible Cities, Hymn, The Goddess and the award-winning stage adaptation of Yann Martel’s Booker Prize winning novel Life of Pi (winner of five Olivier awards including Best New Play, 2022) which transfers to Broadway’s Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre from the American Repertory Theatre in Boston in March 2023. She was also dramaturg on Message in a Bottle, curated The Greatest Wealth at The Old Vic, for which she wrote a monologue and is dramaturg on new musical Sylvia at The Old Vic.
Hamnet is directed by Erica Whyman, who is Acting Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Hamnet marks Erica’s twelfth production for the Company, having first joined the RSC in January 2013 as Deputy Artistic Director.
The production will feature Set and Costume Design by Tom Piper, Lighting by Prema Mehta, Sound by Xana, Music by Oğuz Kaplangi, Casting by Amy Ball CDG, Movement by Ayse Tashkiran and Fights by Kate Waters.