What Country Friends is This? casting

14 November 2011

The Royal Shakespeare Company casts its trilogy of plays – The Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night and The Tempest – as part of the World Shakespeare Festival.

What Country Friends is This? Supported by BP

The first RSC productions in the World Shakespeare Festival are three plays cross-cast within one acting company and one shared environment; creating a world of shipwrecks, grief, laughter, love and reunion.

Led by RSC Associate Director David Farr, this ensemble company of RSC actors stages a major cycle of plays exploring migration, exile, and the discovery of brave new worlds.

All three cross-cast productions share the same creative team and play in repertoire in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. They will also perform at The Roundhouse in London during the summer of 2012.

David Farr said of the trilogy: 'In this shipwreck trilogy we are exploring the recurrent obsessions of Shakespeare with migration, exile and the discovery of yourself through others. Amir Nizar Zuabi (directing The Comedy of Errors) and I are both keen to interrogate these in a modern context and we have chosen to use a shared design environment (by Jon Bausor) to do so.

'In these plays again and again Shakespeare returns to the image of man or woman as a drop in the ocean seeking another drop. He describes love and passion as being like the sea, and he sees in shipwreck the destruction and the revival of the self. For a man who appears never to have left his country he travelled far in his imagination. I look forward to continuing that journey with the wonderful cast we have with us, from great RSC actors such as Jon Slinger and Nick Day to the unique Palestinian performer Amer Hlehel.'

Jonathan Slinger continues with the RSC, taking on three roles - as Dr Pinch in The Comedy of Errors, Malvolio in Twelfth Night and Prospero in The Tempest. He played major roles in Michael Boyd's History Cycle in 2008/9 and most recently playing the title role in Boyd's production of Macbeth in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, and Lenny in The Homecoming in the Swan as part of the RSC's 50th Birthday season this year.

Emily Taaffe makes her RSC debut as Viola in Twelfth Night and Miranda in The Tempest. Her most recent theatre roles were for the National Theatre in The Veil, The Cherry Orchard and Nation. Other work in theatre includes: Translations, Memory Cells, The Crucible, The House of Special Purpose, Rock 'n' Roll, Three Sisters and Intemperance. She has also appeared in The Borgias and Doctors on television.

Amer Hlehel makes his RSC debut, coming from Palestine where he works with the ShiberHur company. He has appeared in Amir Nizar Zuabi's recent productions at the Young Vic and has also appeared in Palestinian films including The Time That Remains, Amreeka and the Golden Globe award winning Paradise Now.

The Comedy of Errors
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Amir Nizar Zuabi
Royal Shakespeare Theatre: 16 March – 14 May 2012 and 16 July – 6 October 2012
The Roundhouse: 1 June – 4 July 2012

Shakespeare's joyful comedy of mistaken identity follows the fortunes of two sets of identical twins, accidentally separated at birth, then miraculously thrown together again. In a town the size of Ephesus, events like these can only lead to confusion.

The Comedy of Errors is directed by Amir Nizar Zuabi. Founder of the Palestinian theatre company ShiberHur, his productions for them include In The Penal Colony (Young Vic) and I Am Yusuf And This Is My Brother (Young Vic), which he wrote and directed.

The cast includes:
Ankur Bahl, Sarah Belcher (Luce), Amie Burns Walker (Courtesan), Kirsty Bushell (Adrianna), Nicholas Day (Egeon), Sandy Grierson (Solinus), Stephen Hagan (Antipholus of Ephesus), Felix Hayes (Dromio of Ephesus), Amer Hlehel (Balthazar), Solomon Israel, Jan Knightley (First Merchant), Bruce Mackinnon (Dromio of Syracuse), Jonathan McGuinness (Antipholus of Syracuse), Kevin McMonagle (Second Merchant), Cecilia Noble (Abbess), Jonathan Slinger (Dr Pinch), Emily Taaffe (Luciana) and Sargon Yelda (Angelo).

The production is designed by Jon Bausor with lighting by Jon Clark, music and sound by Christopher Shutt and movement by Fin Walker.

Twelfth Night
By William Shakespeare
Directed by David Farr
Royal Shakespeare Theatre: 8 March – 15 May 2012 and 12 July – 6 October 2012
The Roundhouse: 5 June – 5 July 2012

Shipwrecked on the shores of a strange land, Viola believes her twin brother Sebastian drowned. Disguising herself as a boy to work in the court of Duke Orsino, she finds herself a go-between for the man she serves and the woman who refuses to love him.

David Farr directs both Twelfth Night and The Tempest. David is a playwright, screenwriter and stage director, whose plays have been performed all over the world. In recent years he has moved into film and television and recently co-wrote the film Hanna. Formerly Artistic Director of London's Lyric Theatre and Bristol Old Vic, he is now Associate Director of the RSC and his latest play, The Heart of Robin Hood, premieres in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on 18 November 2011.

The same creative team work on all three productions. Jon Bausor is the designer, Jon Clark designs the lighting. Sound is by Christopher Shutt and the music for this particular production is by Adem Ilhan.

The cast includes: Ankur Bahl (Curio), Sarah Belcher (Chambermaid), Amie Burns Walker (Chambermaid), Kirsty Bushell (Olivia), Nicholas Day (Sir Toby Belch), Sandy Grierson (Captain), Stephen Hagan (Sebastian), Felix Hayes (Fabian), Amer Hlehel (Security Guard), Solomon Israel (Officer). Jan Knightley (Antonio), Bruce Mackinnon (Sir Andrew Aguecheek), Jonathan McGuinness (Orsino), Kevin McMonagle (Feste), Cecilia Noble (Maria), Jonathan Slinger (Malvolio), Emily Taaffe (Viola), and Sargon Yelda (Valentine).

The Tempest
By William Shakespeare
Directed by David Farr
Royal Shakespeare Theatre: 30 March – 19 May 2012 and 13 July – 7 October 2012
The Roundhouse: 9 June – 5 July 2012

Prospero is usurped from his position as Duke of Milan and cast away with his daughter Miranda to a remote island. Twelve years later, and intent on revenge, he raises a magical tempest that shipwrecks his enemies on his shores. What begins as a search for retribution develops into a journey of acceptance and compassion in Shakespeare's final play.

The cast includes: Ankur Bahl (Spirit), Sarah Belcher (Spirit), Amie Burns Walker (Spirit), Kirsty Bushell (Sebastian), Nicholas Day (Gonzalo), Sandy Grierson (Ariel), Stephen Hagan (Francisco), Felix Hayes (Trinculo), Amer Hlehel (Caliban), Solomon Israel (Ferdinand), Jan Knightley (Boatswain/Spirit), Bruce Mackinnon (Stephano), Jonathan McGuinness (Antonio), Kevin McMonagle (Alonso), Cecilia Noble (Spirit), Jonathan Slinger (Prospero), Emily Taaffe (Miranda) and Sargon Yelda (Adrian).

Press Performances (please note some of these are matinees)

The Comedy of Errors Wednesday 25 April 2012, 1pm
Twelfth Night Wednesday 25 April 2012, 7pm
The Tempest Tuesday 1 May 2012, 1pm

The Comedy of Errors Wednesday 13 June 2012, 7pm
Twelfth Night Thursday 14 June 2012, 1pm
The Tempest Thursday 14 June 2012, 7pm

For further information, please contact philippa.harland@rsc.org.uk or nada.zakula@rsc.org.uk or 01789 412622
For further general information about the World Shakespeare Festival, please contact Elsie.king@rsc.org.uk
For press tickets, please contact dean.asker@rsc.org.uk or 01789 412660
Box Office: 0844 800 1110

Notes to Editors

About BP and its cultural support in the UK
BP's support for arts and culture goes back more than 30 years and includes long-term partnerships with the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Opera House and Tate Britain. As a Premier Partner of the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival, BP is continuing its commitment to UK arts and culture.
Working with LOCOG and its arts partners, BP is helping to deliver several programmes and events that will inspire young people and provide opportunities for everyone across the UK to be part of London 2012. These include: the World Shakespeare Festival with the British Museum and Royal Shakespeare Company; BP Portrait Award: Next Generation with the National Portrait Gallery; The Olympic Journey: The Story of the Games with the Royal Opera House and The Olympic Museum; and The Tate Movie Project with Tate, Legacy Trust UK and the BBC.

The World Shakespeare Festival (WSF) is a celebration of Shakespeare as the world's playwright, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, in an unprecedented collaboration with leading UK and international arts organizations, and with Globe to Globe, a major international programme produced by Shakespeare's Globe. It runs from 12 April to November and forms part of London 2012 Festival which is the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad, bringing leading artists from all over the world together in a UK-wide festival in the summer of 2012.
For further details http://www.worldshakespearefestival.org.uk/

The World Shakespeare Festival is supported by BP, as founding Presenting Partner, and by the National Lottery through the Olympic Lottery Distributor and Arts Council England.

Social media links at www.facebook.com/worldshakespearefestival and www.twitter.com/wsf2012

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