Twenty-four ‘extras’ from across the Midlands will appear on stage as Lear’s knights, soldiers and vagrants.

The extras, who come from Birmingham, Kenilworth, Solihull, Atherstone and Stratford-upon-Avon appear in several scenes in the show, which is directed by our Artistic Director Gregory Doran, and features Antony Sher in the title role.

Group photo of Lear's Knights
© RSC – Image Licensing

Back in June, we put out a call asking for people to get involved in the show. We held ‘taster’ workshops with took place, involving movement, acting, singing and fight sessions, to give those interested a glimpse of what the experience would entail. From the 140 people who applied, 24 will appear in alternate performances in two groups of 12.

They include a local government officer from Birmingham; a warehouse logistics officer in Atherstone; a Customer Services advisor for Royal Mail from Kenilworth; a school groundsman from Solihull; and a rowing coach from Stratford-upon-Avon.

Gregory explains: “Lear often refers to his ‘one hundred knights’ but rarely do we get to see full their riotous presence on stage. We wanted the audience to experience what his daughter Goneril has to go through when entertaining his ‘insolent retinue’ and maybe understand why she would want to cast him and his people out into the storm. It felt like a wonderful opportunity to engage with the local community, to bring to life these ‘debauched and bold’ knights. It is going to be very exciting to watch our supporting cast of 24 Midlanders bring a new energy and life to one of Shakespeare’s most celebrated plays.”

King Lear plays in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre until 15 October, and is broadcast live in cinemas on 12 October.

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