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The Royal Shakespeare Company has today announced further casting for its forthcoming double-bill of Restoration plays, John Vanbrugh’s The Provoked Wife and Thomas Otway’s Venice Preserved. The Provoked Wife, directed by Phillip Breen, plays in repertoire from the 2 May 2019 with Venice Preserved, directed by Prasanna Puwanarajah, running from 24 May 2019 in the Swan Theatre.


By John Vanbrugh

Directed by Phillip Breen

Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 2 May - 7 Sep 2019

Press night: Thursday 9 May, 7pm

Rufus Hound will return to the RSC company as Constant in The Provoked Wife. Rufus last appeared at the RSC as Sancho Panza in the acclaimed 2016 production of Don Quixote in the Swan Theatre, which transferred to the Garrick Theatre in 2018.

One of the nation’s favourite comic personalities, Rufus Hound has forged a career for himself as a leading comedian and TV presenter. Alongside appearances on Trollied, Drunk History and The Apprentice: You’re Fired, Rufus established his own sitcom on CBBC called Hounded. Previous theatre credits include Dusty (Tour); Present Laughter (Chichester); Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Savoy Theatre); One Man Two Guv'nors (National Theatre/West End) and Utopia (Soho Theatre).

Les Dennis will make his RSC debut as Colonel Bully in Phillip Breen’s riotous new production of John Vanbrugh’s restoration comedy The Provoked Wife, and as Priuli in Prasanna Puwanarajah’s new production of Thomas Otway’s Venice Preserved.

Les first came to prominence as a comedian in the 1970s after a winning set on Opportunity Knocks.  He became a stalwart of Saturday Night TV, in the 80s and 90s starring in TV comedies including The Russ Abbott Show and The Les Dennis Laughter Show performing sketches and impressions, and most famously as the host of Family Fortunes between 1987 and 2002 on ITV.

His most recent work includes End of the Pier at the Park Theatre, for which he was nominated for the OFFIE award for ‘Best Male in a Play’. Further credits include Uncle Fester in the UK Tour of The Addams Family and The Miracle of Great Homer Street at Liverpool’s Royal Court.

They join the previously announced Alexandra Gilbreath (Lady Brute), Caroline Quentin (Lady Fancyfull) and Jonathan Slinger (Sir John Brute) in a riotous new production of the outspoken restoration romp that shocked 17th century society, directed by Phillip Breen (The Hypocrite, The Shoemaker's Holiday, The Merry Wives of Windsor).

Phillip Breen said; “I am incredibly excited to be working with the RSC once again and this talented ensemble of actors. This company brings together a first-class line-up of established comic talent with some of the most exciting young actors I have seen making their professional debut on the RSC stage. The Provoked Wife is an utterly unique comedy. With echoes of Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, Nina Raine's Consent and Noel Coward’s Private Lives, John Vanbrugh’s outspoken and – at times – scandalous comedy of marriage is hilarious, sharp and disturbing in equal measure”.

The full cast of The Provoked Wife includes: Pete Ashmore (Servant/Porter), Isabel Adomakoh Young (Cornet), Les Dennis (Colonel Bully), Natalie Dew (Bellinda), Polly Edsell (Lovewell), Alexandra Gilbreath (Lady Brute), Kevin N Golding (Justice), Alison Halstead (Constable), John Hodgkinson (Heartfree), Rufus Hound (Constant), Nickcolia King-N'Da (Tailor), Steve Nicolson (Rasor), Carl Prekopp (Lord Rake), Caroline Quentin (Lady Fancyfull), Ben Roddy (Servant/Watch), Jonathan Slinger (Sir John Brute), Rosalind Steele (Pipe), Sarah Twomey (Mademoiselle) and Toby Webster (Treble).

Lady Brute is tired of her tedious, loveless marriage and her tedious, drunk husband. When she decides to spice up her love life with a younger man, scandal threatens to ruin her.                                                                                                                                                                                                 

The Provoked Wife is designed by Mark Bailey, with lighting by Tina MacHugh, music by Paddy Cunneen, sound by Dyfan Jones, movement by Ayse Tashkiran and fights by Renny Krupinski.


By Thomas Otway

Directed by Prasanna Puwanarajah

Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 24 May - 7 Sep 2019

Press night: Thursday 30 May, 7pm

Returning to the RSC in the role of Jaffeir is Michael Grady-Hall, whose previous credits for the company include Imperium I & II, Oppenheimer, The Shoemaker’s Holiday, As You Like It and Hamlet.  He will join the previously announced Jodie McNee as Belvidera who was last seen at the RSC in Roxana Silbert’s 2013 production of A Life of Galileo, Mark Ravenhill’s new translation of Brecht’s play.

Following his roles in Twelfth Night, Love’s Labour’s Lost and Much Ado About Nothing John Hodgkinson returns to the RSC to play Antonio in Prasanna Puwanarajah’s savage political thriller. Aquilina will be played by Natalie Dew. Her previous theatre credits include Arabian Nights for the RSC, Twelfth Night (Young Vic), Bend It Like Beckham (Phoenix Theatre) and Romeo and Juliet (National Theatre).

Prasanna Puwanarajah added; “Venice Preserved has been in my head for the past 8 years and it has never felt more apposite than now; it’s a thrilling, hot shard of Restoration noir about idiots in power versus the seismic political movements and moments that pull a city - and relationships - to pieces. I’m thrilled to be directing at the RSC for the first time, and for it to be this extraordinary play, and I’m excited by the company we’ve formed; new faces of all ages will play alongside RSC veterans, making this a great opportunity to see incredible performers climb into one of the great verse tragedies."

The cast of Venice Preserved also includes: Isabel Adomakoh Young (Spinosa), Pete Ashmore (Theodore), Les Dennis (Priuli), Natalie Dew (Aquilina), Polly Edsell (Brabe), Kevin N Golding (Duke), Michael Grady-Hall (Jaffeir), Alison Halstead (Bedamar), John Hodgkinson (Antonio), Nickcolia King-N'Da (Brainveil), Jodie McNee (Belvidera), Steve Nicolson (Renault), Carl Prekopp (Eliot), Ben Roddy (Officers), Rosalind Steele (Aquilina's Maid), Sarah Twomey (Waiter), Toby Webster (Durand).

Driven by love and revenge, two disaffected noblemen join a revolutionary movement to overthrow the corrupt leaders of their failed city state. But the conspirators they join are as corrupt as those in power, and their friendship is torn to pieces in the furnace of love.

This will be Prasanna’s Puwanarajah’s first time directing for the RSC, having previously acted in Gregory Doran’s Twelfth Night in 2010, the National Theatre’s production of Absolute Hell and in the hit TV shows Doctor Foster and Patrick Melrose. 

Venice Preserved is designed by James Cotterill with lighting by Jack Knowles, sound by George Dennis, Movement by Polly Bennett, fights by Kate Waters and video by Nina Dunn.


Notes to Editors

For further information, please contact 01789 412 622

For press tickets please contact 01789 412 660

To book tickets call 01789 331 111 or online at 

The Royal Shakespeare Company creates theatre at its best, made in Stratford-upon-Avon and shared around the world.  We produce an inspirational artistic programme each year, setting Shakespeare in context, alongside the work of his contemporaries and today’s writers.   

Everyone at the RSC - from actors to armourers, musicians to technicians - plays a part in creating the world you see on stage.  All our productions begin life at our Stratford workshops and theatres and we bring them to the widest possible audience through our touring, residencies, live broadcasts and online activity. So wherever you experience the RSC, you experience work made in Shakespeare’s home town.  

We have trained generations of the very best theatre makers and we continue to nurture the talent of the future. We encourage everyone to enjoy a lifelong relationship with Shakespeare and live theatre.  We reach 530,000 children and young people annually through our education work, transforming their experiences in the classroom, in performance and online.  Registered charity no. 212481


Arts Council England is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

The RSC Acting Companies are generously supported by THE GATSBY CHARITABLE FOUNDATION and THE KOVNER FOUNDATION

The Provoked Wife is supported by RSC Production Circle member Lord Carrington DL

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