Royal Shakespeare Company Announce Winter Season 2020

Royal Shakespeare Company Announce Winter Season 2020

The Royal Shakespeare Company have today announced their winter season, including the next step of their campaign to cover all of the Bard’s work. Read on to find out more!

On announcing the RSC’s Winter 2020 season Gregory Doran, RSC Artistic Director, said: “When I became Artistic Director, I wanted to stage every Shakespeare play in the canon once. We are more than two thirds of the way through that journey, which will conclude at the end of 2021. 

“We began with Richard II in 2013, developing the History cycle with the two Henry IVs and Henry V. We played all four shows as one cycle in London and New York, and took the productions to China, the first time the plays had ever been performed there. This journey now continues with The Wars of the Roses, our two-part staging of Shakespeare’s epic history cycle which he wrote as Henry VI Parts 1, 2 and 3. If you want to understand the dangerous world we live in, with its divisive politics, the rise of demagoguery and the threat of despotism, then you need look no further than Shakespeare’s early history plays.

“The beautifully crafted storytelling of Kate DiCamillo’s The Magician’s Elephant and the mischievous comedy of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, directed by Robin Belfield ensure that Shakespeare’s spirit of interrogation, invention and creativity is alive and well in the most exciting creative voices of today.”

Royal Shakespeare Theatre

The world stage premiere of a new musical adaptation of The Magician’s Elephant, based on the novel by international best-selling author, Kate DiCamillo, builds on a successful tradition of new work created by the RSC for family audiences at Christmas.

The Magician’s Elephant tells the story of orphan Peter Augustus Duchenne, who lives a frugal life in the lonely town of Baltese. Then one day, a magician conjures an elephant from the sky. The animal’s appearance sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that it changes Baltese forever. Peter is catapulted into the quest of his life, overturning everything he ever thought he knew, and discovering that happiness can come from the most unexpected places.

This new adaptation of Kate DiCamillo’s heart-breaking and darkly magical children’s book by Nancy Harris and Marc Teitler will be directed by Sarah Tipple, Associate Director to Gregory Doran on The Boy in the Dress based on the novel by David Walliams. The production will feature design by Colin Richmond whose previous RSC credits include Wendy and Peter Pan and Vice Versa, with lighting by Oliver Fenwick. The role of Peter will be played by Jack Wolfe, whose theatre credits include Sweeny Todd (Lyric Belfast), Pinocchio (National Theatre) and The Witcher (Netflix). The production will run from 29 October 2020 – 17 January 2021 in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Nancy Harris and Marc Teitler said: ”We were hugely excited by the epic world Kate DiCamillo created in The Magician’s Elephant – its fluid, unexpected leaps, larger-than-life characters and darkly comic, fairy tale quality immediately suggested a highly musical and visual approach to the story-telling. And while we’re thrilled at the prospect of creating a mesmerising theatrical experience for RSC audiences, it’s the emotional truth and compassion at the heart of the story that really resonates with us and is what makes it an urgent and hopeful one for our time.”

Kate DiCamillo said: “The story of The Magician’s Elephant began, for me, with a vision of a magician on a stage conjuring an elephant — a real elephant — by mistake. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but that image of the two of them together on a stage haunted me. Imagine, then, how thrilled I am to have the brilliant Royal Shakespeare Company make that image that haunted me come to life on a stage. I wrote The Magician’s Elephant during a dark time, personally, and it seemed miraculous to me that the story could lead me through grief and to the other side of it — to love and forgiveness. I hope and believe with all of myself that this production will inspire those same feelings of love, forgiveness (and joy) in audiences.”

Swan Theatre

As the Royal Shakespeare Company continues its journey through the complete canon of Shakespeare’s work, Owen Horsley directs The Wars of the Roses with RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran, an epic event staging Henry VI Parts 1, 2 and 3 in two performances to tell the vivid and enthralling story of the brutal struggle for the English crown.

The three Henry VI plays will be presented by one company of actors across two performances in a newly configured Swan Theatre from 10 October 2020 – 2 January 2021. The Swan Theatre auditorium will have an exciting new format for the staging of The Wars of the Roses with new grandstand seating and 100 standing arena spaces to give audiences the opportunity to immerse themselves in the action. Seating in Galleries 1 and 2 will remain unchanged. The story will conclude in 2021 with Richard III, further details to be announced.

This epic journey through The Wars of the Roses will see Gregory Doran re-unite with director Owen Horsley, whose most recent productions for the RSC include a new adaptation of David Edgar’s post-war masterpiece Maydays in 2018 and a visually striking adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s Salome in 2017. Owen last worked alongside Gregory between 2013-2015 as Associate Director on the critically acclaimed King and Country cycle featuring Richard II, Henry IV Parts I and II and Henry V.

The Wars of the Roseswill be designed by RSC Director of Design Stephen Brimson Lewis. He will be joined by Costume Designer Hannah Clark, whose recent credits for the RSC include Justin Audibert’s 2019 gender-flipped production of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. RSC Associate Artist Paul Englishby returns to compose the music with fights by Rachel Bown-Williams & Ruth Cooper-Brown.

Gregory Doran said: “Every time the RSC mounts these plays they strike powerful chords. This ferociously vivid account of the brutal struggle for the English Crown will without doubt strike different resonances deep in its audiences’ consciousness today. It’s a story of saints and psychopaths, of power and corruption, of then and now.”

Shakespeare for Everyone:

The RSC First Encounters with Shakespeare series returns in September 2020 with a new production of Twelfth Night,directed and edited by Robin Belfield.

For over a decade the RSC has taken First Encounters productions – edited versions of the plays performed using Shakespeare’s original language – on the road into the heart of communities. They have been enjoyed by over 100,000 people to date and are an important part of the RSC’s national engagement work which is rooted in a long-term commitment to different regions around the country. Through deep partnerships with schools and theatres across England, RSC activity provides pathways for young people, teachers, artists and schools to develop their skills and knowledge.

The production will open at local schools followed by performances in the Swan Theatre, before embarking upon a seven-week tour of partner schools and regional theatres across England.

This production will be created in collaboration with the RSC’s Regional Theatre Partners and Associate Schools, enabling young people to experience Shakespeare for the first time, not simply as audience members but as theatre makers. Robin Belfield and the creative team will respond to young people’s ideas, opinions and creativity, from the way the production addresses key themes that strike a chord with young lives, to the way the production is created with a focus on being environmentally responsible.

All performances of Twelfth Night willbe chilled performances offering a welcoming, safe environment for everyone to encounter Shakespeare for the first time.

RSC Director of Education, Jacqui O’Hanlon, said: “Our national partnerships with schools and theatres are at the heart of our mission to make Shakespeare’s work with and for everyone. This production of Twelfth Night will take us into communities across the country, inviting them to participate in the making of the play as well as experience the performance itself. We know this approach creates the kinds of memories that last a life-time for children, their families and teachers and, at a time when arts experiences feel in jeopardy, we are looking forward to making this production  with children and teachers who might otherwise not have access to it.”

The Winter’s Tale on tour

Following its opening in Stratford-upon-Avon alongside The Comedy of Errors and Pericles this Summer, The Winter’s Tale will embark on a national tour in January 2021. Confirmed venues include Salford Lowry in January 2021 and then Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, Canterbury Marlowe Theatre and Newcastle-upon-Tyne Theatre Royal.

As part of the RSC’s commitment to make Shakespeare for everyone, this season will see the RSC continue broadcasting every Shakespeare play in the canon to cinemas across the UK with a recorded performance of The Wars of the Roses Parts 1 and 2 scheduled for screening in 2021. Full details of future Live From Stratford-upon-Avon screenings to be confirmed.

Winter Revel

On 30 and 31 October, the RSC will open its doors to intrepid revellers for a haunting all-night party inspired by the ghosts and gore of Shakespeare’s MacbethSomethingWicked: A Halloween Revelwill see the Royal Shakespeare Company buildings transform with a bewitching programme of live pop-up performances, midnight feasting, immersive storytelling and live music culminating in an all-night sleepover at The Other Place.

Something Wicked: A Halloween Revel is a unique way for audiences to experience the RSC. Full programme details coming soon.


Kate DiCamillo’s

The Magician’s Elephant

A New Musical by Nancy Harris and Marc Teitler

29 October 2020 – 17 January 2021

“Magic is always impossible.  That’s what makes it magic.”

Baltese is a town where nothing extraordinary ever happens. Recovering from a recent war, it is a lonely place, where young Peter lives a frugal life. Then one day, a magician conjures an elephant from the sky, whose appearance sets off a chain of events so remarkable, so impossible, that it changes Baltese forever. Peter is catapulted into the quest of his life, overturning everything he ever thought he knew, and discovering that happiness can come from the most unexpected places.

This brand-new musical for all the family reminds us that even the impossible can be possible when we open our eyes and hearts to those around us

Director Sarah Tipple

Designer Colin Richmond

Lighting Oliver Fenwick

Something Wicked: A Halloween Revel

30 & 31 October

Will you survive until the witching hour? A haunting, all-night party for adults only, inspired by the ghosts and gore of Macbeth.

The event will start with a ‘pre-party’ in The Other Place with costume making, blood guts and gore, cocktail making, face painting, glitzy dressing room exhibitions of archive materials, music and a screening of the 1976 McKellen and Dench Macbeth in the The Other Place studio.

At 11pm guests will be invited to process in their bloody finery down to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre where the party really gets started – a midnight feast: Banquo’s Banquet, immersive performances, an escape room, a witches rave cave, pepper’s ghost hauntings and ghost stories in the tower.

Those brave enough to sleepover are invited to stay on into the small hours for an exclusive all-night experience featuring a haunted backstage tour, storytelling plus plenty of creepy happenings throughout the night.


The Wars of the Roses Part 1 and Part 2

Henry VI Parts 1, 2 and 3 told in two parts

William Shakespeare

10 October 2020 – 2 January 2021

The glorious Henry V is dead.

The new King is weak, manipulated by those on his own side and threatened with civil war by those in opposition. As the factions fight for power, England descends from decency into barbarism as all around the crown seek to seize it for their personal gain.

Filled with passion, politics and revenge, The Wars of the Roses is the ultimate saga. Experience the thrill of rebellion, the brutality of battle, the tension of intrigue and ambition without boundaries, as Shakespeare hurls you headlong through one of the most turbulent periods of English history.

The Wars of the Roses is supported by RSC Production Circle Members The Hitz Foundation and Marcia Whitaker.

Director Owen Horsley with Gregory Doran

Designer Stephen Brimson Lewis

Costume Designer Hannah Clark

Music Paul Englishby

Fights Rachel Bown-Williams and Ruth Cooper-Brown

First Encounters with Shakespeare: Twelfth Night

William Shakespeare

Edited by Robin Belfield

24-26 September 2020

Shipwrecked and separated from her twin brother, Viola washes up on a strange shore and into an even stranger situation.

Disguising herself as a man called Cesario, Viola finds work with Duke Orsino, only to fall head over heels in love with him. But Orsino is in love with Olivia, who is grieving for her brother and refusing all romance. Until, that is, she sees Cesario for the first time.

Add one ambitious butler and some practical joking servants and you have a hilarious story of heartbreak, hoaxes and hidden identities.

Our First Encounters productions are created especially to give 7-13 year olds a fantastic first experience of Shakespeare whilst also being brilliant introductions for anyone new to his work. Using edited versions of the original language, they bring his texts to life on stage in just 90 minutes.

Director Robin Belfield


Matt has been writing on all manner of subjects for over 15 years. He has written for a number of music magazines, made appearances on BBC Introducing and regularly contributed to local newspapers. These days he mostly writes about rugby and is passionate about providing insight into women's rugby! He also writes on theatre and regularly reviews shows across the south.

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