Casting is announced for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) forthcoming productions of Henry VI: Rebellion and Wars of the Roses running in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon between Friday 1 April and Saturday 4 June 2022.
This epic journey through The Wars of the Roses tells the vivid and enthralling story of the brutal struggle for the English crown.
As part of the RSC’s commitment to be a theatre company for everyone, Henry VI: Rebellion will include a cast of 120 people, including professional actors, adults from community groups from six English towns and cities, and members of the RSC’s young acting company.
Following their previous collaboration on the King & Country cycle of plays, and having most recently worked together to co-direct the Henry VI Part One: Open Rehearsal Project, directors Gregory Doran and Owen Horsley reunite to continue their journey through the final two parts of the Henry VI trilogy. Henry VI: Rebellion is directed by both Greg and Owen, and Wars of the Roses directed by Owen.
HENRY VI: REBELLION, 1 April-28 May 2022
Directed by Gregory Doran and Owen Horsley
Henry VI: Rebellion, a fresh new take on Henry VI: Part Two, hurtles through one of the most turbulent periods in English history, asking the question: can the people ever really decide their own future?
This play has the most characters of any Shakespeare play, and this production will feature, in total, a cast of 120 people. 25 professional actors (who will also appear in Wars of the Roses), including nine recent drama school graduates, will be joined by 95 members of the Royal Shakespeare Community gathered from across England: 74 adults from Blackpool, Bradford, Canterbury, Cornwall, Norwich and Nottingham who are part of the RSC’s Shakespeare Nation community participation programme, and 21 young performers aged 13-17 from the RSC’s Next Generation Act young acting company.
At each performance one of the six regional Shakespeare Nation groups and one of three Next Generation Act groups will perform alongside the professional acting company.
Owen Horsley, director, said: “Out of the 37 plays in the canon Henry VI Part Two – or as we are calling it, Henry VI: Rebellion – has more characters than any other play. There are 85 characters on the cast list, which may explain why these plays are rarely done. One of the reasons for this wide array of characters is a series of scenes that Shakespeare writes concerning the people of England, who in various ways interact with the royal family.
“This gave us an idea! For many years the RSC has built incredible relationships across the UK with partner theatres through Shakespeare Nation and our youth programme, Next Generation Act. After 18 months of developing these links online this production seemed the perfect opportunity to be ambitious. So, for the people of England, we have cast the people of England. This is an extremely exciting project as it allows this history play, written over 400 years ago, to respond directly to the state of the nation – and at points put over 50 people on the RSC stage.
“Another drive that is very close to the heart of the RSC is the training of young actors as they enter the industry. Over the last two years recent graduates have suffered immensely with classes and productions being taken online and/or they have entered an industry on pause. For these productions we met with over 100 graduates from across the country to deliver workshops and fight training, and from this have cast nine graduates into our company of 26 for Henry VI: Rebellion and Wars of the Roses.”
Mark Quartley and Mariah Gale return to the RSC
Following their appearance in the Henry VI Part One Open Rehearsal Project, Mark Quartley and RSC Associate Artist, Mariah Gale will return to play, respectively, Henry VI and Margaret in both Henry VI: Rebellion and Wars of the Roses.
Mark played Ariel in the RSC’s live motion-capture production of The Tempest in 2016, Other RSC credits include Maydays, Measure for Measure and Written on the Heart.
Mariah last appeared at the RSC playing Wendy in the 2015 production of Wendy and Peter Pan. Other RSC credits include Morte D’Arthur, The Comedy of Errors, As You Like It, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Julius Caesar and The Tempest.
The professional cast for Henry VI: Rebellion includes: Oliver Alvin-Wilson (York), Lucy Benjamin (Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester), Richard Cant (Gloucester/Lord Saye), Daniel J Carver (Clifford/Horner), Angelina Chudi (Hume), Paola Dionisotti (Winchester/Humphrey), Felixe Forde (Bevis), Mariah Gale (Margaret), Ashley D Gayle (Smith), Conor Glean (Dick), Ben Hall (Suffolk), Jack Humphrey (Clerk), Nicholas Karimi (Warwick), Al Maxwell (Bolingbroke/ Holland), Georgia-Mae Myers (Margaret Jourdain), Peter Moreton (Salisbury), Sophia Papadopoulos (Suffolk’s Messenger), Mark Quartley (Henry VI), Aaron Sidwell (Jack Cade), Yasmin Taheri (Neighbour), John Tate (Captain/Stafford), Ibraheem Toure (Whitmore), Emma Tracey (Spirit), Daniel Ward (Buckingham) and Benjamin Westerby (Somerset).
Recent drama school graduates make their RSC debut
Henry VI: Rebellion and Wars of the Roses will feature nine actors who graduated from drama school in 2020 or 2021. The RSC is passionate about encouraging new acting talent to engage with classical work and the Company, and often casts graduating actors in its productions. However the RSC recognised that those leaving in 2020 and 2021 were working in a period like no other, with the pandemic creating particular difficulties for them both during their training and by entering a deeply wounded industry.
Consequently the RSC decided to ringfence nine of the 26 roles in these productions for new graduates. Following the RSC’s casting team’s continual engagement with the work of these students throughout the last two years, over 165 graduates were invited to a series of text and fight workshops. A smaller group then attended one to one auditions, and the nine graduates from 2020/2021 who make their RSC debuts are:
Felixe Forde (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, 2020), Jack Humphrey (National Youth Theatre 2021), Al Maxwell (Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, 2020), Georgia-Mae Myers (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama 2021), Sophia Papadopoulos (LAMDA, 2021), John Tate (Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama 2020), Ibraheem Toure (East 15, 2021), Emma Tracey (Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, 2020) and Benjamin Westerby (RADA, 2021).
Adults and young people join the Rebellion
74 adults from Blackpool, Bradford, Canterbury, Cornwall, Norwich and Nottingham, will appear alongside the professional cast in Henry VI: Rebellion. They are part of Shakespeare Nation, a community participation programme run by the RSC and its partner theatres, aimed at engaging with people who have little or no experience of Shakespeare, either as a theatre-goer or performer.
Through their involvement in Shakespeare Nation and Henry VI: Rebellion, the hope is that they will develop a passion and enthusiasm for theatre and Shakespeare, and build their confidence and self-esteem. Some of the groups also include local Shakespeare Champions, who will work with the other participants to achieve these aims.
They will play the roles of working people who take part in the rebellion led by the character of Jack Cade against Henry VI, and townsfolk in a scene where Henry VI is out hunting.
Initially they will rehearse in their local theatres – The Grand Theatre Blackpool, The Alhambra Theatre Bradford, The Marlowe Theatre Canterbury, Hall for Cornwall Truro, Norwich Theatre and Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall Nottingham – before taking to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage from April, with each group appearing in around 4 performances. A list of participants is below.
They will be joined by 21 young people, split into three groups, from the RSC’s young acting company, Next Generation Act. Aged between 13-17 they are drawn from the RSC’s nationwide network of 222 Associate Schools, all with a talent for acting but from backgrounds that might restrict their chances of getting into the profession.
These young actors will play tradespeople and apprentices bringing their complaints to the King and court. They will also take part in the previously mentioned rebellion scene, led by Jack Cade.
The young people come from Barrow-in-Furness, Birmingham, Blackpool, Bradford, Canterbury, County Durham, Hull, Launceston (Cornwall), London, Middlesbrough, Northampton, Nottingham, Stoke-on-Trent and York.
The three groups will take part in different performances during the production’s run. A list of the young people taking part is below.
WARS OF THE ROSES, 11 April to 4 June 2022
Directed by Owen Horsley
Inspired by Henry VI Part Three, director Owen Horsley will present the dramatic conclusion to Shakespeare’s three-part Henry VI saga, Wars of the Roses.
In this thrilling climax to The Wars of the Roses, the tussle for the English crown escalates to the battlefield and the families of Lancaster and York drench their brutal conflict in sweat and blood. As power is shunted back and forth, there is deceit, betrayal and murder at every turn. The scene is set for the final chapter as we get our first glimpse of the villainous Duke of Gloucester – soon to become Richard III.
The cast includes: Oliver Alvin-Wilson (York), Lucy Benjamin (2nd Keeper/ Tutor), Richard Cant (Lieutenant/ King Lewis), Daniel J Carver (Clifford), Angelina Chudi (Lady Bona), Paola Dionisotti (Exeter), Felixe Forde (Richmond) Mariah Gale (Margaret), Ashley D Gayle (Edward), Conor Glean (Young Clifford), Ben Hall (George Clarence), Arthur Hughes (Richard, Duke of Gloucester), Jack Humphrey (Rivers), Nicholas Karimi (Warwick), Al Maxwell (Vernon), Peter Moreton (Salisbury/Father), Georgia-Mae Myers (French Messenger), Sophia Papadopoulos (Prince Edward), Mark Quartley (Henry VI), Aaron Sidwell (The Son), Yasmin Taheri (Elizabeth), John Tate (Hastings), Ibraheem Toure (Mob Leader), Emma Tracey (Rutland), Daniel Ward (Buckingham) and Benjamin Westerby (Somerset).
Henry VI: Rebellion and Wars of the Roses will feature Set Design by Stephen Brimson Lewis. He will be joined by Costume Designer Hannah Clark. Lighting Design is by Simon Spencer, RSC Associate Artist Paul Englishby returns to compose the music, with Sound Design by Steven Atkinson. Movement by Emily Jane Boyle, with fights by Rachel Bown-Williams & Ruth Cooper-Brown.
SHAKESPEARE NATION PARTICIPANTS PERFORMING IN HENRY VI: REBELLION
BLACKPOOL working with The Grand Theatre, Blackpool
Philip Avenell, Stephen Coughlan, Liz Curran, Stephen Foster, Seamus Graeme, Beccy Hands, Ross Hewitt, Mickey Horrocks, Roger Lloyd Jones, Wendy Stevenson, Martyn Woodcock and Jeananne Young
BRADFORD working with The Alhambra Theatre, Bradford
Rachel Brewin, Angela Buffham-Wheeler, Bradley Cook-Pattison, Kelly Harris, Ben Hopwood, Georgina Jovanovic, Elizabeth Lancaster, Ron Norman, Anthony Priestley, Diana Reed, Qaraman Saidzada and Corin Ward
CANTERBURY working with The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
Philip Baston, Debbie Christie, Caroline Clark, Sasha Douglas, Graeme Forbes, Matilda Jovanovic, Mary Onions, Wayne Rhodes, Chrissy Swain, Sarah Thurstan, Harrison Todd and Lynne Wright
CORNWALL working with Hall for Cornwall
Darcey Ball, Kate Barden, Simon Bennett, Adam Bowkett, Lily Burton, Tori Cannell, Lucie Dowling, Jonathan Groves, Guy Hanson, Emily Harrison, Kate Maciver-Redwood and Rosie Maciver-Redwood
NORWICH working with Norwich Theatre
Saint Ananda, Ed Cairns, Georgia Dimopoulou, David Fung, Etta Geras, Olli Gillo, Gina Irving, Mark Markham, Julian Newton, Aamer Raza, Helen Simpson, Katie Smith, Helen Wells and Jaime Willimott
NOTTINGHAM working with Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall Nottingham
Neil Brocklehurst, Julieanne Ford, Gavin Gordon, Anne Jennings, Yasmin Khan, Sally Maddison, Kathryn McAuley, John Merchant, Paul Robinson, Penny Shields, Diana Sule and Becky Valentine
NEXT GENERATION ACT PARTICIPANTS PERFORMING IN HENRY VI: REBELLION
Aaliya (15, Birmingham), Bailey (13, Blackpool), Callum (16, Stoke on Trent), Dee (17, Launceston, Cornwall), Emerode (14, Bradford), Harli (16, Nottingham), Olly (16, Launceston, Cornwall), Oscar (15, Birmingham),
Adam (14, Bradford), Lily (14, York), Jerminah (17, County Durham), Kay (17 Hull), Kingston (13, Barrow-in-Furness), Paige (16, Middlesbrough), Scout (17, Bradford)
Abdul (16, London), Dorcas (17, Northampton), Halima (16, London), Holly (16, Northampton), Olivia (16, Canterbury), Shefit (14, Northampton).