The stage production of Hamnet will transfer direct to London’s Garrick Theatre this autumn after selling out ahead of its world premiere at the newly restored Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon this April.
The production will run for a limited 14-week season from Saturday 30 September 2023 – Saturday 6 January 2024 with a press performance on Thursday 12 October 2023.
The RSC has worked in partnership with Neal Street Productions, one of the UK’s most respected production companies, producing film, television and theatre. The novel was first optioned by Hera Pictures who together with Neal Street secured the rights to bring Maggie `O’Farrell’s celebrated novel to the stage.
Maggie O’Farrell said: “It’s wonderful and welcome news that Hamnet will transfer to the Garrick Theatre later this year. I was astonished at how fast the Stratford-upon-Avon tickets sold and it’s lovely to know that more people will have the chance to see it in its new London home. It has been a joy from start to finish to work with the RSC, Hera Pictures, Neal Street Productions, director Erica Whyman and playwright Lolita Chakrabarti on bringing this adaptation into being. I have been lucky enough to attend rehearsals, and to have a glimpse into the creative process of transposing a novel into a play has been fascinating. The cast are fantastic, each and every one, and are breathing new life into the story for its stage version. The motivation, for me, in writing the novel was to give a voice and a presence to the only son of William Shakespeare, who died when he was eleven and has ever since been relegated to a literary footnote in his father’s biography. Although Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon and maintained strong ties with the town throughout his life, choosing to return to his family there when he retired, London was of course the centre of his professional life. It feels particularly apt and moving, therefore, that a play which puts Hamnet centre stage will now move to the world of theatrical London.”
Lolita Chakrabarti said, “I am beyond excited that Hamnet is transferring, following the sell-out run at the Swan. It has been a real journey to adapt Maggie’s beautiful, deep novel, but this is a story of the joys and trials of family life, so it has been very familiar as well. This play is, in part, about William Shakespeare, but it is mainly about Agnes Hathaway, the wife who gave him three children. It is the imagined story of their life. It feels right that we bring Hamnet to London, to the streets he would’ve walked and the world he inhabited. The West End is no stranger to Shakespeare’s work, but I hope London audiences will come to see Hamnet to meet the entire Shakespeare family and discover more about the works they helped to inspire.”
This new play based on the best-selling novel by Maggie O’Farrell, adapted by award-winning playwright Lolita Chakrabarti (Life of Pi, Red Velvet, Hymn), pulls back a curtain on the story of the greatest writer in the English language and the woman who was the constant presence and purpose of his life.
Madeleine Mantock will play Agnes Hathaway, in her RSC debut. Madeleine made her West End stage debut in 2021 playing Elvira in Richard Eyre’s production of Blithe Spirit at the Harold Pinter Theatre. For TV, Madeleine recently played Macy Vaughn in CBS studios series Charmed and Miss Clara in the BBC’s The Long Song. Other TV credits include The Tomorrow People (Warner Brothers), Age Before Beauty (BBC) and Into the Badlands (AMC). Madeleine’s film credits include Breaking Brooklyn (Montage Films), The Truth Commissioner (BBC Films) and Edge of Tomorrow (Warner Brothers).
Warwickshire,1582. Agnes Hathaway, a natural healer, meets the Latin tutor, William Shakespeare. Drawn together by powerful but hidden impulses, they create a life together and make a family.
When the plague steals 11-year-old Hamnet from his loving parents, they must each confront their loss alone. And yet, out of the greatest suffering, something of extraordinary wonder is born.
Hamnet has sold over a 1.5 million copies worldwide and was named both Waterstones Book of the Year and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2020. The novel also saw Maggie O’Farrell named the winner of the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction; the UK’s most prestigious annual book award celebrating and honouring fiction written by women. As the No. 1 Sunday Times Bestseller in 2021, Hamnet was shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction (2021) and British Book awards ‘Fiction Book of the Year’ (2021).
The production will feature Set and Costume Design by Tom Piper, Lighting by Prema Mehta, Sound by Xana, Music by Oğuz Kaplangi, Casting by Amy Ball CDG and Movement by Ayse Tashkiran.
Erica Whyman, Acting Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company said; “I have been overwhelmed by the response to Hamnet in Stratford and the palpable excitement about bringing this beautiful and important book to the stage.
We are having a rewarding and inventive time in rehearsals and I’m delighted that we will now be able to share this emotional rollercoaster of a story with audiences in London. It has meant the world to me to be collaborating with Neal Street and Hera Pictures who have supported the idea of this adaptation from the very beginning and are making this transfer possible.
The RSC is enormously proud of the new work we make and we are always seeking partners so that we can share our work in London, most recently the phenomenally successful My Neighbour Totoro with the Barbican, Improbable and Nippon TV and later this year The Empress will be at the Lyric Hammersmith.
Hamnet is a compelling story about love. It transcends 400 years of history – a history some of us may know – and speaks with total freshness straight to our hearts. It is a story of birth, death and hope which centres characters and lives who have been left in the shadows. It is also a hymn to the unique emotional wisdom of the theatre. Lolita’s brilliantly sharp adaptation carries us from the wildflowers of Stratford to the boisterous success of London theatre – and now the production will too!”
Caro Newling, Neal Street Productions said; “Maggie O’Farrell’s piercing account of Hamnet’s short life and his immeasurable legacy has found a perfect home at the Swan Theatre. To collaborate with the RSC, led by Erica and the creative team she has built to make this production, fulfils a long-held hope to make a stage adaptation rooted in the fullest possible appreciation of the story’s time, place and spirit. The appetite for this title has powered immediate plans for a move to London and we’re delighted to be arriving at the Garrick Theatre within weeks of the run at Stratford-upon-Avon.”