New work from Ravenhill, Gupta on tap

Five productions by women helmers will dominate the Royal Shakespeare Company’s season — comprised of plays by the Bard, one of his contemporaries and two world premieres — under outgoing a.d. Michael Boyd.

Commencing in January on the RSC’s mainstage, Lucy Bailey will direct a new production of “The Winter’s Tale” at the company’s Stratford-upon-Avon home before the show embarks on a six-week U.K. tour. A single company of actors will then appear in Maria Aberg’s new staging of “As You Like It”; the RSC’s first production of “All’s Well That Ends Well” in a decade, helmed by Nancy Meckler; and David Farr’s new production of “Hamlet,” starring Jonathan Slinger.

Emma Rice (“Brief Encounter”) returns to the RSC to helm the world premiere of “The Empress.” Written by Tanika Gupta, the play uncovers Queen Victoria’s growing attachment to an Indian manservant. The production will be housed in the Swan, the RSC’s mid-scale auditorium. A single company of actors will then be cross-cast in new productions of “Titus Andronicus,” helmed by Michael Fentiman; Thomas Middleton’s Jacobean comedy “A Mad World, My Masters,” helmed by Sean Foley; and the world premiere of a new commission from Mark Ravenhill based on Voltaire’s “Candide,” helmed by Lyndsey Turner.

Announcing the slate alongside Boyd, outgoing chief exec Vikki Heywood pointed to a record 2011-12 season that played to 84% capacity in Stratford and 89% across all locations. The company’s own West End transfer of “Matilda the Musical” has averaged 95% attendance since opening in October 2011. That figure has risen to 100% following the show’s record seven wins at the Olivier awards. The production has now recouped and is currently carrying a £5 million ($7.75 million) advance.

Full dates and casting have yet to be announced.

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