Madeleine Mantock (“Charmed”) will make her Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) debut with “Hamnet,” the stage adaptation of Maggie O’Farrell’s bestselling novel.
Set in 1582, “Hamnet” follows Agnes Hathaway, a natural healer who meets the Latin tutor, William Shakespeare and they create a life together and make a family. As Shakespeare moves to London to discover his place in the world of theater, Hathaway stays at home to raise their three children. 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.
Mantock will play Hathaway with Tom Varey playing Shakespeare, also making his RSC debut. The cast also includes Peter Wight, Sarah Belcher, Will Brown, Haydn Burke, Ajani Cabey, Faye Campbell, Frankie Hastings, Karl Haynes, Alex Jarrett, Hannah McPake, Rose Riley, Elizabeth Rider, Harmony Rose-Bremner and Obioma Ugoala.
“Hamnet,” produced by the RSC and Neal Street Productions, in association with Hera Pictures, is adapted by Lolita Chakrabarti (“Life of Pi”) and directed by RSC acting artistic director Erica Whyman.
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, movement by Ayse Tashkiran and fights by Kate Waters.
Chakrabarti said: “Writing this play was made even more challenging due to the huge impact Maggie O’Farrell’s novel has had. Every reader seems to have a very personal relationship to this story. Shakespeare is studied, examined and lauded across the world and at times, it has felt presumptuous of me to add my own flavor to this iconic man. When I began researching 16th century Stratford and London I was instantly drawn to the diversity in England at that time. It no longer surprises me that there were all kinds of people here. That is how the world works – immigration has always been a reality and as expected, many of those people integrated into British society.
There are limited facts about Agnes/Anne Hathaway but I love playing with history and fiction and moulding them together so that one informs the other. It is a great privilege to look at the Shakespeares through my detailed research and personal lens. This woman behind the playwright is a fascinating character and after studying Maggie’s book, it is clear to me now that her son was the inspiration for one of our greatest pieces of English literature.”
“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. O’Farrell named the winner of the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction.
The theater adaptation will have its world premiere in the newly restored Swan theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in April, marking the re-opening of the venue for the first time in over three years following the pandemic and a period of major refurbishment which began in Jan. 2022.
Elsewhere, the cast for Jack Thorne’s new play, “The Motive and the Cue,” directed by Sam Mendes, is now complete. The play, opening at London’s Lyttelton Theatre on April 20, is inspired by the making of Richard Burton and John Gielgud’s “Hamlet.” Janie Dee (“Follies”) will play Eileen Hurlie, joining Johnny Flynn as Richard Burton, Mark Gatiss as John Gielgud and Tuppence Middleton as Elizabeth Taylor.
The cast also includes Aaron Anthony, Tom Babbage, Allan Corduner, Elena Delia, Ryan Ellsworth, Phoebe Horn, Aysha Kala, Luke Norris, Huw Parmenter, David Ricardo-Pearce, David Tarkenter, Kate Tydman, Laurence Ubong Williams and Michael Walters.
In the play, Burton, newly married to Taylor, is to play the title in an experimental new production of “Hamlet” under Gielgud’s exacting direction. But as rehearsals progress, two ages of theater collide and the collaboration between actor and director soon threatens to unravel. It is inspired by “Letters from an Actor” by William Redfield and “John Gielgud Directs Richard Burton in ‘Hamlet'” by Richard L. Sterne.
“The Motive and the Cue” was originally commissioned by Neal Street Productions and has been developed and co-produced by the National Theatre and Neal Street Productions.