The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has announced full casting for its upcoming productions of The Empress, by Tanika Gupta, and world premiere of Falkland Sound by Brad Birch, which will open in the Swan Theatre in the Summer of 2023.
These timely and evocative plays are brought sharply into focus in 2023 and offer fresh perspective on Britain’s relationship with its imperial past and how it continues to shape the country’s identity today.
The Empress will run in the Swan Theatre from Friday 7 July to Friday 15 September 2023, with press night on Tuesday 18 July before transferring to the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre in London from Wednesday 4 October to Saturday 28 October, with press night on Tuesday 10 October. The production will then return to the Swan Theatre from Wednesday 1 November to Saturday 18 November 2023.
Falkland Sound will run in the Swan Theatre from Saturday 5 August to Saturday 16 September 2023, with press night on Tuesday 15 August.
Erica Whyman, RSC Acting Artistic Director said: “The RSC has always believed it essential to support and celebrate the living writers who can expose new ways of seeing our collective history and conjure a brave new world that we don’t yet understand. The Empress by Tanika Gupta – now on the GCSE syllabus – presents an extraordinary friendship and a beautiful love story, whilst forensically exposing the blithe injustice of empire. Falkland Sound by Brad Birch explores with compassion the human experience of the Islanders during the conflict, and the ferocious politics which informed the British response. Now more than ever it takes courage to speak these truths, as new cultural wars roar and mutter.”
Set in 1887, the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, the play tells the story of the sixteen-year-old Rani Das, ayah (nursemaid) to an English family, who arrives at Tilbury docks after a long voyage from India, to start a new life in Britain. On the boat, Rani befriends a lascar (sailor), an Indian politician and a royal servant destined to serve the Queen. Full of hopes and dreams of what lies ahead, they each embark on an extraordinary journey.
Spanning a period of 13 years over the ‘Golden Era’ of Empire, this epic drama takes audiences from the rugged gangways of Tilbury docks to the grandeur of Queen Victoria’s Palace, whilst unveiling the long and embedded culture of British Asian history which continues to shape our society today.
Making her RSC debut, Tanya Katyal will play Rani Das. Her theatre credits include When Mountains Meet at Cottiers Theatre, Glasgow. Television credits include Netflix’s Eternally Confused and Eager for Love.
Raj Bajaj will play Abdul Karim. Raj’s previous RSC credits include Tamburlaine, Tartuffe and Much Ado About Nothing. Other recent theatre credits include Wildfire Road (Sheffield Crucible), Tartuffe (Birmingham Rep), Hobson’s Choice (Royal Exchange Manchester), Rapunzel (Stratford East), Lions & Tigers, The Merchant of Venice (Shakespeare’s Globe), East is East (Northern Stage/Nottingham Playhouse) and Bend It Like Beckham (Phoenix Theatre).
Helen Schlesinger will play Queen Victoria. Helen’s previous RSC credits include The God’s Weep, The Crucible, The Merchant of Venice and Twelfth Night. Other recent theatre Credits include Straight Line Crazy (The Bridge Theatre), Henry V, Henry IV Parts 1 & II, Hamlet, As You Like It (Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre), Albion (Almeida Theatre), Boys Will Be Boys (Bush Theatre), Frozen (Park Theatre), Single Spies (Rose Theatre), Coriolanus (Donmar Warehouse), Bracken Moor (Tricycle Theatre). Recent screen credits include Midsomer Murders, Lewis (Vivienne) Eastenders,
Completing the company are: Francesca Faridany (Lady Sarah), Aaron Gill (Hari), Anyebe Godwin (Serang/Lascar), Miriam Grace Edwards (Charlotte/Georgina), Oliver Hembrough (Sir John Oakham/William), Avita Jay (Firoza), Tom Milligan (Freddie), Sarah Moyle (Mary/Susan Matthews), Chris Nayak (Jinnah/Singh), Lauren Patel (Ruby/Asha), Simon Rivers (Dadabhai Naoroji), Anish Roy (Gandhi/Lascar), Nicola Stephenson (Lascar Sally), Premi Tamang (Lascar/Ayah) and Joe Usher (Lascar).
The Empress first premiered in the Swan Theatre in 2013 and was directed by Emma Rice.
The play-text was recently added to the GCSE drama syllabus following a campaign spearheaded by the RSC’s Youth Advisory Board and one of four new plays by writers of colour to better reflect the diversity of playwriting in the UK. The text was introduced by AQA in 2022, the largest examination board in England. Tanika’s 2019 production of A Doll’s House was previously added to the national curriculum by Pearson in 2021 alongside works by Bola Agbaje, In-Sook Chappell and Roy Williams.
Tanika Gupta has written over 25 stage plays that have been produced in major theatres across the UK. Her critically acclaimed adaptation of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House set in colonial Calcutta launched Rachel O’Riordan’s first season as Artistic Director of the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre in 2019.
Tanika was awarded an MBE for Services to Drama and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. Tanika is an Artistic Associate at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre and was recently announced as one of two new Writers in Residence at The Bush Theatre in 2023. For further details, visit www.tanikagupta.com
The production is directed by Pooja Ghai with Design by Rosa Maggiora. Lighting is by Matt Haskins, Music and Sound by Ben and Max Ringham, Movement by Wayne Parsons, and Casting by Matthew Dewsbury CDG and Martin Poile.
This new play is inspired by the real-life testimonies of those who lived through the Falklands conflictand explores a community and way of life turned upside down following the invasion of the Falkland Islands by Argentine forces in April 1982.
The company includes: Eduardo Arcelus (Gabriel), Alvaro Flores (Sebastian/One), Sandy Foster (Rosie/Clare), Anyebe Godwin (Jacob), Joanne Howarth (Mrs Hargreaves/Thatcher), Oliver Hembrough (Geoff/Dad), Avita Jay (Sue/Three), Tom Milligan (John/Two), Sarah Moyle (Mary/Joan), Lauren Patel (Sally), Simon Rivers (Edwin/Editor) and Joe Usher (Robbie).
Brad Birch is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter from Wales whose work has been produced in the UK, USA, Japan, Russia, Germany, Spain, Italy and Malta. His plays include Missing People, Black Mountain, The Brink, Gardening: For the Unfulfilled and Alienated (winner of the Edinburgh Fringe First award, 2013) and Tender Bolus.
In 2016, he was awarded the Harold Pinter Commission at the Royal Court. His plays are published by Methuen Drama and his first anthology, Plays One, was published in 2018. He is currently under commission with Rooks Nest and Film4.
Falkland Sound is directed by Aaron Parsons with Design by Aldo Vázquez, Lighting by Amy Mae, Music by Jack Drewry, Sound by Alexandra Faye Braithwaite, Casting by Matthew Dewsbury CDG and Martin Poile.