News: Casting announced for RSC’s Cowbois

Casting has been announced for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s forthcoming production of Charlie Josephine’s new play, Cowbois.  Running in the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon between 14 October – 18 November 2023, the production is co-directed by Charlie Josephine (they/he) and Sean Holmes (he/him).

In a sleepy town in the Wild West, the women drift through their days like tumbleweed. Their husbands, swept up in the goldrush, have been missing for almost a year and show no sign of returning. In fact, the town is almost cut off from outsiders entirely, with only one drunken sheriff for protection. That is until handsome bandit Jack Cannon, a trans masc cowboy, swaggers up to the town’s saloon, inspiring a gender revolution.

Charlie Josephine is an award-winning writer and actorwhose most recent work includes I, Joan (Shakespeare’s Globe, 2022) and One of Them Ones (Pentabus).

Talking about Cowbois, Charlie said:

Cowbois a big queer cowboy show.  It’s full of everything you’d expect from a western, but our lone ranger – Jack Cannon – is a gender outlaw who fights patriarchy and inspires a revolution in a town full of women. It’s an exploration of honest desire in bodies assigned female at birth, when they’re free from the male gaze and given the chance to be their authentic selves.

“I love cowboys, and wanted to be one growing up.  There’s something about the iconic gesture and pose of a cowboy, the sexiness, the swagger that I used as the inspiration for the character of Jack.  I also wanted to disrupt the Hollywood version of cowboys: the white cis straight men who are often misogynistic and racist.  Instead I wanted to write about sexy trans masculine cowboys and queer working class women.

“There’s not enough theatre by, for and about working-class women and queer people. I hope people coming to watch this show feel empowered seeing these characters on this stage. I hope people have some interesting chats about patriarchy, gender and freedom after seeing it. And of course I hope that everyone will have a great night out!

Cowbois is an exploration of masculinity, power and freedom. But moreover, it’s a love letter to the trans masculine people in history whose stories have been ignored or erased.”

Co-director, Sean Holmes added:

“Charlie and I are delighted with this exceptional cast for our upcoming production of Cowbois.  They are a brave, clever and creative collective, and we look forward to having lots of fun making a bold, provoking and entertaining show together.”

The cast comprises: Bridgette Amofah (she/her) plays Mary; Lee Braithwaite (they/them) plays Lucy/Lou; Shaun Dingwall (he/him) plays Frank/Tommy; Michael Elcock (he/him) plays George; Colm Gormley (he/him) plays John; Vinnie Heaven (they/them) plays Jack; Paul Hunter (he/him) plays Sheriff Roger Jones; Lucy McCormick (she/her) plays Jayne; Sophie Melville (she/her) plays Miss Lillian; Julian Moore-Cook (he/him) plays James; Emma Pallant (she/her) plays Sally-Ann; and LJ Parkinson (they/them) plays Charley Parkhurst. 

The role of Kid will be shared by Robert Addi (he/him), Aiden Cole (he/him) and Alastair Ngwenya (he/him).

Vinnie Heaven makes their RSC debut as Jack. Vinnie is an actor and writer. Their acting credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare’s Globe), The Misfortune of the English (Orange Tree Theatre) and, on screen, The Nevers (HBO). Their writing credits include FAUN and She’s A Good Boy.

Also making their RSC debuts are Sophie Melville as Miss Lillian, Lucy McCormick as Jayne, and LJ Parkinson as Charley Parkhurst.

Sophie Melville’s credits include Sorter (Swansea Grand), Iphigenia in Splott (Lyric Hammersmith, National Theatre, 59E59 New York, Sherman Theatre), The Merchant of Venice (Shakespeare’s Globe), Mum (Soho Theatre), Under Milk Wood (Theatre Clwyd), The Pact and Call The Midwife (BBC). She will soon be seen starring in James Graham’s upcoming TV series The Way for BBC One which has been directed by Michael Sheen. 

Lucy McCormick is an actor and performance maker. She makes cross-genre work inspired by theatre, comedy, cabaret, dance and performance art. Her self-created shows Triple ThreatPost PopularLife: LIVE! and Lucy and Friends have established her as a leading voice across experimental theatre and alternative comedy scenes both in the UK and internationally. As an actor her recent credits include Titus Andronicus (Shakespeare’s Globe), Wuthering Heights (National Theatre) and This Time With Alan Partridge (BBC). 

LJ Parkinson is an actor, performer and Drag King, LoUis CYfer. LoUis was the first Drag King to win Drag Idol UK, and the only Drag King to ever lead a West End play. LJ’s theatre credits include: Death Drop and Death Drop: Back in the Habit (Trafalgar Theatre), Rotterdam (national tour), and an award-winning performance in Joan (Milk Productions).

Paul Hunter, who plays Sheriff Roger Jones, is co-founder and Artistic Director of the Told by an Idiot theatre company.  In 2011 Paul directed the RSC’s production of The Mouse and his Child.  In 2010, in association with Told by an Idiot, he directed the RSC production of The Comedy of Errors, a 90 minute version of the play aimed at younger audiences, which toured schools and theatres in England, and was part of the RSC’s 2011 residency at the Lincoln Center in New York in 2011.  Previous RSC acting credits include Les Enfants Du Paradis. His extensive theatre credits include numerous performances for Told by an Idiot, Life of Galileo (Young Vic) and Much Ado About Nothing, Troilus and Cressida and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare’s Globe). TV and film credits include Quiz, Bridgerton and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Charlie Josephine’s award-winning work includes Bitch Boxer (Soho Theatre Young Writers Award 2012, Old Vic New Voices Edinburgh Season 2012, British Council Showcase 2013, Holden Street Theatre’s Award 2013, Clonmel Theatre Award 2014 and Adelaide Fringe Award 2014), BLUSH (Underbelly Untapped Edinburgh Season 2016 and The Stage Edinburgh Award 2016), Massive (2020) and I, Joan (Shakespeare’s Globe, 2022). They are an associate artist at the NSDF, and the current writer in residence at Headlong Theatre.

Charlie’s recent work includes Birds and Bees(Sheffield Crucible), Flies(Shoreditch Town Hall with Boundless Theatre), and One Of Them Ones (Pentabus). They are also currently developing a new feature biopic with Salon Pictures.  As an actor, Charlie was last seen on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage playing Mercutio in Erica Whyman’s 2019 touring production of Romeo and Juliet, and as Bardolph in Fiona Laird’s production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. Other acting credits include An Oak Tree (Warwick Arts Centre); Buckets (Orange Tree Theatre); Secret Theatre (Lyric Hammersmith) and Julius Caesar (Donmar Warehouse).

Sean Holmes is the Associate Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe. Prior to this, he was the Artistic Director of the Lyric Hammersmith. Work for Shakespeare’s Globe includes: The Comedy of Errors and The Winter’s Tale (2023), The Tempest (2022), Hamlet (2021), Metamorphosis (2021), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2019 and 2021), and Henry VI and Richard III (2019, co-directed with Ilinca Radulian). He recently directed Death of a Salesman at Parco Theatre, Toyko and the World Premiere of Simon Stephen’s Fortune at the Metropolitan Theatre, Toyko.

His work for the RSC includes: Measure for Measure, Richard III, Julius Caesar, A New Way To Please You, Twelfth Night and The Roman Actor.

Work for the Lyric Hammersmith includes: The Seagull, Terror, Shopping and Fucking, Bugsy Malone, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (on UK tour; with the Royal Exchange Manchester, Brisbane Festival and Dublin International Festival); Herons, Secret Theatre Shows 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7, Cinderella, Desire Under the Elms, Morning, Have I None, Saved, Blasted (Olivier Award 2011 for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre), A Thousand Stars Explode in the Sky, Ghost Stories (also Duke of York’s, Liverpool Playhouse, Panasonic Theatre, Toronto and Arts Theatre), Three Sisters and Comedians.

In 2016 he directed The Plough and the Stars at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin (also Irish/US Tour). He was an Associate Director of the Oxford Stage Company from 2001 to 2006 and has also worked at the National Theatre, Tricycle, Royal Court, Donmar Warehouse, Chichester Festival Theatre and the Abbey Theatre, Dublin.

Joining Charlie and Sean on the creative team are: Designer, Grace Smart (she/her); Lighting, Simeon Miller (he/him); Music, Jim Fortune (he/him); Sound and Soundscape, Mwen; Movement, Jennifer Jackson (she/her); Fights and Intimacy, Bethan Clark (she/her); Dramaturg, Rebecca Latham (she/her); Casting, Martin Poile (he/him);and Children’s Casting, Charlie Metcalf (she/her).

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