As part of the RSC’s commitment to be a theatre company for everyone, Henry VI: Rebellion will include a cast of 120 people: 25 professional actors (including nine recent drama school graduates), will be joined by 95 members of the Royal Shakespeare Community from across England: 74 adults from Blackpool, Bradford, Canterbury, Cornwall, Norwich and Nottingham who are part of the RSC’s Shakespeare Nation community participation programme, and 21 young performers aged 13-17 from the RSC’s Next Generation Act young acting company.  At each performance one of the six regional Shakespeare Nation groups and one of three Next Generation Act groups will perform alongside the professional acting company. 

Shakespeare Nation is a community participation programme run by the RSC and its partner theatres (including the Alhambra Theatre in Bradford), aimed at reaching out to people who have little or no experience of Shakespeare, either as a theatre-goer or performer.  

Through their involvement in Shakespeare Nation and Henry VI: Rebellion, the hope is that the participants will develop a passion and enthusiasm for theatre and Shakespeare, and build their confidence and self-esteem.  They will play the roles of working people who take part in the rebellion led by the character of Jack Cade against Henry VI, and townsfolk in a scene where Henry VI is out hunting. 

The 12 Shakespeare Nation participants performing in Henry VI: Rebellion working with the Alhambra Theatre, Bradford are: Rachel Brewin, Angela Buffham-Wheeler, Bradley Cook-Pattison, Kelly Harris, Ben Hopwood, Georgina Jovanovic, Elizabeth Lancaster, Ron Norman, Anthony Priestley, Diana Reed, Qaraman Saidzada andCorin Ward.  Initially they will rehearse in Bradford before taking to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage from April, appearing in around 4 performances.  Bradford Theatres’ Learning Coordinator, Julia O’Keeffe, is the Theatre Practitioner/Director for the Bradford group. 

Councillor Sarah Ferriby, Bradford Council’s Executive Member for Healthy People and Places said: “We are delighted to be part of the Shakespeare Nation project with the Royal Shakespeare Company and so proud that 12 people from across the Bradford District are going to take part in their forthcoming production of Henry VI: Rebellion.  This is an inspiring and energising opportunity, giving members of our community access to culture and theatre, enriching their lives and bringing positivity to the fore at this exciting time.” 

The cast of Henry VI: Rebellion will be joined by 21 young people from the RSC’s young acting company, Next Generation Act.  Aged between 13-17 they are drawn from the RSC’s nationwide network of 222 Associate Schools, all with a talent for acting but from backgrounds that might restrict their chances of getting into the profession.   

These young actors will play tradespeople and apprentices bringing their complaints to the King and court.  They will also take part in the previously mentioned rebellion scene, led by Jack Cade.  The young people come from Barrow-in-Furness, Birmingham, Blackpool, Bradford, Canterbury, County Durham, Hull, Launceston (Cornwall), London, Middlesbrough, Northampton, Nottingham, Stoke-on-Trent, Sudbury (Suffolk) and York.  The 3 young people from Bradford are: Emerode (14), Adam (14), Scout (17). 

Following their previous collaboration on the King & Country cycle of plays, and having most recently working together to co-direct the Henry VI Part One: Open Rehearsal Project, RSC directors Gregory Doran and Owen Horsley reunite to continue their journey through the final two parts of the Henry VI trilogy. Henry VI: Rebellion is directed by both Greg and Owen, and Wars of the Roses directed by Owen.  

Owen Horsley, director, said: “Out of the 37 plays in the canon Henry VI Part Two – or as we are calling it, Henry VI: Rebellion – has more characters than any other play. There are 85 characters on the cast list, which may explain why these plays are rarely done. One of the reasons for this wide array of characters is a series of scenes that Shakespeare writes concerning the people of England, who in various ways interact with the royal family. 

“This gave us an idea! For many years the RSC has built incredible relationships across the UK with partner theatres through Shakespeare Nation and through and Next Generation Act. After 18 months of developing these links online this production seemed the perfect opportunity to be ambitious. So, for the people of England, we have cast the people of England. This is an extremely exciting project as it allows this history play, written over 400 years ago, to respond directly to the state of the nation – and at points put over 50 people on the RSC stage.

“Another drive that is very close to the heart of the RSC is the training of young actors as they enter the industry. Over the last two years, recent graduates have suffered immensely with classes and productions being taken online and/or they have entered an industry on pause. For these productions we met with over 100 graduates from across the country to deliver workshops and fight training, and from this have cast nine graduates into our company of 26 for Henry VI: Rebellion and Wars of the Roses.” 

Following their appearance in the Henry IV Part One Open Rehearsal Project, Mark Quartley and RSC Associate Artist, Mariah Gale will return to play, respectively, Henry VI and Margaret in both Henry VI: Rebellion and Wars of the Roses.  

Mark played Ariel in the RSC’s live motion-capture production of The Tempest in 2016, other RSC credits include Maydays, Measure for Measure and Written on the Heart.  Mariah last appeared at the RSC playing Wendy in the 2015 production of Wendy and Peter.  Other RSC credits include Morte D’Arthur, The Comedy of Errors, As You Like It, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Julius Caesar and The Tempest. 

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