Sir Antony Sher will be returning to the North East in the autumn as the big name in the 2014 Royal Shakespeare Company season at the Theatre Royal.
The celebrated actor will play Falstaff, the drunken, rabble-rousing knight in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I and Henry IV, Part II.
Completing the trio of RSC productions destined for the Newcastle venue will be The Two Gentlemen of Verona, an early Shakespeare comedy which the Stratford-based company hasn’t brought to the region for at least 30 years.
The RSC season will open on September 25, with the two sequential history plays running until October 4, and end with the last performance of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, which will run from October 7-11.
While the season is a mini-season compared to years gone by, theatre-goers will be delighted to see the company sustaining a relationship with the region which began in 1977.
The biggest draw will be Sir Antony Sher in what, to those who remember him as Richard III and Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, will be an unfamiliar Shakespearean comic role.
The three Tyneside-bound productions are among the first to have been commissioned by the new regime at the RSC where Gregory Doran succeeded Michael Boyd as artistic director and appointed Erica Whyman, who previously ran Northern Stage in Newcastle, as his deputy.
Erica, who joined the RSC last January, said the funding landscape had changed enormously but she stressed: “I can put hand on heart and say there’s a huge affection for what it means to come to Newcastle.
“We always get a warm response there and also see a lot of young people. It is seen as a special relationship. We do tour all over the country but there is a depth of understanding about the RSC in Newcastle.”
Other actors destined for the city are Jasper Britton as Henry IV, Alex Hassell as Prince Hal and Paola Dionisotti, a character actor whose TV roles range from The Young Ones to Midsomer Murders, as Mistress Quickly.
Mr Doran said he was delighted the RSC would be returning to the Theatre Royal with his own productions of Henry IV, Parts I and II and “a special treat” in the shape of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, a debut for young director Simon Godwin.
“It’s over 20 years since we performed Henry IV at the Theatre Royal and over 30 years in the case of Two Gentlemen, so we hope audiences in the North East will take the opportunity to see work that we haven’t brought to area for a while.”
He echoed his deputy, saying Newcastle was “a special place for the RSC”, and added: “I have always enjoyed being in the city, most recently with my production of Julius Caesar in 2012.”
Philip Bernays, chief executive of the Theatre Royal, said: “I’m thrilled to welcome back the RSC for what will be another fantastic season. It’s great news and a very popular trio of shows.
“The RSC is a truly iconic company and it is an honour to have them return to their northern home.”
Tickets for the three plays go on general sale on February 15.