There was a time, back in the 17th century when all actors were men, and they played every role, including the female ones. In Shakespeare’s day a woman who dared to set foot on the stage would have been arrested.
It wasn’t until the middle of the 1600’s that women began to take the stage, and now living in the 21st century it’s no surprise to see an all female cast in any production. Lots of fringe and repertory theatre groups around the globe are forced to cast women as men purely based on their contingency of members.
Back in 2012, Phyllida Lloyd (The Iron Lady, Mamma Mia!) presented a production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar with an all-female cast at London’s Donmar Warehouse. It was set in a prison. The Donmar’s bare space came into its own, and according to reviewer Michael Billington of The Guardian it was ” witty, liberating and inventive, and taps into the anti-authoritarian instinct that runs through the play”. The production later transferred New York’s St. Ann’s Warehouse.
Two years have passed since that production, which seems an excessive amount of time for the second production of what has been touted as a trilogy of productions to be staged, but once again Lloyd is back with an all-female production of a Shakespeare classic – Henry IV – to grace the Donmar’s floor. One hopes we do not need to wait until 2016 to see the third installment.
The Donmar have advised that “(the) upcoming production of Henry IV will include action from both part 1 and part 2 of Shakespeare script into a single narrative”.
Taking to the stage in this production include Harriet Walter (Babel, Atonement) as King Henry, Jade Anouka as Hotspur, Clare Dunne as Hal, and Ashley McGuire as Falstaff.
Rehearsals are currently underway for the production which runs from October 3 to November 29, 2014. For information on booking tickets, visit the Donmar Warehouse website.