Gregory Doran, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s new artistic director, announced last week that adaptations of Hilary Mantel’s prize-winning historical novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, will be staged in the RSC’s winter 2013 season. Doran also revealed he will direct former Doctor Who star David Tennant in the title role of Shakespeare’s Richard II.
The lanky Scot told the Guardian he’s excited and daunted by the prospect of playing the “complicated” English king. It will mark his triumphant return to the RSC after a truly excellent performance in the title role of their acclaimed 2008 production of Hamlet.
Speaking of acclaim, Hilary Mantel’s massively popular and oft-lauded Tudor period fiction has been adapted in two parts by Mike Poulton and will be staged by the RSC around Christmastime.
Her stories have grown quite ubiquitous of late. Wolf Hall, of course, won the 2009 Man Booker Prize. Its sequel, Bring Up the Bodies, took the 2012 Booker. Then, just this week, Mantel added the Costa Book Award to her groaning trophy shelf (and spoke very humbly about it all). Her work is enjoying a rare situation indeed, thrust now, it would seem, into the lucrative and gratifying intersection of mass public appeal and critical praise. As Samir Raheem wrote in the Telegraph on Tuesday, “when was the last time a prize-winning book doubled as a holiday treat?”
Oh and let’s not forget that Peter Straughan, co-author of the Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy screenplay, is adapting Wolf Hall for a forthcoming BBC 2 drama.
At this rate, I’ll be spectacularly disappointed if John Finnemore isn’t tapped to do a radio version. (I happen to think that Arthur Shappey’s incredibly sophisticated thoughts on treason as revealed in last week’s episode of Cabin Pressure laid the groundwork rather nicely.)
Richard II is set to open in Stratford-upon-Avon in October with a London run to follow. Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies will open in December.
Priority booking for the winter season begins 11 February.
For more information, visit www.rsc.org.uk and listen to Doran discuss his plans for the season below.