RSC announces Crooked Dances, a new play by Robin French at The Other Place in Stratford-Upon-Avon

  • Crooked Dances by award-winning playwright and screen-writer Robin French, co-writer of the hit BBC 3 sitcom Cuckoo.
  • Researchers shed light on the first-ever English novel in Beware the Cat, a unique one-hour work in progress exploring witchcraft, religious controversy and talking cats.

‘One of the things that often surprises people about the Royal Shakespeare Company is that we don’t only do Shakespeare. There’s a very healthy cross-fertilization with contemporary writers, whether that’s plays at The Other Place, the Swan Theatre or on the main stage in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Writing for big stages is what we hope to inspire playwrights to do, just as Shakespeare did. As a company, it’s vital that we listen to the voices of today in order to reflect upon the world we live in now and who knows, maybe the new works of today will be the classics of tomorrow.” Gregory Doran (Artistic Director)

Crooked Dances

 By Robin French

Directed by Elizabeth Freestone

The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon

 Thu 20 June – Sat 13 Jul

 Press night: Wed 26 June at 7pm

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has today announced the stage premiere of Crooked Dances, a bold new work by award-winning playwright and screenwriter Robin French directed by Elizabeth Freestone. The production will run from Thursday 20 June to Saturday 13 July in the Studio Theatre at The Other Place which, since its re-opening in 2016, has been home to new commissions by some of today’s most exciting theatre-makers.

Journalist Katy is desperate for her big break, and an interview in Paris with world famous concert pianist Silvia de Zingaro looks like just her chance.

 But the odds are against her. After a disastrous interview, Katy feels certain there’s a bigger story there than meets the eye. She hunts for clues, finding Silvia has a collection of mystical books and an apparent fixation with composer Erik Satie. Just as Katy’s hope begins to fade, a mysterious night-time encounter with the pianist may well give her the scoop she’s looking for…

This compelling new play examines music, time and attention in our modern digital age. Crooked Dances is designed by Basia Bińkowska and further creative and casting information will follow.

Playwright Robin French said “Having felt ready to write a new play, I approached the RSC, knowing that Literary Manager Pippa Hill has an extraordinary talent for unlocking writers. Sure enough, the first inspiration for the play came. I was on a train, listening to a playlist on Spotify. When I heard Erik Satie’s Crooked Dances for the first time, I felt a strong intuition that that was where the treasure was buried. The play that evolved melds my fascination with Satie’s music with the preoccupations of our 21st Century digital society. I’m delighted to be working with the brilliant director Elizabeth Freestone on this, my first commission with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and I can’t wait to share it with audiences.”

 Director Elizabeth Freestone added, From reading the first few lines in Robin’s play, I was hooked. He creates a funny, vivid and spell-binding atmosphere as the extraordinary story of Silvia’s life unfolds. Nothing you are told is quite as straightforward as it seems and nothing you see is quite what you expect. It’s a fantastic challenge to realise the ideas and images Robin is exploring – the power of music, the nature of time, the fragility of real human connection. Directing such a powerful and provocative new play for the RSC’s iconic The Other Place is an exciting prospect. We’ll be using projection, live music and possibly a few surprises to create a full and theatrical experience for the audience.”

Robin French is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter. His hit sitcom Cuckoo, written with long-term collaborator Kieron Quirke and starring Greg Davies was BBC3’s most-watched comedy launch and went on to gain a repeat run on BBC1 as well as nominations at BAFTA and the British Comedy Awards.

Robin’s first play, Bear Hug, won the Royal Court Young Writer’s Festival and was produced at the Royal Court in 2004, where it earned an extended run. He is a writer in residence for The Birmingham Rep, and under commission to the RSC. His film Crocodile won awards at Cannes, Encounters, and Guanajuato festival in Mexico, and was BIFA nominated for Best British short. Robin is currently writing a feature film about David Bowie and Iggy Pop, as well as developing new drama projects for television.

Elizabeth Freestone is a freelance director whose previous credits include Endless Light (Kali/Southwark Playhouse); The Duchess of Malfi, Dr Faustus, The School for Scandal, Volpone (Greenwich Theatre); Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare’s Globe); The Water Harvest (Theatre503) and Left On Church Street (Bridewell).

Previous productions for the RSC include The Rape of LucreceHere Lies Mary SpindlerThe Tragedy of Thomas Hobbes and The Comedy of Errors. She was the Associate Director for A Caucasian Chalk Circle at the National and was an assistant director at the Royal Court, Soho and Hampstead. Elizabeth was Artistic Director of Pentabus Theatre from 2012 to 2017, for whom she directed Slow Dusk by Rory Mullarkey, In This Place by Frances Brett and Lydia Adetunji, This Same England with Lorraine Stanley, Stand Up Diggers All by Phil Porter and The Hay Play by Nell Leyshon.

 Beware the Cat

 The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon

 Sat 6 July at 5pm

Joining Crooked Dances in The Other Place, the RSC welcomes a thought-provoking, one-hour performance inspired by the first ever English novel by William Baldwin.

The novel, Beware the Cat, was first written in 1552 before many of the more well-known early modern writers published their first work. It tells a tale of witchcraft, religious controversy and talking cats in a bid to help us imagine what animals might say about the world if they had the ability to talk.

Professor Frances Babbage from the University of Sheffield’s School of English, and Dr Rachel Stenner from the School of English at the University of Sussex, have worked with Terry O’Connor from UK theatre ensemble Forced Entertainment on a project to adapt the novel into a theatre performance for audiences across the UK.

In this special performance, audiences are invited to share in this funny, satirical tale of alchemical exploration for the first time, featuring unique artworks representing the cat-world by artist Penny McCarthy.