Royal Shakespeare Company reopens theatre with play about the bard's family life

Maggie O'Farrell's Hamnet which has sold over 1.5 million copies will be adapted by the RSC.

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) will reopen a theatre with a new play about the inner working of the famous playwright’s family life.

The best-selling Hamnet book by Maggie O’Farrell will be adapted to run at the newly refurbished Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.

The story pulls back the curtain in an imagined tale on the “neglected life” of William Shakespeare’s wife, Anne, daughters, Susanna and Judith, and son, Hamnet, who died at the age of 11.

O’Farrell won Waterstones Book of the Year and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2020 for the novel, which has sold over 1.5 million copies.

She said without Shakespeare’s grief at his son’s early death there would be no Hamlet or Twelfth Night.

O’Farrell added: “That Hamnet the boy will now be appearing in a play with his name, in the very town where he lived and died, is an incredibly moving thought.”

The novel has been adapted by Olivier award-winning playwright Lolita Chakrabarti and sees the RSC work with director Sam Mendes’ production company Neal Street Productions.

Chakrabarti said: “It has been a gift to absorb this story and to imagine Anne Hathaway (Agnes in the book) and her husband William Shakespeare.

“It has been a fascinating task to look at our greatest writer in the English language as a man, not a genius, and to discover the family behind him and the influences on his work.”

Erica Whyman, acting artistic director at the RSC, said: “It is high time we heard the compelling story of Agnes Hathaway and her children, voices that have been somewhat neglected, and who offer a wholly new perspective on ‘her Poet’.

“It is especially fitting that this production will reopen the unique Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, evoking as it does a different time in the town, one that not only gave birth to our house playwright but one which knew what it was to live through waves of pandemic, of grief and recovery.”

Hamnet runs at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon from April 1 to June 17 2023.

Priority booking will open from 10am on November 16 with public booking opening at 10am on November 29.