Phyllida Lloyd is to direct an all-female production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar at the Donmar Warehouse this November.
The production will star Harriet Walter as Brutus, alongside Frances Barber as Caesar, Jenny Jules as Cassius and Cush Jumbo as Mark Anthony.
Donmar artistic director Josie Rourke revealed that the production had emerged from discussions around the lack of opportunities available to older actresses, especially in classical drama.
Rourke told The Stage: “It’s the product of conversation over many years. In this country, we breed the greatest classical actors in the world, but if you’re a woman, once you get to 40, you can either be an older Beatrice, you can be Volumnia, or you can pick up some of the Histories, but there aren’t these other [main parts] by virtue of when the plays were written. I think it’s part of that conversation. It’s also something that Harriet [Walter] has spoken about for some time.”
Walter has been one of several female performers who have voiced their concern about the lack of opportunities for older actresses in both TV and theatre.
Speaking to The Stage in 2009, Walter said: “It’s one of those subjects I talk about nearly every day of my life. Obviously I’m very lucky because I do keep working, but I am also a member of an audience and an older woman, and I get very discouraged by the portrayal of women – or the absence of women in dramas at all – and the function that older women play in dramas sometimes.
“It seems to me there is masses of work to be done there. A good dramatist should reflect what is going on in life – we make up a large percentage of the population and we don’t die off when we are 30.”
The Donmar’s production of Julius Caesar will also feature Jade Anouka as Calpurnia and Clare Dunne as Portia. Design will be by Bunny Christie, lighting by Neil Austin and music by Gary Yershon. It will run from November 29 to February 9, with press night on December 4.
The all-female production of Julius Caesar follows the Royal Shakespeare Company’s all-black version of the play, now running in the West End. Rourke joked: “If you are a white man, you stand the least possible chance of being cast in Julius Caesar this year.”
Rourke also revealed the remainder of the company’s winter/spring season, which will see film director Joe Wright make his stage debut, directing Arthur Wing Pinero’s Trelawny of the Wells. It will run from February 15 to April 13.
The season will then close with Rourke herself directing a revival of Conor McPherson’s The Weir, which will run from April 18 to June 8.