Christopher Eccleston is to make his debut at the Royal Shakespeare Company next summer playing the title role in Macbeth opposite Niamh Cusack.
Macbeth is one of three new Shakespeare productions in the RSC’s summer 2018 season, alongside Romeo and Juliet and The Merry Wives of Windsor.
For the first time, all new productions in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Swan Theatre will be directed by women.
The new season will also celebrate “anarchic theatre revolutionary” Joan Littlewood, the director who critic Michael Billington once described as demolishing the barriers between ‘popular’ and ‘art’ theatre.
Sam Kenyon has written the book, music and lyrics to Miss Littlewood, about one of the pioneering founders of the Theatre Workshop in 1945.
Littlewood’s famed productions included Oh, What A Lovely War!, The Hostage and A Taste of Honey.
“Born into poverty, she raged her way to have lasting influence on British culture,” the RSC said. “Anti-establishment, communist, visionary, rude and glorious, Joan fired the imagination of a generation.”
Erica Whyman, deputy artistic director of the RSC, is to direct the new work. She said it was timely to look at Littlewood as “many of us seek new ways to engage our communities in our theatres, to ensure the political and social relevance of the arts, and to rage against attempts to take culture out of our schools and our lives.”
She added that Littlewood was, a woman “who – if not entirely forgotten – is still not fully recognised for her unerring ability to make theatre which connected with its audience”.
Polly Findlay will direct Macbeth, returning to the RSC after last year’s production of The Alchemist, and Fiona Laird will mark her directing debut at the theatre with The Merry Wives of Windsor. David Troughton stars as Falstaff.
Whyman is also set to stage Romeo and Juliet, building on her 2016 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which toured the country and used amateur actors and children alongside its professional cast.
The tragic tale of doomed love will include young people from the RSC’s associate schools in the chorus in Stratford alongside the professional cast, with more young people joining as the production tours in 2019.
Doran said the company had committed to bringing Shakespeare to life for the three million young people who will study his plays at school next year “by programming powerful and contemporary productions”.
He also launched Next Generation ACT, creating the RSC’s first ever “talent-based” young acting company made up of 20 young people aged between 12 and 16-years-old.
It is aimed at young people who may otherwise find it hard to break into a career in the theatre, and they stay on until they turn 18.
The Swan Theatre programming had a “strong focus on leading roles for women,” Doran said. It also marks the first time all the productions for the Swan will be directed by women.
The season includes a revival of The Duchess of Malfi directed by Maria Aberg, as well as The Fantastic Follies of Mrs Rich, a 17th-century work by the little known playwright Mary Pix, directed by Jo Davies.
The company also officially launched its Stitch in Time campaign to raise money for the restoration and redevelopment of its costume workshop.
Doran also announced his production of King Lear with Antony Sher in the title role would have a short revival.