Entertainment & Arts

Sophie Okonedo and Ralph Fiennes to play Antony and Cleopatra on stage

Sophie Okonedo Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sophie Okonedo will the Cleopatra to Ralph Fiennes' Mark Antony

Ralph Fiennes and Sophie Okonedo are to star in Antony and Cleopatra as part of the National Theatre's next season.

The pair of Oscar nominees will play the title characters in Shakespeare's epic tragedy from September 2018.

Hotel Rwanda actress Okonedo will play the Egyptian queen, while Harry Potter and English Patient star Fiennes will be Roman ruler Mark Antony, her lover.

Colin Morgan, Rhys Ifans, Katherine Parkinson and Indira Varma will also be on the National's stage next year.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Colin Morgan will star in a major new version of Brian Friel's Translations

Highlights of the National Theatre's 2018 season announcements:

  • Sam Mendes will direct an English version of Italian writer Stefano Massini's acclaimed five-hour play The Lehman Trilogy, which begins with the three Lehman brothers, from Germany, who become the kings of Wall Street in the 19th Century, and ends when their firm collapses during the financial crash in 2008.
  • David Hare's latest political drama I'm Not Running will get its world premiere. It tells of two old friends - one who has gone into politics and one who has steered clear - and will attempt to "raise sharp questions about how to do good in the new century".
  • Merlin and The Fall actor Colin Morgan will star in a new version of Irish writer Brian Friel's 1980 masterpiece Translations.
  • Rhys Ifans is to play the 400-year-old crazed monarch in Eugene Ionesco's 1962 play Exit the King, with Game of Thrones and Paranoid's Indira Varma his queen. They will be directed by Patrick Marber.
  • Vanessa Kirby will go from playing Princess Margaret in The Crown to playing Miss Julie in an updated version of August Strindberg's classic that moves the action to modern London.
  • The IT Crowd actress Katherine Parkinson will lead the cast in Laura Wade's latest play Home, I'm Darling, a comedy "about sex, cake and the quest to be the perfect 50s housewife", a co-production with Theatr Clwyd.
  • Shakespeare's late comedy Pericles will be reworked as the first product of the National's new community initiative Public Acts, featuring a small professional cast and many more "members of London's diverse communities".
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Vanessa Kirby will star in an updated version of Miss Julie

Also announced was a schools tour for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and the National Theatre said it wanted to take more plays into schools in the coming years.

Artistic director Rufus Norris highlighted the tightening of resources in schools as a priority.

"A big threat to art in this country is the relentless and incredibly short-sighted sidelining of arts in education," he said.

"There is a growing mountain of evidence proving the benefit of the arts for young people as well as well-documented economic benefit to the country from our creative industries. It is very, very frustrating to witness this slide."

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