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Inspirational York women in RSC production at York Theatre Royal

Sunday, 28 May 2023 16:28

By Chantele Hodson

Six local women – all inspirational leaders within the local community – will form the Chorus when the Royal Shakespeare Company’s touring production of Julius Caesar visits York Theatre Royal from June 13-17.

They are Hilary Conroy, Astrid Hanlon, Elaine Harvey, Stephanie Hesp, Anna Johnston and Frances Simon. The local music director will be Jessa Liversidge with Zoe Colven-Davies as chorus coordinator.

The women in the chorus have roles in the community across a wide range of areas - from activism and campaigning, to charity and social work, lecturing, teaching and coaching. In their day-to-day lives they all make a huge impact on the local York community – whether through fighting for social change, championing community voices, supporting vulnerable groups or encouraging engagement in the creative arts. 

They lead and support a diverse range of local groups and community causes – including supporting disabled and neurodivergent people, those impacted by dementia and mental health issues, people affected by loneliness and those suffering from domestic abuse. They empower others through the creative arts and performance and champion wellbeing in marginalised groups. 

Leading the York group is music director Jessa Liversidge who has a wealth of experience with community choirs, inclusive singing groups and working with people of all ages to inspire them through music. 

Juliet Forster, Creative Director at York Theatre Royal said, “It is a huge privilege for us to have these voices heard alongside the RSC’s actors, and we are so thankful for their input and commitment to the project. 

“This production explores what makes a leader and asks questions about gender and power. Who better to take part than women who are already leaders in our community and in their workplace? 

“The opportunity is exciting and empowering, and is strong evidence of how committed the RSC is to meaningful collaboration with their regional theatre partners. We are incredibly proud to be able to contribute a local perspective into this nationwide conversation, and I can’t wait to see what our York women do.”

Royal Shakespeare Company – Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

York Theatre Royal, 13-17 June. Press performance 13 June, 7.30pm

Julius Caesar. A divisive leader who holds awesome power. Concerned that Caesar seems dangerous, revolutionaries take the violent decision to murder him. They have no plan for what comes next. As the world spins out of control, chaos, horror and superstition rush in the fill the void. Civil war erupts and a new leader must rise: but at what cost?

Shakespeare's political thriller exposes the ambiguity in trying to shift power. As we rage against the crises surrounding us, how far will we each go for our political principles?

Director Atri Banerjee says: “Along with several other parts across the company, we’ve re-imagined the roles of Brutus and Cassius to tell a story about power today: who holds it, who wields it, and who gets to challenge it.

“Julius Caesar is the perfect play for our age of emergency, asking uncomfortable questions about today. When asked to imagine a better future for us all, what resources do we have left? What are the limits of peaceful activism? How far would you, personally, go, to make the world a better place?

“By thinking of the roles in this play across intersectional lines - gender, race, class, disability, among others - we’re inviting audience members to think of their own place within the status quo and what might be at stake for each of us within it.”

The full cast is: Shyvonne Ahmmad (Swing), Jamal Ajala (Lucius), Mercedes Assad (Marullus/Artemidorus), Annabel Baldwin (Cassius), Nigel Barrett (Julius Caesar), Matt Ray Brown (Cicero), Matthew Bulgo (Casca), Ella Dacres(Octavius Caesar), Joshua Dunn (Cinna The Poet/Popilius/Carpenter), Katie Erich (Caius Ligarius/Cobbler), Niamh Finlay (The Soothsayer), Gina Isaac (Decius Brutus), Robert Jackson (Flavius/Cinna The Conspirator), Tom Kanji (Metellus Cimber/Lepidus), Nadi Kemp-Sayfi (Portia), Jimena Larraguivel(Calpurnia/Pindarus), Pedro Leandro (Trebonius), William Robinson (Mark Antony) and Thalissa Teixeira (Brutus).

Atri won The Stage Debut Award for Best Director, and a UK Theatre Award nomination for his production of Hobson’s Choice at the Royal Exchange Manchester. Other credits include The Glass Menagerie (Royal Exchange Manchester), Britannicus (Lyric Hammersmith), Kes (Octagon Theatre, Bolton/Theatre By The Lake, Keswick), Harm (Bush Theatre, also broadcast on BBC Four), and Utopia (Royal Exchange Theatre).

Last year he was named in The Stage 25 list of theatre-makers to look out for in 2022 and beyond, and in November 2022, along with Rachel Bagshaw, he was awarded a Peter Hall bursary by the National Theatre, which will support Atri in developing work for the NT’s stages.

Atri’s role was recruited through OpenHire, a new initiative which aims to improve transparency and access to freelance creative jobs in theatre.

Joining Atri on the creative team are: Rosanna Vize (Set Designer and Co-Costume Designer), Tomás Palmer (Co-Costume Designer), Lee Curran (Lighting), Jasmin Kent Rodgman (Music), Claire Windsor (Sound), Jennifer Jackson (Movement), Rachel Bown-Williams and Ruth Cooper-Brown (Fights), Alison Bomber (Voice and Text) and Matthew Dewsbury CDG (Casting).

For more information, images, interviews and press night tickets contact

York Theatre Royal press officer Steve Pratt 07951 885558 | steviepratt@yahoo.co.uk


Royal Shakespeare Company

Julius Caesar

York Theatre Royal

13-17 June

Evenings 7.30pm

Matinees Thurs & Sat 2pm

Box office 01904 623568 | yorktheatreroyal.co.uk

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