Romola Garai takes on duchess role in West End production of Queen Anne

Suffragette star Romola Garai is set to star in the upcoming West End production of Queen Anne, it has been announced.

The 34-year-old will take on the role of the Duchess of Marlborough in Helen Edmundson’s play, which launches her intense relationship with the little-known female monarch to the forefront of history.

Romola Garai attends the EE British Academy Film Awards in 2015 (Dominic Lipinski/PA Archive/PA Image)

Commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and directed by Natalie Abrahami, the play will run for 13 weeks at London’s Theatre Royal Haymarket from June.

Announcing the company’s plans for the 2017 winter season on Wednesday morning, RSC director Gregory Doran said: “It follows our season of plays with women at the centre, which were written during Shakespeare’s lifetime, with some of the greatest parts for women ever written.

“It was a challenge to find and commission a play with great roles for women beyond the age of 40, who were at the centre of things and not defined by the men in their lives.”

Gregory with The Prince of Wales in 2014 (Joe Giddens/PA Wire)

Taking the crown decades after Shakespeare’s death, Anne was the daughter of James II and will be played by returning Waterloo Road star Emma Cunniffe, 43.

The show will follow the politically “resonant” six-part Imperium: The Cicero Plays, an alternative telling of Julius Caesar’s death, rounding off the RSC’s season of Roman drama.

Describing it as “Rome meets The West Wing”, Doran said: “In the same way that Shakespeare’s Rome plays could not be more pertinent, more resonant to today’s world, these plays give an even greater analysis of the politics in power.”

The story focuses on the life of the orator Cicero, who stood on the sidelines as political uproar led to the tyrannical ruler’s assassination by his own Senate.

Deputy RSC director Erica Whyman added the series of plays, running at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon from November, “had its finger right on the political pulse”.

The company also revealed plans to stage a new adaptation of A Christmas Carol in December, marking director David Edgar’s first Charles Dickens production since the 1980s.

Other upcoming shows include Shakespeare classics Julius Caesar and Antony & Cleopatra (March) and Twelfth Night (December), Coriolanus starring Sope Dirisu (September), and Dido: Queen Of Carthage (September).

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