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Meet the cast of The Fair Maid of the West

The Fair Maid of the West's cast 2023. © RSC.

The Fair Maid of the West, Swan Theatre, RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon, running from Saturday 2 December 2023 to Sunday 14 January 2024. Press Night Tuesday 12 December.


The RSC’s production is adapted and directed by Isobel McArthur from the original by Thomas Heywood. McArthur’s five-star West End adaptation of the classic novel Pride & Prejudice* (*sort of) received the Olivier award for Best Comedy in 2022. Isobel’s plays have toured the UK and are also performed internationally. The Fair Maid of the West was last seen in the Swan Theatre in 1986 as part of the theatre’s official opening programme, directed by Trevor Nunn.

The play tells the story of Liz Bridges, a good landlady who pacifies the vexed, enlightens the perplexed, and always knows who's next. Thomas Heywood’s Elizabethan romp will be a celebratory, music-filled, ensemble comedy about the life-saving powers of community, compromise and compassion.

Production Director Isobel McArthur. Photography by Mihaela Bodlovic, photo © RSC

Commenting on the production, Isobel McArthur said: “One thing that excited me about staging a version of The Fair Maid of The West is how much of the action takes places in pubs. These theatres of the human condition! Where we may choose to perform or be the audience – and all of human life plays out! So often in portside public houses a carousel of remarkable eccentrics pass through the harbours and doorways, leaving lasting impressions on all those bearing witness. Of course, all are in search of something: shelter, sustenance, company, often love.”

“With this in mind, we knew we needed a cast who could bring great humour and heart, including brilliantly funny multi-rollers with keen dramaturgical minds, possessing of a great facility for both language and music. Our whole ensemble needed to be able to sing, play multiple musical instruments, move beautifully through Ana Inés Jabares Pita’s set and truly take over the Swan Theatre space with their luminescent, celebratory energy.”

Amber James plays Liz Bridges. Photography credit the artist, photo © RSC

Liz Bridges will be played by Amber James whose previous RSC credits include Cymbeline, Troilus & Cressida, Antony & Cleopatra, Dido Queen of Carthage and Titus Andronicus. Amber’s other theatre credits include On the Ropes (Park Theatre), Snowflake (London), Wendy & Peter Pan (Leeds Playhouse), Vassa (Almeida Theatre) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (Regent's Park Open Air Theatre). Amber’s screen credits include Ransom (CBS), Doc Martin (ITV), Vera (ITV) Dodger (BBC) and Grace (ITV). Amber will soon be seen in the feature film Reawakening starring Jared Harris. 

Accompanying Amber and making his RSC debut, Spencer will be played by Philip Labey, whose theatre credits include Village Idiot (Stratford Theatre Royal/Nottingham Playhouse), While the Sun Shines (Orange Tree Theatre), Shakespeare in Love (Theatre Royal Bath), Posh (Nottingham Playhouse/Salisbury Playhouse), First Episode (Jermyn Street Theatre), Not About Heroes (Theatre by the Lake), The History Boys (Mercury Theatre, Colchester), The Dark at the Top of the Stairs (Belgrade, Coventry), The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (360 Theatre), Peter Pan (New Vic), Hamlet, Henry V (Cambridge Shakespeare Company), Adam Lives in Theory (Finborough Theatre).  Philip’s TV credits include The Power (Amazon Prime), Vanity Fair (ITV), Holby City, Casualty, Doctors, Red Dwarf (BBC), The Royals (Lionsgate).  Philip’s film credits include The People We Hate at the Wedding (Amazon), On Chesil Beach (Number 9 Films & Lionsgate), London Wall (Master Media).  Philip’s radio credits include Doctor Who (BBC). 

Philip Labey plays Spencer. Photography credit the artist, photo © RSC

Returning to the RSC for the 13th time is Richard Katz and completing the company are Tom Babbage, Aruhan Galieva, Marc Giro, Melissa Lowe, William Pennington, David Rankine, Emmy Stonelake, Christina Tedders and Matthew Woodyatt.

Isobel McArthur is an Olivier award winning actor, director and playwright. McArthur’s playwrighting credits include The Grand Old Opera House Hotel (Traverse Theatre Company with Dundee Rep Theatre), A Christmas Carol (Pitlochry Festival Theatre), Quiz! (National Theatre of Scotland/BBC Scotland) with joint credits as lead performer and playwright including How to Sing it (Tron Theatre) and Daphne Oram’s Wonderful World of Sound (Tron Theatre/Scottish Tour).

Isobel trained the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and her acting credits include Ella Hickson’s Wendy & Peter Pan, Anthony Neilson’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Lyceum Theatre), the Scottish premiere of Mike Bartlett’s Cock (Tron Theatre), Temp/Casual (Contact Theatre) and Edwin Morgan’s Scots language Cyrano De Bergerac (National Theatre of Scotland/Citizens Theatre).

The Fair Maid of the West features Design by Ana Inés Jabares-Pita, Lighting by Sinéad McKenna, Music by Michael John McCarthy, Sound by Niamh Gaffney, Movement by Emily Jane Boyle, Dramaturgy by Pippa Hill, Fights by Claire Llewellyn. Casting is by Martin Poile. 

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