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RSC announce casting for Ben and Imo

Ben and Imo, written by Mark Ravenhill, at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, from Wednesday 21 February to Saturday 6 April 2024. Directed by Erica Whyman. Press Night Thursday 29 February at 7pm.


Samuel Barnett and Victoria Yeates will make their Royal Shakespeare Company debuts to play, respectively, Benjamin Britten and Imogen Holst in the Company’s forthcoming production of Ben and Imo, written by Mark Ravenhill and directed by Erica Whyman.

Samuel is currently appearing in Feeling Afraid as if Something Terrible is Going to Happen at the Bush Theatre, and Victoria is perhaps best known for playing Sister Winifred in the BBC drama, Call the Midwife.

Samuel Barnett. Photo © RSC.

Running in the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon between 21 February and 6 April 2024, Ben and Imo tells the story of the creative relationship between composer Benjamin Britten and Imogen Holst, daughter of Gustav Holst, and an accomplished musician in her own right.

Set in 1953 in the lead up to Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, Britten has just nine months to write a new opera, Gloriana, about her predecessor, Elizabeth I. Into the world of the disheartened composer enters the exuberant and passionate Imogen Holst. Her candid and can-do attitude proves to be the perfect foil for the capricious and often maddening Britten, and what begins as an arrangement of practical support turns into a bond that not only sees Gloriana to its premiere but endures throughout the rest of their lives.

Victoria Yeates. Photo © RSC.

Samuel Barnett makes his RSC debut to play Britten. Theatre credits include: Feeling Afraid as if Something Terrible is Going to Happen (Bush Theatre), Rock Follies, The Accrington Pals (Chichester Festival Theatre), Straight Line Crazy, Allelujah (Bridge Theatre), Kiss of The Spiderwoman, Dealer’s Choice (Menier Chocolate Factory), The History Boys, The Beaux Stratagem, Women Beware Women, His Dark Materials (National Theatre), Twelfth Night, The History Boys (West End/Broadway), and Richard III (Shakespeare’s Glove/West End/Broadway). 

On screen Samuel played the title role in Dirk Gently for BBC America/Netflix, and will soon be seen opposite Kate Winslet in forthcoming feature film Lee. Samuel’s TV credits include: The Amazing Mr Blunden (Sky), Murder in Provence (Britbox), Twenty Twelve and Beautiful People (BBC). Film credits include: Polite Society, And Mrs, The Lady In The Van, The History Boys and Mrs Henderson Presents.

Mark Ravenhill. Photo © RSC.

Also making her RSC debut as Imogen Holst is Victoria Yeates.  Victoria appears as Bunty in the Fantastic Beasts films, The Crimes of Grindelwald and its sequel, The Secrets of Dumbledore.  She is well known for playing the role of Sister Winifred in Call The Midwife (BBC), with other television credits including A Discovery of Witches (Sky). Victoria’s theatre credits include: Jean Harlow in Michael McClure’s The Beard (Old Red Lion), Big Love (The Gate), Pains of Youth, Don Juan Comes Back From The War (Belgrade Theatre), Wuthering Heights (Birmingham Rep/tour), Rookery Nook (Menier Chocolate Factory), The League of Youth, Private Lives (Nottingham Playhouse), The Crucible (Queens Theatre Hornchurch/ATG tour), and The Dogwalker (Jermyn Street).

Talking about the play Erica Whyman said: “Ben and Imo is a rare treat; a play that captures the delicious and also tormenting struggle of a new artistic endeavour, the mischievous wit of two brilliant individuals, and the cruelty that often accompanies the assumption of genius.  It is a play about love, about music, and, importantly, about power; and Mark, of course, does not shy away from the disturbing choices that face a talented woman who has dedicated herself to a man’s success. Samuel and Victoria are performers at the top of their game, and they will bring these fascinating characters to life with playful vulnerability, fierce intelligence and unflinching courage.”

Mark Ravenhill added: "I first wrote about Benjamin Britten and Imogen Holst for BBC Radio 3 in 2013, to mark the centenary of Britten's birth.  One artist who has been celebrated and commemorated, one whose life and work have been largely forgotten. During the pandemic, I returned to my research and rebuilt the Ben and Imo material from the ground up to make a new play for the theatre.  I found these two complex and passionate characters - and their commitment to their art - to be a great solace during my lockdown isolation. Their story, I think, still poses urgent questions about how we make art today."

Mark Ravenhill is one of the UK's most well-known playwrights.  As RSC writer in residence work included a new version of Brecht's Life of Galileo and adaptations of Voltaire's Candide and David Walliams’ The Boy In The Dress. His plays include Shopping and Fucking and The Cane (Royal Court Theatre), Mother Clap's Mollyhouse and Citizenship (National Theatre), The Cut (Donmar) and Pool No Water (Frantic Assembly). With composer Conor Mitchell his music theatre includes Ten Plagues and The Headless Soldier.

Erica Whyman OBE. Photo © RSC.

Erica Whyman OBE is the former Acting and Deputy Artistic Director of the RSC, and before that was Artistic Director of Northern Stage, The Gate Theatre London, and Southwark Playhouse. Her production of Hamnet, currently running at the Garrick Theatre in London, has been nominated for a Whatsonstage award for Best New Play. Other extensive theatre credits include: FAITH, for Coventry City of Culture; The Winter’s Tale; Miss Littlewood by Sam Kenyon; Romeo and Juliet; Revolt, she said, revolt again by Alice Birch; A Museum in Baghdad by Hannah Khalil; The Christmas Truce by Phil Porter; and A Midsummer Night’s Dream – A Play for the Nation (all for the RSC); and Our Friends in the North; Look Back in Anger; Oh! What A Lovely War; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Oh the Humanity by Will Eno (Northern Stage).

Joining Erica and Mark on the creative team are: Soutra Gilmour (Designer), Jackie Shemesh (Lighting), Conor Mitchell (Music), Carolyn Downing (Sound), Pippa Hill (Dramaturg) and Matthew Dewsbury CDG (Casting).

For more information and to book tickets go to: or call the box office 01789 331111.


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