THE Royal Shakespeare Company has set itself a specific and spectacular target for its summer season.

Its artistic director, Gregory Doran, says his ambition is for a new collaborative cross-cast ensemble which reflects the nation.

They will play three Shakespeare productions in a newly reconfigured Royal Shakespeare Theatre next summer and all three productions will then tour in repertoire for the first time to six regional theatres in 2019.

Doran said: “This season reflects the power of storytelling in its most essential form, with the actor at the centre of the work.

“With Justin Audibert and Kimberley Sykes, I am creating a company which reflects the nation in terms of gender, ethnicity, regionality, and disability - 27 actors who will all appear in two out of the three plays.”

He added: “We will build on our commitment to inclusivity and create a truly shared theatrical experience. We are also making some exciting changes to the theatre auditorium specifically for this season by extending the audience further round the stage at the circle levels than ever before, creating new perspectives on the action, truly exploiting the unique qualities of our thrust stage, showing our work in a completely new way.”

Meanwhile in the Swan Theatre next summer, the RSC will celebrate two important anniversaries.

“To mark 25 years since the first democratic elections in South Africa, we are thrilled,” says Doran, “to be staging the world premiere of a new play by renowned South African actor, John Kani.

Kani started to write the play when he was playing Caliban in 2009 opposite Antony Sher as Prospero in The Tempest. The resulting play - Kunene and the King - will be directed by Janice Honeyman, and features both these extraordinary South African actors.

Doran said they would also mark 250 years since David Garrick’s famous Shakespeare Jubilee in 1769, which launched Stratford-upon-Avon as the epicentre of the Shakespeare Industry.

Anyone bringing their diary up to date should note that from February 14 until August 31 it will be As You Like It at the Royal ShakespeareTheatre, followed by another Shakespeare play - The Taming of the Shrew from March 8 to August 31, and completing the trio of offerings from the Bard will be Measure for Measure from June 28 to August 29.

Along with Kunene and the King from March 21 to April 23, the Swan Theatre will also host John Vanbrugh’s The Provoked Wife from May 2 to September 7 and Thomas Otway’s Venice Preserved from May 24 to September 7.