ANCIENT and modern themes will be the order of productions for the coming autumn and winter season at Stratford-upon-Avon’s Royal Shakespeare and Swan theatres.

RSC artistic director, Gregory Doran, says: “Our winter season ensures Shakespeare’s spirit is alive in the most exciting writers of today and demonstrates, as a company, we are investing in those new voices in order to better understand and reflect upon the world we live in.”

One of the highlights towards the end of the year will be a new family musical which will premiere in the RST.

This the RSC's festive offering - a Christmas musical with a difference from the much loved children’s novel by David Walliams - The Boy in the Dress, which will feature music and lyrics by Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers.

This is one of a season of new plays alongside Shakespeare’s King John that will play in the Swan Theatre exploring contemporary issues of nationhood.

The others being A Museum in Baghdad by Hannah Khalil and The Whip by Juliet Gilkes Romero.

Added to this will be Shakespeare for Everyone - on the road, in schools and at the heart of communities including First Encounter with Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice, which will tour schools and theatres across the nation.

Also featuring in the coming months will be Live at the RSC - Stand Up Comedy, a fortnight of comedian acts announced in association with Underbelly. This will take place in September.

The Boy in the Dress will be directed by Doran himself, and will play for 18 weeks in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from November to March 2020.

David Walliams said: “I’m delighted to be working with the Royal Shakespeare Company to bring this, my first children’s novel, to the stage.

“It’s now 10 years since it was first published and we’ve come a long way in that time. Ultimately, I wanted to write a story that encouraged people to recognise that difference can be celebrated, that it’s ok to be yourself.

He added: “I’ve always loved musicals and, somehow, I’d always imagined this book to be made into a musical so to be working with the RSC, writer Mark Ravenhill and song-writing partners Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers on this new production feels like a dream collaboration.”

Playwright Mark Ravenhill said: “I first came across The Boy in the Dress when I was in residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company back in 2012.

"I remember thinking that it was such a gripping, entertaining and life-affirming story with all the ingredients of a great stage show."

He added: "The Royal Shakespeare Company has a fantastic track record of producing family shows so when David suggested making his novel into a musical, I thought, let’s go for it!

"Creating and commissioning new work is very much at the heart of the RSC’s mission, and a musical collaboration of this kind is the perfect celebration of all of that energy, talent and generosity coming together to create, what will hopefully be a really fantastic theatre experience for audiences of all ages.”

Robbie Williams and Guy Chambers added; “We’re beyond excited to be working with the RSC on our first musical theatre collaboration.

"We are both big fans of David’s books, so when he approached us about writing the soundtrack to a new musical version of The Boy in the Dress for the RSC, we were genuinely delighted.

"There’s a real freshness, cheekiness and heart to David’s writing which we’ve worked really hard to capture in the music. It’s been a really exciting and rewarding journey and we can’t wait to share the show with audiences when it premieres in Stratford-upon-Avon this winter."

Deputy artistic director, Erica Whyman, will curate a new season of work in the Swan Theatre including King John, which sees England in turmoil after the death of Richard the Lionheart and threats from overseas.

A Museum in Baghdad is a more recent tale which links with Britain’s Imperial past and The Whip by Juliet Gilkes Romero, which will be directed by Kimberley Sykes.

Doran concluded: “We are now two thirds of the way through our project to stage every Shakespeare play in the First Folio.

“For our 25th production in the canon, we welcome emerging talent Eleanor Rhode in her RSC debut directing King John. When I directed this fascinating play in 2001, it was only the fourth time it had been produced by the RSC in its entire history.

“Since then, it has been explored much more frequently which surely attests to a growing interest in how the play speaks to our world today.“