Geraldine James cast as Rosalind in RSC production of As You Like It

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Geraldine James is to play Rosalind this summer in a “playful and provocative” production of As You Like It by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

James, 72, will make her RSC debut in the role of the young woman exiled in the Forest of Arden. She is to join other veteran actors in Omar Elerian’s production of the play at the Royal Shakespeare theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, from 17 June. The stage will be transformed into a rehearsal room where the actors gather to remember a past show and share out the roles between them.

As You Like It is promoted as an ode “to young love, old age and theatre itself”. It is the latest example of age-blind casting in Shakespeare, after Ian McKellen played Hamlet aged 82 in Windsor in 2021 and again the following year in a dance production at the Edinburgh fringe.

Related: A princess and a saucy lackey: the actors' guide to Rosalind in As You Like It

James, who was nominated for a Tony award on Broadway for The Merchant of Venice in 1990, has had a celebrated career on screen including roles in the classic TV series The Jewel in the Crown and Band of Gold and, in 2021, The Beast Must Die. She played Queen Mary in the 2019 Downton Abbey film.

Elerian said: “I am really excited about starting rehearsals on this intriguing project, which will explore our relation to love, freedom, and the passing of time. I adore working with actors, so to be able to draw on the talent, craft and experience of exquisite performers such as Geraldine James is a true privilege.”