It’s common knowledge that during Shakespeare’s life, his plays were performed by a cast made up solely of men.

Haig Sutherland in Elizabeth Rex. Photo by David Blue

Bard audiences got a glimpse of that last summer with Timothy Findley’s Elizabeth Rex, where all the characters in the play within a play, Much Ado About Nothing, were played by men. (When Ned undresses and transitions from playing Beatrice is one of my favourite scenes!)

The practice of performing with an all male cast is still present today. Often it’s done as a twist or to add a layer to a new retelling of a play. 

Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London has produced two plays with all male casts. If you’re in the mood, have the time and the funds, they’re at the Belasco Theatre on Broadway in New York starting this week! 

The first of these productions is Twelfth Night, which you’ll all remember from our Mainstage this past summer. The second is The Tragedy of Richard the Third

They were originally performed to sold-out crowds at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre and the Apollo Theatre in London’s West End. These productions are presented with an all-male cast playing both the male and female roles, as the plays were originally staged in Shakespeare’s day. 

 The cast is remarkable: featuring two-time Tony Award winner Mark Rylance  (Jerusalem, Boeing-Boeing), Golden Globe nominee Stephen Fry (Gosford Park, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), Tony Award nominee Samuel Barnett (The History Boys), and many members of the acclaimed Shakespeare’s Globe and West End casts. 

Paul Chahidi and Colin Hurley in Twelfth Night. Photo from

There will also be the added bonus for audiences that upon entering the theatre, they’ll be privy to the pre-show ritual of actors dressing and preparing their make-up on stage! 

Please, if you go, take me with you! 

What are your thoughts on all male productions of Shakespeare? Do you think this is something we should consider at Bard?

Sound off below!