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Christopher Eccleston has signed up to star in a “thrillingly dark” and “modern” production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.

The ex-Doctor Who actor, 53, will be making his Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) debut in the role.

Unveiling its summer 2018 season, the theatre company also announced a musical on the late Joan Littlewood, the “anarchic revolutionary” who was dubbed the “mother of modern theatre”.

Christopher Eccleston (Ian West/PA)Christopher Eccleston (Ian West/PA)

A new musical will feature seven different actresses, yet to be cast, in the role of Littlewood at different stages of her life.

Littlewood was born into poverty but transformed British drama with her pioneering Theatre Workshop.

The musical was announced as the RSC attempts to redress the balance by having its entire summer 2018 season directed by women and by casting strong parts for women of a variety of ages.

They include roles in Macbeth, The Merry Wives Of Windsor, The Duchess Of Malfi, and The Fantastic Follies Of Mrs Rich (or The Beau Defeated) by Mary Pix, as well as Miss Littlewood.

The RSC’s artistic director Gregory Doran praised Eccleston for combining “vitality with profound imagination”.

He also launched a fundraising campaign for the restoration and redevelopment of the RSC’s Costume Workshop at the company’s Stratford-upon-Avon home.

The RSC has the largest in-house costume-making department of any British theatre, with everything from armour and shoes to underwear and jewellery made there.

Stitch In Time aims to raise £3 million towards the cost of restoring and redeveloping the Costume Workshop.

Next year will also see the launch of Next Generation ACT, which will make up the RSC’s first talent-based young acting company.