The Royal Shakespeare Company has risked provoking a winter of discontent by announcing a Stratford season which contains no plays by Shakespeare.
The winter season, which includes the RSC's first mainstage production of a play by the late Arthur Miller, is designed as a short break before the company embarks on its plans to present the complete works of Shakespeare during 2006-7.
Instead of Shakespeare there will be new adaptations of two giants of English literature. Declan Donellan and Nick Ormerod's production of Dickens's Great Expectations, produced in association with their company Cheek by Jowl, launches the season in November.
Then comes a two-part adaptation in the Swan Theatre of Chaucer's complete Canterbury Tales, the first time the RSC has produced the work of Shakespeare's great predecessor.
The season is completed in the main house by Arthur Miller's 1950's classic The Crucible and in the Swan by Thomas Middleton's Women Beware Women, with Penelope Wilton in the lead.
Artistic director Michael Boyd said: "Just before we present the first Complete Works of Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, it makes sense, even for the RSC, that our winter season this year contains no Shakespeare.
"We know Shakespeare drew inspiration from Chaucer, so it's appropriate that in the run-up to the festival we explore the roots of our theatrical history.
"The company has a great track record in bringing classic literary texts to the stage and our new versions of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Dickens' Great Expectations continue this.
"It's also great to be bringing Declan Donellan and Nick Omerod, one of the UK's most distinctive creative teams, back to the RSC," he said.
He added: "Arthur Miller is one of a handful of 20th century dramatists to match Shakespeare's deep humanity and his political and spiritual range. It's as a tribute to Miller that we're presenting The Crucible - a timely revival for a play about democracy and moral leadership."