October 22nd, 2016

RSC unite the nation for Shakespeare’s 400th

RSC unite the nation for Shakespeare’s 400th RSC unite the nation for Shakespeare’s 400th
Stratford's own The Bear Pit Theatre is one of a select number of amateur dramatic groups who will perform in the RSC's A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation. (s)
Updated: 3:22 pm, Sep 17, 2015

THE RSC will mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death by uniting Britain

The company’s spring and summer production will begin with A Midsummer Night’s Dream which will bring together 14

amateur companies from every nation and region of the UK.

Directed by Erica Whyman, the production celebrates his “love letter to amateur theatre” and will open in Stratford in February before embarking on a nationwide tour, and then returning to the RST.

The production will tour to all nations and regions with the same professional company. In each region, Bottom and the mechanicals will be played by a local amateur group, cast and trained by the RSC, in collaboration with 13 partner theatres.

Titania’s fairy train will be played by local school children in every location.

The Dream returns to Stratford for Midsummer, when all 14 amateur companies will have an opportunity to play on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage. Visit www.dream2016.org.uk to follow the journey.

Other season highlights on the RST stage include Hamlet at the RST, directed by Simon Godwin, with Paapa Essiedu in the title role, and Shakespeare’s late romance Cymbeline directed by Melly Still.

In the neighbouring Swan Theatre the company will be marking two other 400th anniversaries – since Ben Jonson’s First Folio and the death of Cervantes.

Johnson’s The Alchemist is directed by Polly Findlay, while Cervantes’ comic classic Don Quixote stars David Threlfall as Don Quixote and Rufus Hound as Sancho Panza, in a production directed by Angus Jackson, following his highly-acclaimed production of Oppenheimer.

And Maria Aberg directs Christopher Marlowe’s tale of vanity, greed and damnation, Doctor Faustus.

It promises to be a busy year for the RSC which will also see the re-opening in April of The Other Place in April – the company’s studio theatre, together with a new café and a new Page to Stage tour.

And the same month will also see the completion of the Swan Wing following a major heritage restoration. A new exhibition The Play’s The Thing, celebrating the magic of Shakespeare on stage and revealing the secrets and stories from 100 years of theatre-making in Stratford, opens in June.

Artistic Director, Gregory Doran, said: “Stratford-upon-Avon is the place to celebrate Shakespeare’s enduring influence and 2016 is surely the year to come to his hometown.

“Our summer season opens with Erica Whyman’s nationwide touring production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation, which sees our professional company work with 13 partner theatres, 14 amateur companies and 580 schoolchildren. This truly national production celebrates the UK’s passion for theatre-making and one of Shakespeare’s most loved plays.

“Our main house will then be home to one of the most famous and performed plays in the Shakespeare canon, Hamlet. In this production, directed by Simon Godwin, we hope to reveal new layers to this complex and inexhaustibly compelling play. Paapa Essiedu plays the title role.

“We will follow this with Melly Still’s production of Cymbeline, a late play with some of Shakespeare’s most beautiful language. And we conclude the summer season with my production of King Lear. Following his performance as Willy Loman in Miller’s Death of A Salesman, Antony Sher takes on the monumental title role.

“In the Swan Theatre, we want to place Shakespeare’s genius firmly in the context of his peers. We open with Marlowe’s great play, Doctor Faustus, directed by Maria Aberg, and then mark two other important anniversaries. Shakespeare’s great contemporary, Miguel de Cervantes, died on the same date as Shakespeare in 1616. We mark his own 400th anniversary by mounting a new adaptation of Don Quixote, by James Fenton, directed by Angus Jackson, with David Threlfall and Rufus Hound as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

“Shakespeare’s friend and rival playwright, Ben Jonson, brought out a folio edition of his own work in 1616: the first time any playwright had ever published a collected edition of plays. It is arguable that if Jonson had not done so, Hemmings and Condell would not have assembled Shakespeare’s plays for publication, in 1623, some seven years after his death. Without that folio, more than half of Shakespeare’s plays would now be lost to us. To celebrate Jonson’s achievement, we follow up Trevor Nunn’s current production of Volpone with a new production of The Alchemist, directed by Polly Findlay.

“As well as all our work on stage, there’ll be magic and surprise throughout the whole year, from Birthday fireworks and acrobatic outdoor theatre to a new exhibition of hidden treasures and even a secret fairy portal which will open at midnight on Midsummer’s Eve. At the end of the summer, we will formally open our new studio theatre with a powerful new work festival and gear up for an extraordinary end to the year.”

Visit www.rsc.org.uk for full programme details.