RSC in Stratford-Upon-Avon to host the first ever festival Of Shakespeare's complete Works from April 2006

RSC in Stratford-Upon-Avon to host the first ever festival Of Shakespeare’s complete Works from April 2006

From press release....

The Royal Shakespeare Company is to stage the biggest festival in its history, inviting theatre companies from across the world and around the UK to join the Company in a unique celebration of Shakespeare’s complete works.

From April 2006 the RSC will host The Complete Works, a year-long Festival of the entire Shakespeare canon at its Stratford-upon-Avon home. The Festival embraces film, new writing, and contemporary music, as well as a comprehensive survey of theatre artists currently interpreting Shakespeare worldwide. The Complete Works will celebrate the truly global reach of the greatest writer in the English language, and will be the first time all 37 plays, the sonnets and the long poems have been presented at the same event.

Fifteen of the productions in The Complete Works will be staged by the RSC. They include: the start of a new cycle of Shakespeare’s history plays; the return of Patrick Stewart in The Tempest and Antony and Cleopatra (with Harriet Walter); Merry Wives, a new musical adaptation of The Merry Wives of Windsor starring Dame Judi Dench; and to close the Festival, the return of Sir Ian McKellen as King Lear, directed by Sir Trevor Nunn.

As well as celebrating RSC talent, the Festival will showcase international artists like Peter Stein and Yukio Ninagawa who have made a lasting impact on the performance of Shakespeare. Joining them will be some of the UK’s most exciting theatre artists and interpreters of Shakespeare, with companies like Propeller, Kneehigh, aandbc, and Forkbeard Fantasy all participating in The Complete Works.

Visiting companies from South and North America, Russia, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and across Europe will explore Shakespeare’s continuing influence on cultures around the world. The Festival will open up what the RSC intends will be a richer dialogue with international theatre companies, promoting future collaborations especially with other ensemble theatre makers.

Highlights among the visiting companies include:
The Baxter Theatre Centre of South Africa presents Hamlet directed by Janet Suzman with Rajesh Gopie in the title role, John Kani as Claudius and Dorothy-Anne Gould as Gertrude, in its only UK performances.

Peter Stein directs a British company of actors in a new production of Troilus and Cressida (in association with Edinburgh International Festival)

Yukio Ninagawa brings his Japanese Titus Andronicus to the RST, in another UK premiere.

Münchner Kammerspiele present the UK premiere of Othello, directed by the Belgian director, Luk Perceval, and starring Thomas Thieme.

Anglo-Kuwaiti director Sulayman Al-Bassam directs a Pan-Arab version of Richard III focusing on Saddam Hussein’s early days as a secular Arab hero before he murdered his way through the Ba’ath party.

Tim Supple directs A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a company of performers from across India and Sri Lanka. The production makes its UK premiere at the Festival after an extensive tour of the sub continent.

Cheek by Jowl’s Russian Twelfth Night comes to Stratford.

From the United States: Chicago Shakespeare Theater brings Barbara Gaines’ production of the Henry IV plays in their first visit to the UK; Michael Kahn’s Washington Shakespeare brings Love’s Labour’s Lost; and Theatre for a New Audience from New York brings The Merchant of Venice with F Murray Abraham as Shylock.

RSC Artistic Director Michael Boyd said:
“While there will be some who’ll relish the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see all the plays in one Festival, The Complete Works is not only for Shakespeare aficionados. The Festival looks set to be the most extensive celebration of Shakespeare’s genius – at once a national knees-up for the RSC’s house playwright and a survey of the different approaches to his work from around the world. Our ambition is to stage one of the most significant cultural festivals of the year in Stratford-upon-Avon. “With the RSC’s finances in the black, a secure deal for performing in London and a great team working to transform our Stratford home, we can now stage a programme that meets our ambitions for an outward-looking RSC that’s truly engaged with the world. We want to do much more than pay lip service to Shakespeare’s internationalism as we prepare the ground for artistic collaborations that will continue beyond the life of the Festival.”

The Director of The Complete Works is Deborah Shaw who joined the RSC in 2004 from the Bath Shakespeare Festival. Deborah was previously Artistic Director of the Chester Gateway Theatre and Associate Director at Watford Palace Theatre.

As well as performing in existing RSC theatres, The Complete Works will expand to cover venues throughout the town. A new outdoor theatre, The Dell, is planned for the RSC’s riverside theatre gardens, hosting a fringe festival of work by amateur, school and student groups.

Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare is buried, provides the setting for a production of Henry VIII (directed by Greg Thompson), while Shakespeare’s Birthplace hosts a series of Shakespearean debates. The homeless people’s theatre company Cardboard Citizens will stage Timon of Athens as a management-training course in a local hotel.

In October 2006 the Company will create a new temporary 100-seat studio theatre inside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre auditorium. This new venue, created especially for one month of the Festival, will host small-scale, multi-media and physical theatre companies. Visitors will include Filter, Forkbeard Fantasy and Yellow Earth in a co-production with Shanghai Arts.

The most significant new building to launch during the Festival will be the 1,000 seat Courtyard Theatre which opens in July 2006. The new, temporary theatre, built adjoining The Other Place, allows for increased audience capacity in Stratford during the Festival of up to 2,800 theatregoers a night. The Courtyard Theatre will continue as the Company’s main theatre when work starts in 2007 on the transformation of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

The thrust-stage Courtyard Theatre, a prototype auditorium for the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre, opens with Artistic Director Michael Boyd re-visiting the Henry VI trilogy – plays which won him an Olivier award in 2001. The productions mark the start of a new history cycle encompassing Shakespeare’s entire chronicle of English history. Visiting companies in The Courtyard Theatre include Edward Hall’s Propeller all-male company with a residency which includes The Taming of the Shrew.

The Festival year also sees the launch of a major new publishing project – a new ‘RSC edition’ of the Complete Works of Shakespeare, edited by Jonathan Bate, Professor of Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature at the University of Warwick and a member of the RSC’s Board. The first new edition of the Complete Works this century, the project is a partnership between the RSC and publishers Macmillan and Random House.

Editor of the RSC Complete Works of Shakespeare, Jonathan Bate, said:
“With each new century, we see Shakespeare in new light and the process of editing him begins afresh. Understanding Shakespeare as a working dramatist whose plays were changed and adapted in the theatre has called into question some long-held assumptions about the relationship between his early printed texts. With the intimate involvement of RSC artists we will be able to produce a 21st century version of the only truly authoritative edition of Shakespeare: the First Folio that was published by his fellow-actors. “The editorial approach will spare no blushes with Shakespeare’s humour. Compared with previous editions, our glossary takes a much less coy attitude to the sexual innuendo and wickedly playful language of the plays.” The new RSC Complete Works is the first edition to be published based on the First Folio since 1709, and will be launched during the Festival year. Individual editions of the plays will follow from 2007.

Looking for the best seats...