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RSC to host Complete Works Festival

Image from RSC production of OthelloFrom April 2006, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) will host The Complete Works, a year-long Festival of the entire Shakespeare canon, at its Stratford-upon-Avon home. The Festival will include 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 global reach of Shakespeare, 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, Patrick Stewart and Harriet Walter in Antony and Cleopatra, Merry Wives, a new musical adaptation of The Merry Wives of Windsor starring Judi Dench, and to close the Festival, the return of Ian McKellen as King Lear, directed by Trevor Nunn. In addition, the RSC will play host to visiting companies from Africa, India, the Middle East, North and South America, Japan, China, Russia and from across mainland Europe.

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 the Edinburgh International Festival).
  • Yukio Ninagawa brings his Japanese Titus Andronicus to the RST, in another UK premiere.
  • Münchner Kammerspiele presents 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 Theater for a New Audience from New York brings The Merchant of Venice with F Murray Abraham as Shylock.

As well as performing in existing RSC venues, the Festival will expand to cover venues throughout the town. A new outdoor theatre, The Dell, is planned for the RSC’s riverside theatre gardens; Holy Trinity Church will provide the setting for a production of Henry VIII and Shakespeare’s birthplace will host a series of Shakespearean debates.

A new temporary 100-seat studio theatre will also be created inside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre auditorium during October 2006. The venue, created especially for one month of the Festival, will host small-scale, multi-media and physical theatre companies.

In addition, a 1,000 seat Courtyard Theatre will open in July 2006. The new temporary theatre, built adjoining The Other Place, will allow for increased audience capacity 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.

Education and community work will also be important to the Festival with an extensive education programme running throughout the year. The RSC will launch an inquiry – Studying Shakespeare: time for change? – re-evaluating how Shakespeare is introduced to young people in schools and colleges through a series of events and conferences. At the end of the Festival year a report will make a series of recommendations to the Government and key policy makers on the future teaching of Shakespeare.

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."

To coincide with The Festival, Professor Jonathan Bate from Warwick's Department of English, has edited a major new edition of the Complete Works of Shakespeare, to be published by Macmillan. A hardback edition of the Complete Works will be published towards the end of 2006 and a paperback edition plus individual editions of each of the plays will follow in 2007. Professor Jonathan Bate at the RSCSee for more details.

Booking for RSC Full Members opens on 1 August 2005, booking for Associate Members opens on 15 August (for the period April – October 2006). Public booking opens on 5 September 2005.

Young people aged 16-25 will be able to buy £5 tickets, including some of the best seats available, either in advance or on the day.

For more information on the Festival, visit

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