The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) today released details of its Spring 2022 activity including Shakespeare returning to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage and the announcement of a ground-breaking national new writing project. The Company re-affirmed its commitment to co-create theatre online, onstage and in classrooms as part of a nationwide Royal Shakespeare Community, working with over 200 Associate Schools and 12 regional theatre partners.
Shakespeare returns to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre with a much-loved romantic comedy and two state-of the nation plays.
- Michael Balogun and Akiya Henry play Benedick and Beatrice in a new production of Much Ado About Nothing directed by Roy Alexander Weise. Roy makes his RSC debut following the phenomenal success of Nine Night, Master Harold and the Boys (NT) and The Mountaintop. His production will be a futuristic take on humanity’s capacity for change, and for love.
- Gregory Doran and Owen Horsley direct Henry VI: Rebellion followed by Wars of the Roses directed by Owen Horsley in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre with a fresh new take on Henry VI Parts 2 & 3. The plays tell the story of a nation in crisis and recovery sharply resonant with our times today.
Extraordinary theatre experiences co-created in partnership with the RSC’s nationwide network of 200 Associate Schools, 12 regional theatre partners and their local communities.
- Henry VI: Rebellion; RSC Actors to perform alongside 96 members of the Royal Shakespeare Community including young performers from the RSC’s Next Generation Act young company, adults from RSC Shakespeare Nation participation programme and emerging professional performers.
- 37 Plays – an ambitious project to get the nation writing to create a new ‘Complete Works’. Working with the Company’s 12 regional theatre partners across the country, 37 Plays will invite new works by and for the nation celebrating the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s first folio.
- First Encounters with Shakespeare: Twelfth Night chosen and created in collaboration with the RSC’s Associate Schools and regional theatre partners and guided by the concerns of young people. Touring communities nationwide in 2022.
Championing every child’s right to an arts-rich education
RSC research with children and young people tells us that an education that includes arts and cultural subjects teaches critical thinking and increases emotional resilience.
We deliberately work in long-term partnership with schools and communities in under-served areas in a way that unlocks potential, levels the playing field and opens up what Shakespeare and his plays can mean for the next generation.
- 450 young Shakespeare Ambassadors recruited – working with RSC Youth Advisory Board members at a regional and national level to develop arts rich schools and communities
- Free and on demand for schools; Michael Morpurgo’s Tales from Shakespeare; including four new titles King Lear, Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet, Henry V & free school broadcast of Much Ado About Nothing announced.
Erica Whyman, Acting Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, said:
“As we look beyond the pandemic with renewed confidence, we are clear what the Royal Shakespeare Company stands for. We play an important role in the UK’s creative and economic recovery, but we can only do that because we make theatre with an amazing range of young people and adults up and down the country.
This coming Spring is a celebration of working in collaboration, with our brilliant world-class artists, regional theatre partners, our nationwide network of Associate Schools, our Youth Advisory Board, and all the audiences we serve.
I have long admired Roy Alexander Weise and we look forward very much to his fresh take on the redemptive Much Ado About Nothing. Then we continue our journey through the canon with a double-bill of Henry VI Rebellion and Wars of the Roses, Shakespeare’s most audacious state-of-the-nation plays, created in a ground-breaking collaboration with young people and adults.
This commitment to making theatre with the nation is even more vividly expressed in 37 Plays – the most ambitious, public writing project in the Company’s history. After this last eighteen months, we all have a story to tell, and working together with our resilient theatre partners up and down the country we will set out to encourage everyone to find their voice. And we begin to look forward to 2023 when we will celebrate two remarkable collections of plays, Shakespeare’s First Folio, and the comedies, tragedies and histories of our time”
Catherine Mallyon, RSC Executive Director added:
‘As we continue our recovery from the pandemic, and face head on the challenges that have arisen as a result, we look forward with optimism as we continue to create extraordinary experiences for and with people in Stratford-upon-Avon, in theatres and local communities around the country, in London and online.
‘We know that audiences hold our Swan Theatre in deep affection, and we are taking the opportunity of this moment of phased reopening to undertake some essential capital works during 2022 to the theatre. We need to stabilise the ceiling, ensure compliance of key equipment, and improve the environmental impact of the electrical infrastructure. We also hope to increase physical accessibility and refresh seating to improve audience comfort and will undertake this work during the spring and summer of 2022’.
‘We are very grateful to be able to look to the future thanks to the loan from the Culture Recovery Fund, the funding of Arts Council England and the generous support of thousands of donors and our sponsors. It is very much the start of our recovery and, as we make ambitious plans for 2022 and beyond, the support of our funders and partners for this work is vital and appreciated.’
THE ROYAL SHAKESPEARE THEATRE
Much Ado About Nothing
Michael Balogun and Akiya Henry will take up the roles of sparring lovers Benedick and Beatrice in a futuristic take on Much Ado About Nothing running in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from 4 February to 12 March 2022.
Much Ado About Nothing will be directed by Roy Alexander Weise, award-winning Director and joint Artistic Director of the Manchester Royal Exchange Theatre. He will make his RSC debut following productions at The National Theatre, The Bush Theatre, Bristol, Tobacco Factory, Theatre503, The Arcola, The Young Vic, Finborough and in the West End.
As a Director, Roy’s previous works include Master Harold and the Boys for The National Theatre, and the multi award-winning Nine Night which later transferred to the West End and was the first transfer of its kind to be written by a British black female playwright. Roy’s 2016 production of The Mountaintop by Katori Hall saw him awarded the prestigious James Menzies-Kitchin Young Director Award.
Roy was made joint Artistic Director of the Royal Exchange Theatre in 2019 alongside Bryony Shanahan and was awarded an MBE for services to drama in 2020.
The production will feature Set Design by Jemima Robinson, Lighting Design by Azusa Ono, Sound Design by Claire Windsor and Dramaturgy by Anthony Simpson-Pike.
Costume Design is by Melissa Simon-Hartman; London-born artist, couture fashion designer, and owner of Simon-Hartman London, whose West African inspired designs recently featured in the videos for ‘Mood 4 Eva’ and ‘My Power’ as part of Beyonce’s 2020 visual album: Black Is King.
Melissa’s previous collaborations include designing award-winning costumes for the Notting Hill Carnival with her label Legion Mas, producing costumes for music videos which include Stefflon Don’s ‘Can’t Let You Go and Burna Boy & Wizkid’s ‘Ginger’ and designing outfits for the London premiere of the movie, ‘I AM BOLT’ in 2016.
The production will also feature an original score by Nigerian-born British guitarist and MOBO award-nominated musician Femi Temowo whose past collaborators include Amy Winehouse, Dee Dee Bridgewater, The Roots and Soweto Kinch.
Roy Alexander Weise said:
‘Shakespeare was all too aware of the creative potential that came with setting his plays in imagined worlds…or at least worlds unfamiliar to his audience at the time. Far off landscapes like Antium, Ephesus, Syria, Venice and Verona were as far removed from the world of 16th century England as the future feels to us today, providing Shakespeare with the perfect canvas on which to paint. Living in a 21st Century global society, our world is much smaller and more connected, which is why I wanted to explore what a futuristic vision of society might look like; what has the potential to be different, what potential is there for change, and equally what fundamental aspects of the human condition remain unchanged?”
Henry VI: Rebellion and Wars of the Roses
Following their previous collaboration on the King & Country cycle of plays and having most recently working together to co-direct the Henry VI Part One: Open Rehearsal Project, Gregory Doran and Owen Horsley reunite to continue their journey through the Henry plays with Henry VI: Rebellion (directed by Gregory Doran and Owen Horsley), followed by Wars of the Roses (directed by Owen Horsley) running in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from Fri 1 April to Sat 4 June 2022.
This epic journey through The Wars of the Roses tells the vivid and enthralling story of the brutal struggle for the English crown.
Originally titled The First Part of the Contention betwixt the two famous houses of York and Lancaster and labelled Henry VI: Part Two when first published, Henry VI: Rebellion hurtles through one of the most turbulent periods in English history, asking the question: can the people ever really decide their own future?
This fresh new take on Henry VI: Part Two will see a professional cast of 26 work alongside 96 members of the Royal Shakespeare Community including young performers from the RSC’s Next Generation Act company and adults from RSC Shakespeare Nation participation programme.
The production, which runs in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from Friday 1 April to Saturday 28 May, will feature participants from six Shakespeare Nation adult community groups, working with RSC theatre partners from The Grand Theatre Blackpool, Hall for Cornwall Truro, Theatre Royal & Concert Hall Nottingham, Norwich Theatre, The Alhambra Theatre Bradford, and The Marlowe Theatre Canterbury.
They will be joined on stage by members of Next Generation Act, a unique talent development programme made up of 25 young people aged between 13 and 18 from the RSC’s nationwide network of 222 Associate Schools.
Inspired by Henry VI Part Three, Director Owen Horsley will present the dramatic conclusion to Shakespeare’s three-part Henry VI saga, Wars of the Roses from 11 April to 4 June 2022
In this thrilling climax to The Wars of the Roses, the tussle for the English crown escalates to the battlefield and the families of Lancaster and York drench their brutal conflict in sweat and blood. As power is shunted back and forth, there is deceit, betrayal and murder at every turn. The scene is set for the final chapter as we get our first glimpse of the villainous Duke of Gloucester – soon to become Richard III.
Henry VI: Rebellion and Wars of the Roses will feature Set Design by Stephen Brimson Lewis. He will be joined by Costume Designer Hannah Clark, whose recent credits for the RSC include Justin Audibert’s 2019 gender-flipped production of William Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Lighting Design is by Matt Daw and Sound Design by Steven Atkinson. RSC Associate Artist Paul Englishby returns to compose the music with fights by Rachel Bown-Williams & Ruth Cooper-Brown.
Royal Shakespeare Theatre productions are sponsored by Darwin Escapes.
Owen Horsley said:
‘The Henry VI plays are rarely seen on stage and that is most probably because of the pure scale and ambition of the young writer who penned them. Both Henry VI Parts Two and Three are record holders in their own right; Part Two containing the largest number of characters and Part Three featuring the greatest number of battles in any Shakespeare play. Throughout Henry VI we see a seismic shift from a chivalric code of honour to a dog-eat-dog world were only the most politically canny will survive’.
‘It feels very modern in its immediacy and paints a vivid and brutal picture of an individualistic world that is hell bent on power. Like the young Shakespeare’s Henry plays, this will be an epic collaboration in every sense; working with Next Generation Act young company and Shakespeare Nation adult community groups from across the UK to give voice to the people of England and their growing desire to rebel, whilst also engaging with new drama graduates who have had their own voices temporarily silenced by the pandemic”.
37 PLAYS – AN INVITATION TO THE NATION
Launching in January 2022 in collaboration with theatres across the country, 37 Plays will bring together diverse voices from across the UK in one of the most ambitious new writing and creative projects in the Company’s history.
Inspired by the scope and timeless relevance of Shakespeare’s plays, capturing the stories of a nation in an extraordinary historical moment, 37 Plays will invite children, young people, and adults, including established emerging and first-time writers to write the comedies, tragedies, and untold histories of our time.
The project will run through 2022 and will culminate in an online and in-person festival in 2023 marking the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio.
From five-act plays to short-form monologues, plays performed on stage, or on the streets, to new and emerging formats, 37 Plays will explore who we are as a society and inspire meaningful conversation about what the future of dramatic writing might look and feel like, on and off our stages.
Working with the Learning and Creative teams of partner theatres across the UK, 37 Plays will include an open call to anyone wishing to contribute with the simple brief of creating a piece of drama that can make people smile, cry, tell untold stories or the history of our time with further details to be confirmed in January 2022.
Regional and national panels will be created to read, long list and short list submissions. The shortlisted 37 Plays will be collated and published with the aim of the selected plays being produced and performed in 2023.
Erica Whyman, Acting Artistic Director of the RSC said ‘One of the many reasons that Shakespeare’s plays continue to endure is down to his ability to write about his own time in ways that still mean something to us today. Despite the centuries that have passed, we still recognise something of ourselves in his writings. Now, more than ever, there are new and urgent stories to tell about who we think we are and who might become. We know that as a nation we have a lot to say, and with 37 Plays we have the opportunity to surface those stories whether comic, tragic, historical, supernatural, real or imagined, unearthing new voices for different platforms whether that’s on our stages, on our streets, in schools, online or in new locations and spaces we haven’t explored yet’
RSC IN LONDON AND ON TOUR
The RSC is committed to creating extraordinary theatre experiences inspired by Shakespeare’s plays in Stratford-upon-Avon, in London, around the country and online.
After re-opening to audiences in Autumn 2021 for its ten-year anniversary, bookings for Matilda The Musical are currently available at The Cambridge Theatre through to 29 May 2022 for individuals and 16 December 2022 for groups and schools. The production was originally commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, having premiered at the RSC’s Stratford-upon-Avon home in 2010 before transferring to the West End in October 2011.
The previously announced world premiere production of Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light continues its run at London’s Gielgud Theatre with booking now extended until 23 January 2022 by popular demand. Co-produced by Playful Productions and the Royal Shakespeare Company, the play is the third and final instalment in the Wolf Hall trilogy and was adapted by Hilary Mantel and Ben Miles for the West End stage.
After playing to 30,000 people at The Lydia & Manfred Gorvy Garden Theatre in Stratford this Summer, Phillip Breen’s critically acclaimed The Comedy of Errors will tour to Nottingham, Canterbury and Bradford, concluding at London’s Barbican theatre from 16 Nov to 31 Dec 2021.
This will be followed by the return of the RSC First Encounters with Shakespeare series in 2022 with a new production of Twelfth Night, edited and directed by Robin Belfield.
For over a decade the RSC has taken First Encounters productions – edited versions of the plays performed using Shakespeare’s original language – on the road into the heart of communities. They have been enjoyed by over 100,000 people to date and are an important part of the RSC’s work which is rooted in a long-term commitment to different regions around the country. Through deep partnerships with schools and theatres across England, RSC activity provides pathways for young people, teachers, artists and schools to develop their skills and knowledge.
Twelfth Night will be co-created with the RSC’s Associate Regional Theatres and Associate Schools, enabling young people to experience Shakespeare for the first time, not simply as audience members but as theatre makers.
Director Robin Belfield said: “Making theatre is an act of community and so emerging from challenges and isolation brought about by the Covid pandemic, I’m looking forward to making this show in partnership with other theatre makers and young people from various communities around the country. Twelfth Night seems the ideal play too, one that starts with separation and loss and ends with reunion and joy.
Working with the RSC’s Associate Schools, it’s clear that the climate crisis is a priority for young people, so I’m excited to see how I can work with the RSC and its partners to create and tour this show in the most environmentally conscious way possible.”
The First Encounters with Shakespeare series will tour to theatre and communities nationwide in Autumn 2022 including Birmingham, Cumbria, Blackpool, Newcastle, York, Bradford, Hull, Stoke-on-Trent, Nottingham, and Suffolk.
All performances of Twelfth Night will be chilled performances offering a welcoming, safe environment for everyone to encounter Shakespeare for the first time. Performance dates and tour locations to be announced.
RSC IN SCHOOLS, ONLINE AND IN COMMUNITIES
The Royal Shakespeare Company works with people of all ages – in classrooms, on stages and online and incorporates 1,000 schools, 1,500 adults and over half a million young people across the nation as part of the Royal Shakespeare Community.
The RSC supported young people and teachers throughout the pandemic through its online resources including RSC Homework Help including Associate Artists David Tennant and Adjoa Andoh, online Shakespeare Learning Zone, downloadable Teachers Packs, Live Lessons and BBC Bitesize Shakespeare lessons.
Not only has the UK seen reductions in opportunities to access the arts, but existing inequalities have been widened across society leading to conversations about how the Royal Shakespeare Company and its partners can work to redress them.
The RSC continues to address these urgent challenges, using Shakespeare’s work and RSC ways of working in rehearsals to;
- Unlock potential in young people by developing life, language and theatre skills, building self-confidence and enhancing life chances.
- Level the playing field …not all children and adults have equal access to Shakespeare and the arts and we work to change that.
- Ask Why Shakespeare? Explore and challenge what Shakespeare means to us and the people we work with.
RSC Director of Learning and National Partnerships, Jacqui O’Hanlon said;
‘All young people deserve an arts-rich education. We know this develops the life chances of children, contributes to their wellbeing, develops skills and behaviours that mean they do better at school, enhances employability and creates engaged citizens who make a positive contribution to their communities and society.
We have so much evidence as an arts sector about the ways in which arts rich schools and arts learning unlocks potential and reveals new ways to see ourselves, others and the world around us. All young people and schools should have access to artists and resources that support learning outcomes for children and develop pathways for their future, equipping them to go out and thrive in today’s world’.
RSC Learning is offering a wide range of resources and activities for teachers and learners, many free to use, including online performances and videos, workshops and professional development opportunities.
Certificate in Teaching Shakespeare – develops teachers’ skills knowledge and confidence in using RSC rehearsal-room approaches in the classroom and professional development days led by RSC artists at a venue of choice. Courses can be created for teachers from Early Years to Key Stage 5 and can cover any Shakespeare play.
Clore Learning Centre online workshops – enabling any school anywhere in the UK to book a workshop with RSC Artists to explore the contemporary relevance of Shakespeare’s plays to the world today with workshops on Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet or The Tempest available throughout November and December 2021.
On-demand schools’ broadcast – the RSC’s 2016 production of The Tempest is now open for school registrations. This will be followed by a broadcast of Much Ado About Nothing which will be available in Spring 2022.
Tales from Shakespeare with Michael Morpurgo – after launching in January 2021, the RSC’s weekly series returns in Spring 2022 with four new tales from celebrated children’s author Michael Morpurgo, featuring readings by members of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Recordings of King Lear, The Taming of the Shrew, Hamlet and Henry V will be released weekly from 14 January and will be available on demand to schools for three months.
Shakespeare Learning Zone – the award-winning website contains an informative and interactive catalogue of games, videos, galleries and key learning resources, giving students the chance to find more about each play or revise ones they know well. The newest additions will be The Comedy of Errors and As You Like It, including specially commissioned films of actors in rehearsals and in performance. Is there a number of users stat to add here?