The Royal Shakespeare Company
As one of the United Kingdom's most acclaimed theatre companies, the Royal Shakespeare Company enjoys a well-deserved reputation in the cultural circles throughout Britain, Europe, and the Americas. The notorious success of this Warwickshire-based theatre group has attracted people from all walks of life to its shows and performances, so why not take the opportunity to have a close look at this unique theatre company?
A look at the history of the Royal Shakespeare Company
The origins of the Royal Shakespeare Company can be traced back to 1961. One of the founders was Peter Hall, who started the company with the objective of establishing a permanent theatre company that would become an international reference in the fields of the arts, culture, and entertainment. The Royal Shakespeare Company acquired the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon (which will later become known as the Royal Shakespeare Theatre), and the Swan Theatre, as well as a venue at the Aldwych, in London.
After twenty years, the prestige of the company had grown so much that it was needed to move the group's London base to a larger venue. At the beginning of the 1980s, the company was based at the Barbican Centre, where it remained for another twenty years until it was decided that the company would focus on redeveloping its two Stratford theatres, whose much-awaited inauguration took place in 2007. As of 2011, the Royal Shakespeare Company has paid special attention to building an audience on the other side of the Atlantic, and during that year it established an office in New York, from where it coordinates several educational programmes together with the city's Department for Education.
The Royal Shakespeare Company and its modern day development
Although obviously the focus of the Royal Shakespeare Company is to celebrate the literary legacy of the English playwright, the theatre company has not limited itself to producing plays based exclusively on Shakespeare's works. A significant amount of work has gone into developing a wide range of educational projects that intend to make Shakespeare's works enjoyable to the younger ones, and to provide teachers with a long list of useful resources to help them achieve this goal. Currently, the company's educational projects include school visits, continuing education programs, summer schools, workshops, post-show talkbacks, and the Shakespeare Challenge, an arts award that can help young people gain a qualification. There are also several apprenticeships and work placements available.
In addition, throughout its five decades of existence, the Royal Shakespeare Company has also worked hard at developing solid professional links with other artists of national and international prestige through numerous collaborations. For example, earlier on this year the company agreed to adapt two of Hilary Mantel's best-selling novels into theatre plays. Keeping in line with its flair for historical plays, the Royal Shakespeare Company suggested the adaptation of Mantel's novels Bring Up the Bodies and Wolf Hall, as these deal with some lesser known aspects of the period surrounding the rulership of Henry VIII. It is expected that the plays will be part of the company's offer for the 2013 winter season, and they will be performed in Stratford between December 2013 and March 2014.
Another example is the company's ongoing work with exceptional dramatists and playwrights of our time, such as Peter Flannery, Christopher Hampton, Roy Williams, Rona Monro, David Edgar, Wole Soyinka, and Marina Carr. The company's new work deals with a variety of topics that extend far beyond Shakespeare's life, and which include sports, politics, and American history.
Throughout its history, the Royal Shakespeare Company has worked with distinguished actors of international standing, such as Vivien Leigh, Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Kenneth Branagh, Peter O'Toole, Jeremy Irons, Gary Oldman, and Ralph Fiennes, to mention just a few.
Future plans for the Royal Shakespeare Company
Currently, the Royal Shakespeare Company's artistic department is being directed by Gregory Doran, a renowned Shakespearian who has ample experience producing plays for television. During a recent interview, Doran revealed his ambitious plans for the future of the Royal Shakespeare Company. His five-year plan includes projects to produce a play based on Shakespeare's historic book "Henry II", whose character will be played by David Tennant.
Doran also has plans to celebrate the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth by focusing on the company's family and Christmas plays, which will come to include an adaptation of the Wendy and Peter Pan story. Lastly, Doran has also stressed his interest in innovating (no play repetitions will be staged) and in making theatre accessible to as many people as possible so as to increase the cultural capital of the nation.
Because of its past and present history, the Royal Shakespeare Company is an invaluable cultural asset whose work must be seen first-hand at least once in everyone's life.