|ROYAL SHAKESPEARE COMPANY
The RSC is one of the world's best-known theatre companies. Every year the Company
plays to a million theatergoers at 2,000 performances staged across the world.
We play throughout the year at our home in Stratford-upon-Avon, the town where
Shakespeare was born and died. We also perform regularly in London and at an
annual RSC residency in Newcastle Upon Tyne. In addition, we play over 50 weeks
of UK and international touring, including residencies with universities and
performing centres in the United States.
The RSC's touchstone is the work of William Shakespeare. Our mission is to
keep in touch with Shakespeare as out contemporary, but also to keep contemporary
audiences, artists and writers in touch with Shakespeare. In addition to Shakespeare,
the Company's repertoire includes other Renaissance dramatists, and the work
of international and contemporary writers.
We want to give as many people as possible, from all walks of life, a richer
and fuller understanding of theatre. Through education and outreach programmes
we continually strive to engage people with the experience of live performance.
Despite continual change, the RSC today is still at the heart an ensemble company.
Everyone in the Company, from directors, actors and writers to production, administrative,
technical and workshop staff, all collaborate in the RSC distinctive and unmistakable
approach to theatre.
The Early Years
In 1875, Charles Edward Flower, a Stratford brewer, launched an international
campaign to build a theatre in the town of Shakespeare's birth. His donation
of the now famous two-acre site began a family tradition of generosity to the
theatre which continues today. The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre was a Victorian
Gothic building originally seating 711 people (53 in the stalls, 158 in the
circle, 500 in the gallery and pit) with further seating being added in 1880,
1899 and 1903-04. It opened in 1879 with a performance of Much Ado About Nothing.
Initially the season was limited to 8 days in the spring. From 1907 star visitors
began to appear in Stratford such as Ellen Terry and H Beerbohm Tree and under
the direction of F R Benson, a month-long summer season was added in 1910.
The Royal Charter
Almost 50 years of excellence were recognized in 1925 by the granting of a Royal
Charter. Only a year later the theatre was destroyed by fire. Today, the Swan
Theatre occupies all that remains of the original Victorian Memorial Theatre.
The festival director, William Bridges-Adams, continued productions in a local
cinema, and a worldwide campaign was launched to build a new theatre. In 1932
The Prince of Wales opened the new Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, designed by
Elisabeth Scott, on 23rd April, Shakespeare's birthday.
1932 - 1961
Over the next thirty years the Company continued to build its reputation, working
with established Shakespearean actors, as well as nurturing new talent. From
1945 the company's work began to win critical acclaim. Michael Redgrave, Ralph
Richardson, John Gielgud, Peggy Ashcroft, Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier
acted alongside new faces such as Richard Burton. It was in the late 1950s that
invitations to perform in Russia, Europe and the USA helped to broaden the company's
In 1960, Peter Hall formed the modern Royal Shakespeare Company and in 1961,
the Memorial Theatre was renamed the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. The repertoire
widened to take in modern work and classics other than Shakespeare. The sixties
brought a new generation of actors and directors to the company - David Warner,
Judi Dench, Ian Richardson, Janet Suzman, Clifford Williams, John Barton, Trevor
Nunn and Terry Hands. Many remain Associate Artists of the RSC. This period also saw landmark productions such as Peter Hall's Wars of the Roses.
Over the next thirty years the company continued to expand under a succession
of visionary and creative Artistic Directors: Peter Hall (1960 - 1968), Trevor
Nunn (1968 -1978), Trevor Nunn jointly with Terry Hands (1978 - 1987), Terry
Hands (1987 - 1991) and Adrian Noble (1991 - 2003).
The Swan Theatre
The 1986 season in Stratford saw the opening of another theatre. Built inside
part of the shell of the Memorial Theatre that survived the 1926 fire, the Swan
is a unique, modern theatre space based on the design of the playhouses of Elizabethan
England. The Swan Theatre continues to be a favorite space for many actors and
audiences owing to its intimate staging and the close proximity of the audience
to the action.
Extending the Company's Reach
Adrian Noble succeeded Terry Hands as Artistic Director in March 1991 and has
continued to extend the vision and reach of the company over the last ten years.
In 1996 the company announced a major change in policy to increase access to
the company's repertoire through increased touring worldwide. The extension
of the geographical spread of the RSC now enables up to 75% of the population
to be within a 45 - minute drive time of the RSC's work at some point in the
A new Artistic Director
In July 2002 Michael Boyd was announced as the new Artistic Director for the
RSC replacing Adrian Noble from March 2003 and signaling a new chapter in the
company's history. Michael became an Associate Director of the company in 1996
and has directed numerous productions for the RSC. In 2000/2001 he won an Olivier
Award for Best Director for the productions Henry VI, parts I, II, III and Richard
III. The productions formed part of the RSC's This England - The Histories cycle.
Despite the growth from Festival theatre to international status, the values
of the RSC today have changed very little since 1905: the RSC is still formed
around an ensemble of actors and a core of associate actors who continue to
give a distinctive approach to theatre. The RSC also continues to be a superb
training ground for the artistic and technical talents of British and international