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RST from the River Avon - Stratford-upon-Avon
RST from the River Avon - Stratford-upon-Avon

RSC 2016 Summer Programme

2016 promises to be an extraordinary year as we celebrate Shakespeare’s continuing legacy 400 years after his death. This season runs across the first half of the year in Stratford-upon-Avon, with an incredible range of work by Shakespeare and his contemporaries.


We kick off in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre with A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation. This ground-breaking production, directed by my Deputy Artistic Director Erica Whyman, sees our company of 18 professional actors work alongside amateur actors who play Shakespeare’s Mechanicals. Starting in Stratford, the show will tour the 12 regions and nations of the UK, working with local amateur companies in their home towns, before returning to Stratford for Midsummer, alongside a fantastic programme of summer events. Simon Godwin returns, following his infectiously enjoyable production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona with a vibrant, contemporary production of Hamlet. I’m delighted that Paapa Essiedu will take on the title role. Joining Hamlet in repertoire will be Cymbeline, as we continue our journey through all of Shakespeare’s plays. Melly Still returns to the company to direct Shakespeare’s rarely-performed romance.  


In the Swan Theatre, Maria Aberg brings her exhilarating style to Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus before we mark two other significant anniversaries. Cervantes died on the same date as Shakespeare, so it’s appropriate in 2016 that we stage a new version of his great genre-defining novel, Don Quixote. James Fenton’s new version will be directed by Angus Jackson following his acclaimed production of Oppenheimer earlier this year. Finally, we stage Jonson’s masterpiece, The Alchemist. 2016 is also the 400th anniversary of the publication of Jonson’s folio of his own collected works. Without this, it’s entirely possible that John Hemmings and Henry Condell would not have published a folio of their great friend Shakespeare’s works. Without that first folio, published in 1623, half of his plays would have been lost to us.  


Beyond our work on stage, we have a host of events and exhibitions, as well as programmes for students and teachers throughout the year. We will also complete two major capital projects, opening The Other Place and our new Swan Wing Exhibition. There will never be a better time to experience Shakespeare’s work in Stratford-upon-Avon.  


Later in the year, I will direct King Lear with Antony Sher in the title role. That production will go on sale in the New Year together with another Shakespeare production that I’m not yet able to ann 


ounce, but promises to be a truly fitting culmination of our celebrations. I hope that you will join us.


Gregory Doran  

RSC Artistic Director


A Midsummer Night's Dream: 17 February 2016 to 5 March 2016 and 15 June 2016 to 16 July 2016 (Royal Shakespeare Theatre).  

In 2016, together with amateur companies from across the UK, we take you on a very special Midsummer adventure with a unique production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The nation’s favourite Shakespeare play is his love letter to amateur theatre and is performed as never before; magically intertwining professional and amateur actors. For this production, directed by Deputy Artistic Director Erica Whyman (Hecuba 2015 and The Christmas Truce 2014), our professional actors are joined by amateur theatre companies as Shakespeare’s Mechanicals. The production will also tour all 12 regions and nations of the UK from March to June 2016, with a different local amateur company joining our professional actors in their home location prior to all of the companies re-forming in Stratford at Midsummer.


Hamlet: 12 March 2016 to 13 August 2016 (Royal Shakespeare Theatre).  

Hamlet has the world at his feet. Young, wealthy and living a hedonistic life studying abroad. Then word reaches him that his father is dead. Returning home he finds his world is utterly changed, his certainties smashed and his home a foreign land. Struggling to understand his place in a new world order he faces a stark choice. Submit, or rage against the injustice of his new reality. Simon Godwin (The Two Gentlemen of Verona 2014) directs Paapa Essiedu as Hamlet in Shakespeare’s searing tragedy. As relevant today as when it was written, Hamlet confronts each of us with the mirror of our own mortality in an imperfect world.  


Cymbeline: 29 April 2016 to 12 August 2016(Royal Shakespeare Theatre).  

Cymbeline is ruler of a divided Britain. When Innogen, the only living heir, marries her sweetheart in secret, an enraged Cymbeline banishes him. Distracted by Innogen’s marriage, Cymbeline is blind to the actions of a powerful figure behind the throne who is plotting to seize power by murdering them both. In exile, Innogen’s husband is tricked into believing she has been unfaithful to him and in an act of impulsive jealousy begins a scheme to have her murdered. Warned of the danger, Innogen runs away from court in disguise on a journey fraught with danger that will eventually reunite Cymbeline with a lost heir and reconcile the young lovers. Shakespeare’s rarely performed romance is directed by Melly Still who designed Tales from Ovid and Midnight’s Children for the RSC and whose directing credits include The Cunning Little Vixen for Glyndebourne Opera, The Coram Boy and The Revenger’s Tragedy for the National Theatre.  


New RST AuditoriumDoctor Faustus: 4 February 2016 (The Swan Theatre).  

Faustus is a brilliant but embittered academic, a solitary scholar who has exhausted the confines of human knowledge. Frustrated with the futility of religion, law and science he is desperate for a deeper understanding of the universe – and for the worldwide fame that it will bring. Risking everything, he conjures the demon Mephistopheles and asks him to strike a deal with Lucifer. Twenty four years of absolute knowledge and infinite power in exchange for his soul. Despite being tormented by doubt, Faustus agrees to the deal and signs in blood. But as he begins to revel in his new powers, the world around him starts to collapse and the clock inexorably counts down to the final moment of reckoning. Maria Aberg (The White Devil 2014  and As You Like It 2013) returns to the RSC to direct Marlowe’s notorious tale of vanity, greed and damnation.  


Don Quixote: 25 February 2016 to 21 May 2016 (The Swan Theatre).  

After a lifetime of reading books on chivalry, Don Quixote decides to embark on a quest of his own. Taking up a lance and sword, he sets out to become a wandering knight, defending the helpless and vanquishing the wicked. Hopelessly unprepared and increasingly losing his grip on reality, he travels across Spain accompanied by his faithful and equally ill-suited squire. With each calamitous adventure they experience, the romantic ideal of Quixote’s books seems further away than ever. Cervantes’ comic novel is widely regarded as one of the foundation stones of modern fiction. It is newly adapted for the stage by James Fenton (The Orphan of Zhao 2012) and directed by Angus Jackson (Oppenheimer 2014) to mark the 400th anniversary of Cervantes death. Stratford-upon-Avon River Festival


The Alchemist: 26 May 2016 to 6 August 2016 (The Swan Theatre).  

When London is hit by an outbreak of the plague, the wealthy Lovewit flees to the country, leaving his townhouse in the hands of his trusted butler, Jeremy. But no sooner has his master left than Jeremy begins turning the house into a den of criminal activity. Assuming an alias, he recruits fellow conman Subtle and prostitute Doll Common to help him and sets out to rip-off half of London. Soon every knock at the front door is another unwitting victim begging to be relieved of their cash. Things couldn’t be going better for the gleeful trio until they receive a very unwelcome visitor. Polly Findlay (The Merchant of Venice 2015 and Arden of Faversham 2014) directs Jonson’s hilarious satire that revels in just how vain we humans can be.


Events and exhibitions

RST Entrance - Stratford-upon-Avon


Jacqui O'Hanlon, RSC Director of Education, said: "We want children and young people to enjoy the challenge of Shakespeare and achieve more as a result of connecting with his work. We hope to extend our reach even more widely during this special 50th year in the RSC's life and build on our commitment to give children and young people the opportunity to Do Shakespeare on their feet, See it live and Start it Earlier. With our new Shakespeare Challenge Arts Award programme; a unique collaboration with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust enabling students to experience 'A day in the life of the rehearsal room'; an expanded programme of workshops, events and conferences and collaborations with both Little Angel Theatre and Tim Crouch, we hope we have created a rich programme of work for teachers and students of all ages to enjoy."

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