Yesterday the Royal Shakespeare Company announced its season of events to get the punters along to the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre when it opens from 24th November. There seems to be something for everyone, and it seems the RSC have outdone themselves as they prepare to showcase everything from serious debates to downright frivolity. When it was announced the old RST would be redeveloped, many complained that many of the stories and memories would vanish when the theatre was restructured. As the new theatre becomes a hive of activity in winter, however, no doubt we will be treated to anecdotes for the new generation.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the highlights.
What would the RSC be without poetry? Buggered, that’s what. Rightly so, the first staged event to be taking place in the new 1000-seat space on 3rd December will be Uncertainty is Not a Good Dog, a “playful evening of witty and tender poetry” by award-winning poets. It is somewhat odd that the first event will not be based around Shakespeare, but this being the premiere for the theatre it will probably sell out quickly.
Certain to sell out sooner, however, will be Love Is My Sin, Shakespeare’s Sonnets, directed and adapted by Peter Brook. Performed on Friday 7th and Saturday 8th January, this piece will surely remind us of the beauty of Shakespeare’s words and the skill of Brook himself.
In true RSC style, audiences will also be treated to a selection of discussions and talks, including Barrie Rutter reminiscing about his time at the RSC on 11th December, Quentin Blake drawing some of his beloved Roald Dahl characters on 4th December and Roger Rees in his one-man half-performance-half-discussion show What You Will on 14th and 15th December. Most exciting perhaps is Tim Minchin on 16th January playing songs from Matilda and his new one man show. Having seen Minchin live last year, this is a definite must-see.
Throughout the early months the theatre will be taken over by many companies and artists outside the RSC performing sight-specific work within the new shell. Sound and Fury on 8th December promises to help us “discover new words throughout the theatre”, and Geraldine Pilgrim’s Handbag, originally seen at BAC to critical acclaim, establishes itself in the RST on 6th and 7th November.
There is too much to write about in detail, but other events include demonstrations of the technical side of the theatre, performances from young and amateur dramatic societies, concerts, exhibitions and stand-up from Russell Kane and Chris Addison.
Moving on to February we see the first major productions to be staged in the new auditoria. First up is David Farr’s production of King Lear with Greg Hicks in the title role, followed by Rupert Goold’s acclaimed production of Romeo and Juliet at the RST. I must admit a slight disappointment at this news, for I must confess the illogical part of my mind wished the new theatre would open with a new repertoire. Of course in practice this would have been impossible, as the current ensemble finish in London merely a month before, but the dream was still there. Nevertheless, both of these productions are superb are well worth the visit.
Round the back in the Swan Theatre, Michael Boyd’s less than impressive Anthony and Cleopatra plays alongside short runs of Little Angel Theatre’s The Tempest and a new production of The Rape of Lucrece. Those who missed the Young People’s Shakespeare productions of Hamlet and Comedy of Errors will also be able to catch them in the Swan and RST respectively.
On a sadder note, it has come to my attention that at the moment the RSC has no firm plans for a farewell to the Courtyard Theatre, the ensemble’s temporary home for the past four years, after Matilda at Christmas. The building will stay where it is and will be used as part of the Shakespeare Festival, but it surely deserves a proper send-off. The RSC, I am told, are open to thoughts and ideas, so email them today and the Courtyard will get the treatment it needs.
Boyd is yet to announce what productions will officially open the new theatres in April next year to coincide with the 50th birthday celebrations, but whatever they are we can expect something spectacular and must-see. We wait in anticipation.
For more information take a look at the schedule http://www.rsc.org.uk/downloads/theatres-opening-schedule.pdf