A History of the RSC in 50 Objects

14 February 2011

'Our collection serves as a window onto theatre history – the people, their skills and innovation that have contributed to half a century of memorable theatre-making'

A History of the RSC in 50 Objects
Presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

An exhibition taking place at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Hall's Croft and Nash's House, Stratford-upon-Avon and online
4 April – 31 December 2011

As part of the celebrations for the 50th Birthday of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) taking place this year, the RSC and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust have teamed up to present A History of the RSC in 50 Objects.

Items from the 50 year history of the RSC - including costumes worn by the likes of David Tennant, Antony Sher and Peggy Ashcroft, together with hats, posters, costume designs and prompt books - will be displayed in Stratford-upon-Avon at the recently re-opened Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST), and Hall's Croft and Nash's House, two of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust's five Shakespeare houses. The items have been chosen from the RSC Collection which is looked after by the RSC and the Trust.

The exhibition, which runs 4 April – 31 December 2011, seeks to illustrate the breadth of work presented by the RSC over the last half century. It will include exhibits relating to productions of plays by Shakespeare, his contemporaries, other dramatists and new writing.

Visitors to Hall's Croft can see a range of RSC costumes, including ones worn by David Tennant in the title role in Hamlet (2008), Peggy Ashcroft in The Wars of The Roses (1963), and Richard Wilson, who played Malvolio in Twelfth Night (2009). The first set of costumes to be exhibited from 4 April is: Paul Scofield, King Lear (1962); Billie Whitelaw, The Greeks (1980); Imogen Stubbs, The Rover (1986); and Rebecca Johnson, The Dog in the Manger (2004).

Costumes that will be displayed later in the year include those worn by Ian McKellen (Macbeth, 1976), Michael Williams (The Comedy of Errors, 1975), Derek Jacobi (Cyrano de Bergerac, 1983) and Antony Sher (Richard III, 1984). Three or four costumes will be on display at any one time, with costumes being rotated approximately every six weeks.

Also on rotational view at Hall's Croft will be programmes, costume designs (including those from Antony and Cleopatra, 1972, and Measure for Measure, 1962) and prompt books (including those from US, 1966, and Bingo, 1976).

Theatrical posters on display in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre include those from Peter Brook's 1970 and Michael Boyd's 1999 productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Pentecost (1994) and The Life and Times of Nicholas Nickleby (1980). The RST will also house a painting of David Warner created during the run of Hamlet in 1965, awards for the musical Les Misérables (1985), and the cartoon backdrop for Singer (1989).

Amongst the smaller items on view at Nash's House are: a hat worn by David Tennant in As You Like It (1996), a crown from The Histories (2006) and jewellery from All's Well That Ends Well (1981) and The Winter's Tale (1999).

Photos of the items, which will be uploaded in small batches, will be available to view online at www.rsc.org.uk/exhibitions. The photos will be accompanied by notes and, where possible, memories of the artists and actors involved, thus enabling visitors to gain a deeper understanding of the item's role in the production.

The RSC and Shakespeare Birthplace Trust will also be inviting people to contribute their own memories of the RSC over the last 50 years, and plan to organise a number of 'memory sharing' events during the course of the exhibition. More details will be made available in due course.

Entry to the RST element of the exhibition is free. An entry charge applies to Hall's Croft and Nash's House.

Rosalyn Smith, Museum Collections Officer at the Trust and Assistant Curator at the RSC Collection, said: 'In the RSC's 50th Birthday year we're delighted to give everyone the chance to take a look at 50 items that help tell the story of the Company. Our collection serves as a window onto theatre history – the people, their skills and innovation that have contributed to half a century of memorable theatre-making.'

Further information

For more information please contact:

Dean Asker
Press and Communications Officer, RSC Press Office
01789 412660 or 0778 9937759

Lynn Beddoe
PR Manager, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
01789 207134 or 0778 7661770

Notes to Editors

Photos of the exhibits are available on request.

Opening hours:
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is open daily from 9am (10am on Sundays).
Free entry.

Hall's Croft and Nash's House are open 10am - 5pm every day April – October, and 11am - 4pm November - March. Entry fees cover visits to Hall's Croft, Nash's House and New Place, and Shakespeare's Birthplace. Tickets are valid for an unlimited number of visits for a full year from date of purchase.
Adult: £12.50; Child: £8; Family: £22.50; Concessions: £11.50

More information on the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust:
One of the best known theatre companies in the world, the Royal Shakespeare Company keeps modern audiences in touch with Shakespeare as their contemporary. As well as Shakespeare, the Company's repertoire includes classical plays and new work by contemporary writers.

The Royal Shakespeare Company is an ensemble company. Everyone in the company, from directors, actors and writers to production, administrative, technical and workshop staff all collaborate in a distinctive and unmistakeable approach to theatre.

The RSC has its home in Stratford-upon-Avon. In November the RSC re-opened the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres, after a £112.8m transformation project. The Company also performs regularly in London, Newcastle upon Tyne and on tour in the UK and across the world. It runs a major education programme, working with schools and teachers to inspire in young people a life-long love of Shakespeare and learning.

In 2011 the RSC celebrates its 50th Birthday, and will lead a World Shakespeare Festival as part of the Cultural Olympiad in 2012.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, founded in Stratford in 1847, is the guardian of the world's greatest Shakespeare heritage sites, comprising Shakespeare's Birthplace, Nash's House and New Place, Hall's Croft, Anne Hathaway's Cottage and Mary Arden's Farm. Offering a unique Shakespeare centred experience, the Trust is a truly global brand that has been attracting visitors to the houses since as early as the 17th century.

At the heart of all things 'Shakespeare', the Trust is not only at the forefront of academic learning, but also an iconic destination in the UK and the cornerstone of the region's identity and tourism economy. The five houses offer a multi-layered experience for visitors unlike any other, giving people from all over the world the opportunity to learn about the life of the world's greatest playwright, discover his work and experience a real sense of the times that influenced him here in Stratford.

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