The RSC Open Stages takes off across the UK, with over 250 amateur productions including performances by the RAF and Royal Navy.
What do a Maori Coriolanus, an all female Richard III and a performance that puts Shakespeare's favourite characters in a public swimming pool in Penzance have in common? All are performing Shakespeare or Shakespeare inspired plays as part of the UK's biggest amateur theatre project – Open Stages - the RSC's ground-breaking initiative which sees amateur groups from across the UK perform their own productions with help and guidance from the RSC and nine other regional partner theatres.
As part of this support, the participating groups can attend a 'Skills Exchange' workshop day hosted by each of the partner theatres and led by the RSC's own team of theatre practitioners, so that expertise in areas such as acting, design, movement, voice and text as well as lighting, directing and stage management can be shared. RSC Open Stages has already run 17 of these Skills Exchange days across the UK from Cornwall to Manchester, running over one hundred workshops, working with over a thousand amateur theatre makers – with another 5 Skills Exchanges yet to come.
Just a few examples of the huge range of work being done by over 7,200 participants (the oldest being 90 and the youngest 6 years old), include a Tempest set and performed in a Tesco supermarket, the Royal Air Force Theatrical Association (RAFTA) staging Return to the Forbidden Planet with technical help from an Army officer, Much Ado About Nothing staged by members of the Royal Navy who have returned from active duty on their naval base in Portsmouth Harbour, and The First and Last Performance of the Titanic Shakespeare Society - an Edwardian concert party set on the Titanic's voyage performed in Belfast's Titanic Quarter, where the great ship was built.
RSC Open Stages producer Ian Wainwright commented; 'We are delighted that so many groups around the country are staging their own unique take on Shakespeare in a variety of theatres, town halls, castles, beaches and forests in a breathtaking variety of creative ways – in the Midlands this includes a torch lit performance of Macbeth in Coventry Cathedral and not forgetting the RSC's own Front of House staff, who are bringing 'interactive comedy mayhem to people's summers' with a performance on Stratford's Bancroft Gardens outside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. It is really positive to see the continued popularity of Shakespeare as an inspiration for live performance both for professionals and amateurs.'
The most popular of Shakespeare's plays to be performed by the participants is Macbeth (19 productions) with A Midsummer Night's Dream coming second (18 productions) and Twelfth Night third most popular (12 productions). The History plays are the least represented, with only Henry V and Richard III being performed.
For more information about the project and a short film from one of the recent Skills Exchanges workshops, please go to www.rsc.org.uk/openstages and for a map of the geographical spread of productions taking place around the country, please go to www.rsc.org.uk/explore/projects/open-stages/participant-map.aspx
Date of Issue: 20.7.11
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Notes to editors
- RSC Open Stages is supported by the Esmée Fairbain Foundation. The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation was established in 1961 by Ian Fairbairn as a memorial to his wife Esmée. Today it is one of the largest independent grant-making foundations in the UK. The foundation aims to improve the quality of life for people and communities in the UK both now and in the future. It funds the charitable activities of organisations that have the ideas and ability to achieve change for the better and likes to consider work which others may find hard to fund, perhaps because it breaks new ground, appears too risky, requires core funding, or needs a more unusual form of financial help such as a loan. It also takes initiatives where new thinking is required or where there are important unexplored opportunities. The foundation aims to commit £25 million annually towards a wide range of work. Its primary interests are in the UK's cultural life, education and learning, the natural environment and enabling disadvantaged people to participate more fully in society.
- Regional partner theatres in the project include: Contact Theatre, Manchester - Hall for Cornwall, Cornwall - Lyric Theatre, Belfast - National Theatre of Scotland - New Wolsey, Ipswich - Nuffield Theatre, Southampton - Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon - Sage, Gateshead - Questors Theatre, London – Sherman Cymru, Cardiff.
- Forthcoming Skills Exchange dates:
Contact ,Manchester, 24th July
Sherman, Cardiff – 3rd / 4thSeptember
Sage, Gateshead – 10th / 11th September