The World Shakespeare Festival is launched

6 September 2011

  • A celebration of Shakespeare as the world's playwright
  • Over 50 arts organisations Thousands of UK and international artists
  • 7200 amateur theatre makers and thousands of teachers and young people
  • 70 productions and exhibitions, plus events and activities, right across the UK and online
  • One million tickets on sale from 10 October
  • Plus new research from the RSC and the British Council which shows 50% of the world's school children study Shakespeare

Neil MacGregor, Director, British Museum; Michael Boyd, Artistic Director, Royal Shakespeare Company; Dominic Dromgoole, Artistic Director, Shakespeare‟s Globe; Ruth Mackenzie, Director of the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival; Deborah Shaw, World Shakespeare Festival Director and arts leaders from across the UK and the world joined together at the British Museum today to announce the programme for the World Shakespeare Festival and BP‟s sponsorship as Founding Presenting Partner.

The World Shakespeare Festival (WSF) is a celebration of Shakespeare as the world‟s playwright, produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, in an unprecedented collaboration with leading UK and international arts organisations, and with Globe to Globe, a major international programme produced by Shakespeare‟s Globe. It runs from 23 April to November 2012 and forms part of London 2012 Festival, which is the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad, bringing leading artists from all over the world together in a UK-wide festival in the summer of 2012.

The World Shakespeare Festival is supported by BP, as Founding Presenting Partner, and by the National Lottery through the Olympic Lottery Distributor and Arts Council England.

Thousands of artists and over 50 arts organisations have come together to take part in the Festival, a collaboration of extraordinary scale and ambition. Over a million tickets go on public sale from 10 October for close to 70 productions, plus events and exhibitions across the UK, including London, Stratford-upon-Avon, Newcastle/Gateshead, Birmingham, Brighton, Wales and Scotland as well as online.

The Festival includes a major exhibition Shakespeare: staging the world - The BP Exhibition at the British Museum (in collaboration with the RSC and supported by BP) which will explore the world through the eyes of Shakespeare, his players and audiences in the changing world of the 17th century.

World Shakespeare Festival partners include: Almeida Theatre; Anglo Mexican Foundation; Artistes, Producteurs, Associés (Tunisia); the Barbican; Barcelona Internacional Teatre (Spain); the BBC (who will be launching their Shakespeare season in November); Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company; Brighton Festival; the British Council; the British Museum; Chekhov International Theatre Festival (Russia); Companhia BufoMecânica (Brazil); Compañia Nacional de Teatro (Mexico); Contact, Manchester; Dmitry Krymov‟s Laboratory (Russia); dreamthinkspeak; Edinburgh International Festival; Hall for Cornwall; House of Fairy Tales; Iraqi Theatre Company (Iraq); London International Festival of Theatre; Lyric Theatre, Belfast; National Student Drama Festival; National Theatre; National Theatre of Scotland; National Theatre Wales; National Youth Theatre; New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich; Newcastle University; the Ninagawa Company (Japan); Northern Sinfonia; Northern Stage; The Nuffield, Southampton; Oily Cart; Pilot, Questors Theatre; Riverside Studios; Roundhouse; Royal Shakespeare Company; Sage Gateshead; School of Dramatic Art Theatre (Moscow); the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; Shakespeare‟s Globe; Shanghai Dramatic Arts Center (China); Sherman Cymru, Cardiff; Squidsoup; Stratford Circus; Tate Modern; Teatr Warszawa (Poland); Theatre Royal Newcastle; Voluntary Arts Network; and the Wooster Group (USA).

As well as showcasing the best of UK and international creative talent, the World Shakespeare Festival encourages the creativity of young people, emerging artists and amateur companies. Over 260 amateur groups involving 7200 people (aged from 6 to 90) are taking part in Open Stages, sharing skills and working with the RSC and nine partner theatres to perform their own interpretations of Shakespeare everywhere from castles, parks and village halls to pubs, churches and a coffin works. Some of the most exciting amateur companies will perform at the RSC‟s Stratford-upon-Avon home as part of the World Shakespeare Festival in the summer of 2012.

Thousands of teachers and young people will take also part in the Festival. New research findings, released today by the RSC and the British Council (see notes to editors 3), show the extent of Shakespeare‟s influence in education systems around the world by revealing that 50% of the world's school children (around 64 million) study Shakespeare, including countries as diverse as Australia, Azerbaijan, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Kuwait, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sudan, Ukraine, USA, UK, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

The World Shakespeare Festival will create a legacy for young people through:

  • an international education conference Worlds Together (exploring the influence of Shakespeare in classrooms around the world)
  • a new World Shakespeare Festival Arts Award open to young people aged between 11–25
  • a collaboration with the British Council called Shakespeare: A World Wide Classroom which includes a 'wiki Shakespeare' inviting teachers and students from across the world to share information about where, how and why Shakespeare is taught and a project connecting students in the UK with young people in India, South Africa, Oman, the USA, Hong Kong and Czech Republic
  • the launch of specially commissioned digital materials for schools and students in a new collaboration between the RSC and BBC Learning called Shakespeare Unlocked.

Further programming, including free events, broadcasts and a major digital project allowing people all over the world to become involved, will be announced in the autumn and the new year.

Michael Boyd, RSC Artistic Director, said:

'Shakespeare is no longer English property. He is the favourite playwright and artist of the whole world, and studied at school by half the world's children.

'People of all races, creeds and continents have chosen to gather around his work to share stories of what it is like to be human. To fall in love or fall from grace. To be subject to the abuse of power or to live with the dreams of angels in the shadow of our own mortality.

'The World Shakespeare Festival celebrates this most international of artists at a time when the eyes of the world will be on London, that most international of cities, for the Olympic Games.

'We also pay tribute to the skill and expertise of teachers around the world, with an international education conference at Tate Modern in September and launch a major new piece of research exploring Shakespeare‟s continuing impact on classrooms across the world.

'I‟m very grateful to our funders, the National Lottery through the Olympic Lottery Distributor, Arts Council England and LOCOG, and to our major sponsor, BP, whom we announce today as Founding Presenting Partner of the World Shakespeare Festival.'

Deborah Shaw, World Shakespeare Festival Director, said:

'Four years ago, we began conversations with artists, producers, educationalists and curators from across the UK and the world, to seed and shape a festival that celebrates Shakespeare and redefines what a festival can be in this era of globalisation.

'Out of that rewarding dialogue has come the World Shakespeare Festival – a celebration with real heart, created in a true spirit of collaboration, with a programme which includes 23 brand new productions - 21 of which were commissioned specially for the Festival.

'It‟s a concentration of creative energy around a shared vision which we hope will catch something of the zeitgeist, will delight audiences and inspire a whole new generation of artists.'

Dominic Dromgoole, Artistic Director of Shakespeare's Globe, said:

'Next year, we throw open the doors of the Globe theatre to the world. All the plays of Shakespeare will be performed in just six weeks in thirty seven different languages.

'Many of the world‟s greatest directors, over six hundred actors from all nations, and audiences from all over the world, and from every corner of our polyglot, multi-cultural community, will assemble to celebrate the stories, the characters and the relationships, which are etched into all of us. Shakespeare is the language which brings us together better than any other, and which reminds of our almost infinite difference, and of our strange and humbling commonality.

'A Globe by the Thames is where the wonderful cultural and imaginative journey of these plays began. Another Globe by the Thames is honoured to be inviting Shakespeare back home, dressed in the clothes of many different peoples.'

Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum said:

'Four hundred years ago people went to the playhouse to learn about the world. In 2012 people visit museums to understand cultures past and present and their place in a changing world. The British Museum will present a unique take on the way in which Shakespeare staged the world for an increasingly diverse audience in the 17th century, at a pivotal point in our history. We are very excited to be collaborating with the RSC on this important exhibition and proud to be a part of the World Shakespeare Festival and the London 2012 Festival.'

Ruth Mackenzie. Director of the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival, said:

'Shakespeare belongs not just to the UK, but to the whole world, which is why it is right that we celebrate London 2012 with great artists from around the world performing alongside amateur groups and young people.'

Peter Mather, Group Regional Vice President, Europe and Head of Country, UK, BP said:

'BP, as Premier Partner of the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival, is delighted to extend its support to the World Shakespeare Festival as Founding Presenting Partner.

This world-class festival celebrates Shakespeare as the world‟s playwright with a broad and far-reaching programme involving new local and international collaborations. We look forward to working with the Royal Shakespeare Company and our longstanding partner the British Museum in support of this truly exceptional London 2012 event.'

Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, said:

'With over a million tickets available, the World Shakespeare Festival is extraordinarily ambitious and certain to attract a new audience to the magic of Shakespeare. The launch of this remarkable series of events is testament to the hard work and passion of all those involved. It exemplifies what the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival is trying to achieve and I am sure it will be a tremendous success.'

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said:

'William Shakespeare is our greatest cultural export, and is quite rightly considered to be the finest writer of all time. His work - written when this country was a boom nation leading trade around the globe and setting the foundations for modern England - is still just as relevant now as it was almost 500 years ago.

'This festival is a fantastic opportunity for these fine works to be brought to a new generation of schoolchildren, while at the same time reminding existing fans of Shakespeare's unparalleled insights into the workings of the human heart.'

World Shakespeare Festival productions include:

  • What Country Friends Is This? - migration, exile, shipwreck and brave new worlds explored by a single company through RSC productions of The Comedy of Errors, The Tempest, Twelfth Night, directed by David Farr and Palestinian director, Amir Nizar Zuabi, and, in London, a site-specific Pericles, directed by Michael Boyd, supported by BP (Stratford-upon-Avon and Roundhouse).
  • Globe to Globe – 37 of Shakespeare's plays in 37 different languages, over the course of six weeks. Produced by Tom Bird for Shakespeare's Globe.
  • Timon of Athens – Nicholas Hytner directs Simon Russell Beale at the National Theatre. King Lear – Michael Attenborough directs Jonathan Pryce at the Almeida Theatre.
  • Romeo and Juliet in Baghdad – the Iraqi Theatre Company explores Iraq's rich traditions of poetry, music and ritual across a sectarian divide (Stratford-upon-Avon and Riverside Studios – in Arabic with English surtitles).
  • Two Roses for Richard III – Brazil's Companhia BufoMecanica creates a grand spectacle of circus and theatre inspired by Shakespeare's Histories (Stratford-upon-Avon and Roundhouse – in Portuguese with English surtitles).
  • Julius Caesar – Gregory Doran's production finds dark contemporary echoes in sub-Saharan Africa (Stratford-upon-Avon, Roundhouse, Theatre Royal Newcastle). I, Cinna (The Poet) – Tim Crouch engages young audiences of 11+ in the story of Cinna the poet from Julius Caesar (Stratford-upon-Avon), project partnered by Cisco.
  • In a Pickle - a voyage through Shakespeare's imagination for very young audiences aged 2-4 created by Oily Cart (Stratford-upon-Avon, Stratford Circus, Northern Stage).
  • Nations at War season - Richard III, King John and A Soldier in Every Son: An Aztec trilogy – a single RSC company explores Shakespeare and three plays about the intrigue of a century of Aztec civilisation by Luis Mario Moncada, one of Mexico's leading playwrights (Stratford-upon-Avon).
  • Troilus and Cressida – Elizabeth LeCompte and Rupert Goold collaborate on an RSC and Wooster Group multimedia production of Shakespeare's epic Trojan play (Stratford-upon-Avon).
  • Much Ado about Nothing – Meera Syal plays Beatrice in a production set in India, directed by Iqbal Khan (Stratford-upon-Avon).
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream (As You Like It) – Russian director, Dmitry Krymov‟s radical reinterpretation of Shakespeare's magical play (Stratford-upon-Avon and Edinburgh International Festival – in Russian with English surtitles).
  • A Tender Thing – Ben Power weaves the words of Romeo and Juliet into a touching story about lovers in old age. Kathryn Hunter revisits the role she played in 2009 (Stratford-upon-Avon). Desdemona – a collaboration between the acclaimed Toni Morrison, Malian singer/songwriter Rokia Traoré and Peter Sellars at the Barbican.
  • Cymbeline – directed by Japan's leading classical director Yukio Ninagawa at the Barbican (in Japanese with English surtitles).
  • The Dark Side of Love – a dreamlike journey into the depths of what we do for love, performed by teenagers in an atmospheric space beneath the Roundhouse.
  • Macbeth: Leila and Ben – A Bloody History – Artistes, Producteurs, Associes from Tunisia combine Shakespeare with film and reportage (LIFT at Riverside Studios, Northern Stage – in Arabic with English surtitles).
  • West Side Story – the 20th century music-theatre masterpiece seen anew through 21st century eyes, with Will Tuckett creating its first wholly new choreography. Part of the RSC's Open Stages project.
  • The Rest is Silence – dreamthinkspeak's meditation on Hamlet performed within a large-scale installation (LIFT at Riverside Studios, Brighton Festival, Northern Stage)
  • Corionlan/Us – National Theatre Wales' site-specific production reimagined in an era of 24 hour news (Dragon Film Studios, Bridgend) Forests – Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Barcelona Internacional Teatre create a new production inspired by the forest scenes from Shakespeare's plays, directed by Calixto Bieito (Birmingham – in Catalan and English with surtitles).
  • 2007: Macbeth – Grzegorz Jarzyna directs this free adaptation of Macbeth in a Tr Warszawa production at Edinburgh International Festival (in Polish with English surtitles).

World Shakespeare Festival events, exhibitions, education projects and broadcasts include:

  • Shakespeare: staging the world - The BP Exhibition – major exhibition on the world of Shakespeare at the British Museum in collaboration with the RSC.
  • Living Wallpaper - Squidsoup's new digital project makes the walls of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre come alive with animated quotes from Shakespeare.
  • The Stories of Shakespeare – a fresh look at Shakespeare through the collections of the RSC and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in Stratford-upon-Avon.
  • Open Stages - the best of the RSC‟s amateur collaborators perform their Shakespeare- inspired productions on the RSCs stages during summer 2012.
  • Worlds Together – an international conference for teachers exploring the value of the arts in young people's lives from Shakespeare to the digital realm, with Tate Modern, National Theatre, British Museum, Royal Shakespeare Company and the British Council, 6-8 September 2012.
  • World Shakespeare Festival Arts Award for young people aged 11-25. Shakespeare: A World Wide Classroom wiki research database to explore where, how and why Shakespeare is taught in schools.
  • Shakespeare: A World Wide Classroom Connecting Classrooms project with the British Council – working with 1500 students in the UK, India, South Africa, Oman, the USA, Hong Kong and Czech Republic.
  • Launch of Shakespeare Unlocked, a digital collaboration between BBC Learning and RSC Education based on three RSC productions, providing teachers and students with new insights into Shakespeare in workshops and performance.
  • BBC Off By Heart Shakespeare performance contest broadcast on BBCTwo.
  • My Shakespeare – a digital project to map Shakespeare across the world, which kicks off with an invitation to contribute to the World Wide Classroom wiki research.

Further information can be found at www.worldshakespearefestival.org.uk/press  including 'at a glance' production information.

Social media links at www.facebook.com/worldshakespearefestival  and www.twitter.com/wsf2012

ENDS

Press contacts for World Shakespeare Festival events:

For general World Shakespeare Festival press enquiries, please contact:

Director of Communications: Liz Thompson (liz.thompson@rsc.org.uk / +44 (0)1789 412667)

Communications Manager: Jane Ellis (jane.ellis@rsc.org.uk / +44 (0)1789 412668)

World Shakespeare Festival Communications Officer: Elsie King (elsie.king@rsc.org.uk / +441789 242417)

For individual World Shakespeare Festival partner and production enquiries, please contact:

Almeida Theatre: Janine Shalom (Janine.Shalom@premierpr.com / +44 (0)20 7292 8330)

BBC: Alexandra Heybourne (Alexandra.heybourne@bbc.co.uk / +44 (0)208 225 8398)

Barbican: Caitlin Sinclair (caitlin.sinclair@barbican.org.uk / +44 (0)207 382 5274)

Birmingham Repertory Theatre: Paul Reece (paul.reece@birmingham-rep.co.uk / +44 (0)121 245 2062)

Brighton Festival: Michael Eppy (michael.eppy@brightonfestival.org / +44 (0)1273 260838)

British Museum - Shakespeare: Staging the World The BP Exhibition : Hannah Boulton (hboulton@britishmuseum.org / +44 (0)20 7323 8522)

dreamthinkspeak: Sharon Kean Sharon@keanlanyon.com/ +44 (0)2073543574)

Edinburgh International Festival: Susie Burnet (press@eif.co.uk / +44 (0)131 473 2020)

London International Festival of Theatre (LIFT): Jonathan May (jonathan@liftfestival.com)

National Theatre: Lucinda Morrison (LMorrison@nationaltheatre.org.uk / +44 (0)20 7452 3232)

National Theatre of Wales: Catrin Rogers (catrinrogers@nationaltheatrewales.org)

Northern Stage: Gary Smith (gsmith@northernstage.co.uk / +44 (0)191 2427201).

Oily Cart PR: Amber Massie-Blomfield (amber@mobiusindustries.com)

Riverside Studios: Ian Cuthbert (iancuthbert@riversidestudios.co.uk / +44 (0)20 8237 1025)

Roundhouse: Ranjit Atwal (Ranjit.atwal@roundhouse.org.uk / +44 (0)20 7424 6776)

Royal Shakespeare Company:

Head of Press: Philippa Harland (philippa.harland@rsc.org.uk / +44 (0)20 7845 0512) Senior Press and PR Officer: Nada Zakula (nada.zakula@rsc.org.uk / +44 (0)1789 412622) Press and Communications Officer: Dean Asker (dean.asker@rsc.org.uk / +44 (0)1789 412660)

The Sage Gateshead: Emily Taylor (emily.taylor@thesagegateshead.org / +44 (0)191 443 4567)

Shakespeare's Globe: Francesca Maguire (francesca.m@shakespearesglobe.com / +44 (0)20 7902 1491)

Shakespeare's Globe - Globe to Globe: Ben Chamberlain( ben@cornershoppr.com)

Theatre Royal Newcastle: Marianne Quayle (marianne.quayle@theatreroyal.co.uk)

Notes to Editors:

1. About London 2012 Festival and the Cultural Olympiad:

The World Shakespeare Festival is part of the London 2012 Festival, which is the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad, bringing leading artists from all over the world together from 21 June 2012 in this UK-wide festival – a chance for everyone to celebrate London 2012 through dance, music, theatre, the visual arts, film and digital innovation.

2. About BP and its cultural support in the UK:

BP‟s support for arts and culture goes back more than 30 years and includes long-term partnerships with the British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Royal Opera House and Tate Britain. As a Premier Partner of the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival, BP is continuing its ongoing commitment to UK arts and culture. Working with LOCOG and its arts partners, BP is helping to deliver several programmes and events that will inspire young people and provide opportunities for everyone across the UK to be part of London 2012. These include the World Shakespeare Festival with the British Museum and Royal Shakespeare Company; BP Portrait Award: Next Generation with the National Portrait Gallery; The Olympic Journey: The Story of the Games with the Royal Opera House and The Olympic Museum and The Tate Movie Project with Tate, Legacy Trust UK and the BBC.

3. About the RSC/British Council research:

SHAKESPEARE: A WORLDWIDE CLASSROOM

New research findings on teaching Shakespeare round the world commissioned by the RSC and British Council

a) Where is Shakespeare taught in the world?

Approximately 50% of schoolchildren across the world, at least 64 million each year, are studying Shakespeare at school (13 times the population of England when Shakespeare was alive now learn about him every year).

65% of countries have Shakespeare as a named author on their curriculum.

Countries where Shakespeare is studied by the majority of students in secondary schools include: Australia, Azerbaijan, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Ireland, Kuwait, Oman, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sudan, Ukraine, USA, UK, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Shakespeare is compulsory in secondary schools in: Australia, Azerbaijan, Canada (except Quebec), China, Czech Republic, England, Hungary, Italy, Oman, Philippines, Poland, South Africa, Sudan, Ukraine and Vietnam.

Students around the world studying English at 16+ are highly likely to study Shakespeare in the original language.

b) How much Shakespeare do students study?

What children and young people across the world study ranges from a brief introduction to his life and work, included as cultural context for learning the English language, to a detailed familiarity with several plays.

In several countries (Azerbaijan, Georgia, Jordan, Sudan) an introduction to Shakespeare is included in widely-used textbooks for English language courses.

In other countries, excerpts or abridged versions of set texts are studied at certain grades. For example: Chinese students (approximately 21 million each year) study The Merchant of Venice in Grade 8 (the trial scene) Kuwaiti students study an abridged version of Henry V in grade 12 Namibian students study King Lear in grade 12 Romeo & Juliet is studied by the majority of Vietnamese students. Popular texts in Russia are Romeo & Juliet and King Lear, studied in abridged original language versions

In Oman, Shakespeare is studied as part of classical Arabic literature, most commonly using translations of Hamlet and The Merchant of Venice by Jabra Ibrahim Jabra.

In the UK, the most popular texts are Romeo & Juliet and Macbeth.

There are also pockets of growing interest, for example, Namibia, where teachers and students are keen to build on a successful national project on King Lear in 2009.

c) Why study Shakespeare

Why do other nations include Shakespeare in their school curriculums? While 65% of respondents believe this to be connected with learning about British language and culture,

70% believe it is because of the intrinsic value of the plays (the skilful telling of stories and universal human values). 50% also believe it is because Shakespeare is relevant and useful in helping young people reflect on contemporary issues and dilemmas.

Notes on methodology

In December 2010, the RSC and British Council asked 100 British Council offices in countries round the world where and why Shakespeare is taught. To obtain the information, offices conferred with the relevant Ministry of Education and other education professionals in each country to ask whether Shakespeare appears on their national curriculum and if so, at what level, for which students and why. Findings are based on completed surveys from 43 countries with a wide geographical and socio-political spread (representing two thirds of the population of young people of formal education age worldwide).

4. About other supporters

The RSC Ensemble is generously supported by THE GATSBY CHARITABLE FOUNDATION and THE KOVNER FOUNDATION

The RSC Literary Department is generously supported by THE DRUE HEINZ TRUST

Cisco are the project partners of I, Cinna (The Poet)

5. Quotes from World Shakespeare Festival partners

Michael Attenborough, Artistic Director, Almeida Theatre said:

The greatest artistic passion of my life is directing Shakespeare and challenges don‟t come much more awesomely thrilling than tackling KING LEAR. Jonathan Pryce was my very first choice for the eponymous role and I am truly delighted to be working with him.

It is an added and particular pleasure to be part of the World Shakespeare Festival; which will rightly celebrate, in the year of the Olympics, the finest writer the world has ever seen.

Lotfi Achour, Director, Artistes, Producteurs, Associés, Tunisia

Shakespeare has always gripped me beyond the boundaries of the historical, cultural, social and political contexts of his plays. In spite of its density and power, his work still leaves a space which every imagination can inhabit. Following the invitation of Deborah Shaw to direct a play for the World Shakespeare Festival, the decision to direct Macbeth was inevitable. As a Tunisian, I felt this play could speak about what we Tunisians have lived and experienced during the reign of Ben Ali and Leila. For me, this creative process gives rise to a two-way movement: on the one hand, exploring the writing and the imagination of the author; on the other hand, bringing Shakespeare to resonate and to penetrate to the deepest depths of contemporary Arab consciousness and its pathological relationship with power.

Sir Nicholas Kenyon, Managing Director, Barbican, said:

As a key player in the London 2012 Festival I am delighted that the Barbican is contributing two exciting and diverse projects which take Shakespeare onto the world stage. Ninagawa, known for his visually powerful staging, brings us a new Japanese language production of Cymbeline; and in Desdemona director Peter Sellars, superb Malian musician Rokia Traore and Nobel-Prize winning novelist Toni Morrison collaborate to create a work inspired by the „invisible‟ character from Othello. These world-class arts events form part of the unmissable programme with which the Barbican welcomes the world in 2012.

Stuart Rogers, Executive Director, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, said:

The REP is delighted to be working with Calixto Bieito again and to be producing a show for the World Shakespeare Festival. It‟s particularly pleasing to be doing such an intriguing and innovative version of Shakespeare as Forests in the very theatre in Birmingham where our founder Sir Barry Jackson produced the first modern-dress Shakespeare production 80 years ago. I‟m sure that Forests at the Old Rep Theatre will be a major highlight of our 2012 offsite season.

Calixto Bieito, Director, said:

I am honoured to be working with Birmingham Repertory Theatre Company once again and to be part of the unprecedented collaboration that is the World Shakespeare Festival.

The forest has always played a dramatic role in English literature, from Chaucer to Wordsworth, and no more so than in Shakespeare‟s work. Many of Shakespeare‟s literary references to nature focus on the forest‟s life giving and protective qualities, but as in fairytales and folklore, Shakespeare also uses the forest in his plays to represents man‟s greatest fears of danger, death, destruction and evil. It is Shakespeare‟s rich material that will inspire Forests.

Emma Swain, Controller of BBC Knowledge Commissioning, said:

The BBC is committed to partnering with the arts sector and as part of that commitment we're delighted to work with the Royal Shakespeare Company to celebrate one of the nation's greatest writers and cultural exports. Our partnership with the RSC, as part of other content to be announced in the next few months, will contribute to a cultural legacy lasting well beyond broadcast and live performance.

Sir Vernon Ellis, Chair of the British Council, said:

Shakespeare has phenomenal power and influence on stage, on the page and in classrooms around the world. As the UK‟s cultural relations organisation, we aim to build greater understanding between people in the UK and around the world through our work in English, education and the arts. Shakespeare‟s work has such global resonance and relevance that it can help to build bridges between people and enhance our understanding of each other. This is vital in today‟s world. We‟re thrilled to be involved in this Festival – helping to harness the power of Shakespeare for education and supporting new international productions of his work by performers from countries as diverse as Brazil, Iraq and Russia.

Valery Shadrin, General Director of Chekhov International Theatre Festival, Russia, said:

Being a part of the World Shakespeare Festival is a great opportunity to pay a tribute of admiration to the genius of world theatre and take a dive into Shakespeare's heritage which has been feeding performing arts projects across the globe with new creative ideas and approaches for over 400 years. We are delighted to be collaborating again with acclaimed Russian director Dmitry Krymov whose visually stunning productions have established him as one of the most original directorial voices of his generation. We can expect his new interpretation of A Midsummer Night‟s Dream (as you like it) to be unlike any Dream ever seen before.

Fábio Ferreira and Claudio Baltar, Directors of Company BufoMecânica, Brazil, said:

We are very happy to be invited by the RSC to represent contemporary theatre from Brazil in the World Shakespeare Festival - for three good reasons. First, because this is a big challenge and we are moved by challenges; second because it‟s an honour to bring our vision of these true and timeless masterpieces to England, for English people and third because these classic texts inspire us to make our best work.

Company Bufomecânica began to develop its own theatrical universe in 2009-2010; a universe that combines scenic language usually associated with performance art and urban interventions.

Now, we‟re turning our attention to Shakespeare - who mesmerizes us all with his virtuosity - and to the bloody battlefields that the streets of our megacities have become. Company BufoMecânica‟s Richard III looks out from Rio de Janeiro; a glamorous South American politician, flashing his corrupt acts in the tropical sun.

'Like the beat beat beat of the tom-tom when the jungle shadows fall…'

Monadhil Daood, Artistic Director of Iraqi Theatre Company, Iraq, said:

Adapting Shakespeare in a politically and socially oppressive reality, such as the one in Iraq, does not happen for mere artistic and intellectual motives. It is done, rather, to conceal and convey critical political and social views and ideas which would be otherwise considered by the authorities as dangerous and could easily be banned and the artists involved prosecuted.

The conflicting, unpredictable, and often masked human behaviour; the evil, treacherous, and egocentric traits embedded in the human soul as depicted in Shakespeare‟s work, becomes a fertile raw material for artists anywhere in the world to manipulate and use to reflect their own reality and deliver their own thoughts and interpretations of this reality.

The Iraqi version of Shakespeare‟s Romeo and Juliet, which we are happy to participate with in the World Shakespeare Festival at the RSC‟s invitation, is our own reading on how innocent and pure love can be obliterated by the incriminating tribal, social, and religious values dominating Arab societies to this day.

Marcus Davey, Artistic Director and CEO, Roundhouse, London, said:

We‟re delighted to be working with the RSC again in 2012, presenting another superb programme of Shakespeare in the unique surroundings of the Roundhouse. I‟m particularly excited about The Dark Side of Love, our co-production with the RSC and LIFT that will be performed by a cast of teenagers, continuing our shared commitment to engaging 11-25s in excellent artistic activities. This area of our work seems ever more important in the context of the sad events we witnessed in our cities recently, which reinforced our shared belief that we can and must inspire young people by putting them at the heart of everything we do.

John McGrath, Artistic Director of National Theatre Wales, said:

Everyone at National Theatre Wales is delighted to be part of the international feast that the World Shakespeare Festival represents. As a company known for locating our work in adventurous settings, we are looking forward to re-imagining Coriolanus on a vast movie sound stage, and to inviting the audience on an extraordinary journey. Directed by Mike Pearson and Mike Brookes, with the creative team behind our stunning 2010 re-imagining of Aeschylus's The Persians on a Brecon Army range, Coriolan/Us promises to be an inspiring new vision of this ever-relevant play.

Mark Ball, Artistic Director, LIFT, said:

LIFT is delighted to be participating in the World Shakespeare Festival by collaborating with the RSC to bring two important new productions from the Middle East to London, and through our joint commissioning (with Brighton Festival and the RSC) of the brilliantly innovative dreamthinkspeak. Both the Iraqi Romeo and Juliet and the Tunisian Macbeth address the momentous changes sweeping through the region through the prism of the world's greatest playwright and highlight why Shakespeare is such a potent voice for artists looking to remake their own societies. Complementing these productions dreamthinkspeak's 'The Rest Is Silence', which places the audience at the heart of the production, continues LIFT's long-standing commitment to re-imagining what theatre can be.

Tristan Sharps, dreamthinkspeak, said:

The Rest is Silence is an ambitious textual and visual deconstruction of Hamlet, interweaving performance, film and installation to create a vigorous new interpretation that cuts to the heart of the play. This deconstruction will allow us to get between the cracks of the play to examine its themes and characters from a variety of angles – sometimes simultaneously. Different scenes and visual sequences will interrupt or interlock as if in dialogue with each other. Using Shakespeare‟s original text, dreamthinkspeak juxtapose scenes, speeches and sequences from completely different areas of the play, digging beneath the narrative surface to examine themes and characters in a totally new way. Meditative and dreamlike in quality, the hallmark of dreamthinkspeak‟s productions, The Rest is Silence will be performed within a specially designed and multi-layered structure, allowing the action to unfold on different levels and on all sides.

Tim Crouch, I Cinna, said:

I, Cinna (the Poet) is part of a strand of commissions which place young people into the heart of the World Shakespeare Festival. Cinna's fate brings the complexity of Julius Caesar into blood-chilling focus. His story is a powerful lens through which a young audience can explore the consequences of social unrest and the relationship of art to political change. Audience members will commit words to paper in the course of each performance. Thousands of poems will be written. I am thrilled to be working alongside Gregory Doran's production of Julius Caesar to create a piece of young people‟s theatre that is both connected to its source and free-standing.

Anthony Sargent, General Director at The Sage Gateshead, said:

This ground-breaking new staging of West Side Story (featuring the work‟s first wholly new choreography created in the UK) brings together in one project all the purposes of The Sage Gateshead – world-class performance, music learning, and professional training – to produce a vivid, fresh interpretation of a great 20th century masterpiece through 21st century eyes.

The charismatic Will Tuckett is the perfect choreographer/director to work with our young cast, and Gateshead-born John Wilson has won a richly reserved international reputation for his exciting, supremely idiomatic musical leadership of ambitious, large-scale projects. The hand-picked virtuosi of Northern Sinfonia will bring to this project their own electrifying energy which has become their hallmark. The Sage Gateshead is enormously proud and excited to be creating this unique project as a highlight of the World Shakespeare Festival.

Tim Webb, Artistic Director, Oily Cart, said:

Oily Cart are delighted by the Royal Shakespeare Company‟s invitation to be part of the World Shakespeare Festival. We will bring our experience of boundary-breaking theatre for all of the senses to work on this radical new piece, especially devised for children from 2 to 4 years old. For many in this audience, the youngest of whom may only be beginning to talk, this will be their first experience of live theatre. What better way to begin than with the RSC and the Oily Cart working together?

For In a Pickle we will create an immersive, 360 degree theatre space in which our young audience will walk around, interacting with our performers, touching, smelling, even tasting the world we have created. With the enchanting visual effects and using both live & electronically manipulated music, we will be exploring the landscapes of Shakespeare's imagination and the musicality of his language.

Pilot Nights:

Pilot Nights, the West Midland‟s legendary scratch event, are delighted to be working with the RSC to commission innovative theatre makers from across the region to begin work on new shows in response to the World Shakespeare Festival 2012. None of the work will be finished, each will last between 10 and 20 minutes and together present a glorious mix of comic, touching and extraordinary performances. For the artists regularly working with Pilot Nights, this is an amazing opportunity to take part in a globally significant event.

Squidsoup:

We plan to make the walls of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre come alive - covered in parts with a living interactive wallpaper made of slowly animated texts and quotes from Shakespearean characters. Disturb the walls and the patterns turn into insect-like creatures that scuttle off leaving a trail of words, curses and messages in their wake.

The Wooster Group:

This is an Olympic undertaking. Let the games begin!

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Teaching Shakespeare