Festival themes

  • What Country, friends, is this?

    What Country, friends, is this?
    Led by RSC Associate Director David Farr, one ensemble company of RSC actors performed The Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night and The Tempest, three plays exploring love, loss and reunion.

    The fourth part of the season, Pericles, was a collaboration between amateur theatre makers and the RSC's professional creative and production teams that saw a cast of amateur performers working with RSC directors, designers, stage managers and technicians.

    Pictured are Stephen Hagan as Sebastian and Emily Taaffe as Viola in Twelfth Night.

  • Nations at War

    Nations at War
    This trilogy of plays featured Richard III, King John and A Soldier in Every Son – The Rise of the Aztecs, three plays which explored the struggle for absolute power and the right to lead a nation.

    Pictured: Maria Aberg's King John.


  • Globe to Globe

    Globe to Globe 
    Opening in April 2012, Globe to Globe was a six week event in which companies from across the world performed all 37 of Shakespeare's plays in 37 different languages.

    As You Like It performed in Georgian by Marjanishvili.

  • Digital and film projects

    Digital and film projects
    These were a significant part of the festival. They included:

    • myShakespeare - website measuring Shakespeare's digital heartbeat and considering what Shakespeare means to us today
    • The Space - a series of films about Shakespeare and the work of the festival
    • I, Cinna (the Poet) - film broadcast over the web to schools across the UK
    • Shakespeare Unlocked - Shakespeare's most popular and widely studied plays are unlocked by actors and directors

    Photo: Kate Tempest performs her new poem 'My Shakespeare', explaining what Shakespeare means to her.

  • Open Stages

    Open Stages
    Some of the RSC Open Stages' most exciting amateur companies performed their own Shakespeare-themed productions in Stratford-upon-Avon.

    Over 260 amateur companies signed up to produce RSC Open Stages productions, from Penzance to the Isle of Skye, with over 6400 people taking part. Some companies have been regularly performing Shakespeare since well before the establishment of the RSC and some tried it for the first time. Productions were performed everywhere from castles to village halls, beaches to ballrooms, supermarkets to forests.

    Then in October the RSC Amateur Ensemble, a group of auditioned amateur actors performed Pericles, the final part of the 'What Country, Friends, Is This?' season at The Courtyard Theatre. Pictured is Sope Dirisu as Pericles.

  • Collaboration and international productions

    Collaborations and international productions
    The World Shakespeare Festival brought together theatre makers from across the globe. Pictured is A Midsummer Night's Dream (As You Like It), which was a Chekhov International Theatre Festival/Dmitry Krymov's Laboratory/School of Dramatic Art Theatre production, performed in Russian.

    Other collaborations and international productions were:

    • Troilus and Cressida - collaboration between the New York based Wooster Group and the RSC co-directed by Elizabeth LeCompte and Mark Ravenhill
    • A Soldier in Every Son - The Rise of the Aztecs - bringing together RSC and Compañía Nacional de Teatro de México actors
    • Forests performed in Catalan and English
    • Romeo and Juliet in Baghdad - The Iraqi Theatre Company's production,, infused with Iraq's rich traditions of poetry, music and ritual.
    • Macbeth: Leïla and Ben  - A Bloody History - a Tunisian version performed in Arabic
    • 2008: Macbeth - performed in Polish as a contemporary living theatrical film
    • Two Roses for Richard III - Brazilian theatre company Companhia Bufomecânica performed in Portuguese, in association with the RSC


  • Non-theatre spaces

    Non-theatre spaces
    Several World Shakespeare Festival productions took place in unusual spaces. The National Theatre Wales production of Coriolan/us (pictured) was performed in aircraft hangar 858 in the Vale of Glamorgan. Brazilian director Renato Rocha staged The Dark Side of Love, an exploration of Shakespeare's most painful and poignant moments, underground in the Dorfman Hub space beneath the Roundhouse. Dreamthinkspeak's The Rest is Silence was performed within a specially designed and multilayered structure, allowing the action to unfold on different levels and on all sides. Finally, Theatr Genedlaethol Cymru staged Y Storm, a Welsh language version of The Tempest in a purpose built tent.



  • Exhibitions

    Pictured is The House of Fairytales, an an adventure trail and playful installation which took children on a journey through Shakespeare's imagination.

    Elsewhere for the festival was Shakespeare: Staging the World, a British Museum exhibition in collaboration with the RSC, providing a unique insight into the emerging role of London as a world city, seen through the innovative perspective of Shakespeare's plays.

  • Music

    Music played an essential part in the World Shakespeare Festival, including the following five productions:  

    • Otello - Verdi finds a musical language to express both the heroism and inner horror of the Venetian general  at the Royal Opera House
    • Falstaff - Verdi's last masterpiece in a lavish new production for Covent Garden under director Robert Carsen, with the portly knight of Shakespeare's comedy taking to the stage, larger than life
    • The Rape of Lucrece - Shakespeare's tragic poem fully revealed through song and storytelling (pictured)
    • Desdemona - Malian singer/songwriter Rokia Traoré and novelist Toni Morrison, created an intimate and profound conversation between Shakespeare's Desdemona and her African nurse Barbary, from beyond the grave
    • West Side Story - full-scale production of Bernstein's musical with new choreography by Will Tuckett at The Sage Gateshead

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Teaching Shakespeare