First taste of birthday celebrations

7 February 2011

'The RSC marks its 50th Birthday with a rolling celebration throughout the year'

In 2011 the RSC marks its 50th Birthday with a rolling celebration throughout the year, with constantly added names, dates and surprises, looking back at its roots as a commissioner of major new work and as a producer of Shakespeare and the classics.

The Company has put together a series of events which highlight William Shakespeare's role as the catalyst and provocateur of British theatre and the subsequent impact the RSC has made in its five decades; opening up the Company's back catalogue of landmark plays and meeting the actors, directors and writers who made this exceptional work.

Script-in-hand performances run alongside debates and workshops on the many aspects of the RSC's history, including special events on the impact space has on the work, from the empty space of the studio theatre to the acoustic purity of the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

The Company will also share and re examine its role as the place where actors, writers and directors gain their classical training, with a look at the influences of John Barton, Cicely Berry and Michel Saint-Denis. The celebrations will also include the sometimes forgotten musicals and adaptations the RSC has created and premiered over the last 50 years.

The full programme will be announced in the spring and the following selection (which runs alongside a full repertoire of plays in Stratford-upon-Avon and a season of three world premieres at Hampstead Theatre) is a small taste of the events which will be on sale.

The Sunday Talk: Art, Architecture and the Imagination
Saturday 7 May, 10.00am in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Artistic Director Michael Boyd and guests in conversation about how the architecture of a space can impact on the imagination of theatre makers who work within it.

Play Reading of Good by CP Taylor
Sunday 15 May, 2pm Ashcroft Room in the Swan Theatre

A script-in-hand reading of CP Taylor's award-winning play about a German professor who is drawn into working with the Third Reich but who maintains he is still a good man. This play was originally produced by the RSC in 1981 and made into a film in 2008.

A Celebration of The Dillen
Saturday 4 June, 10am in the Swan Theatre

The RSC's production of The Dillen, which was adapted by Ron Hutchinson from Angela Hewins' memoir of a local man, was a great event in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1983. Over 200 local people joined the cast and enacted the First World War story as a walkabout production. Unusual locations around Stratford were chosen, down lanes, along the river, onto disused railway land, and the music was provided by the Stratford Wind Band Association. The audience walked a mile in total as they followed RSC actors and locals telling the story. Members of the original cast talk about the production and share memories of the day Stratford went to war. Anyone interested in the original production can get in touch at

Singing the Building
Saturday 4 June – 12pm, 2pm, 4.30pm, 6pm
Sunday 5 June – 12pm, 1.30pm, 3pm, 4.30pm

Singing the Building is a promenade performance which will take audiences on a musical journey through the new public spaces of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Performed by Human Music, a vocal ensemble of eight outstanding singers, the performance will celebrate the building and its bold new aesthetic of placing performers and audiences in closer proximity as well as turning unusual spaces into platforms for performance.

Human Music includes Jon Baker, Dave Camlin, Helen Chadwick, Sian Croose, Sharon Durant, Sianed Jones, Bex Mather and Katherine Zeserson. As an ensemble their stunning vocal acrobatics are by turns electrifying, breath-taking, deeply moving and curiously witty.

RSC Open Day: A special Open Day for the RSC's 50th Birthday
Sunday 12 June

The day includes themed talks and events alongside a packed programme of talks and workshops for all ages. A unique opportunity to see behind the scenes at the RSC as we throw open our doors giving you an insight into the worlds of prop-making, lighting design and stage-fighting.

The Work and Philosophy of Michel Saint-Denis
Saturday 18 June, 2pm Waterside Space

In 1962 Peter Hall invited Michel Saint-Denis along with Peter Brook to become an Associate Director at the newly formed RSC. His work on the body had been a powerful influence on the new generation of UK directors who were making an impact in the 1950s. While Brook and Hall's reputations live on, Saint-Denis is rarely talked about outside the world of theatre practitioners and historians. This event will explore his role in the development of theatre in the UK and the RSC with special reference to the ensemble and his training methods. RSC Head of Movement Struan Leslie will lead an exploration and discussion of Saint-Denis' work.

The Sunday Talk: Mark Ravenhill: The RSC's Back Catalogue
Sunday 10 July, 11.30am, in the Swan Theatre

World-famous playwright Mark Ravenhill takes his pick of the 200 writers we have produced alongside Shakespeare from the RSC's back catalogue. He is joined by guests on stage to discuss his discoveries from one of the richest programming histories in world theatre. Mark will also curate readings of two of his favourite RSC plays on Saturday 9 July (further details to be announced).

The Sunday Talk: Tanika Gupta: Silly Plays by Lady Dramatists
Sunday 7 August, 11.30am, in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Award-winning playwright Tanika Gupta hosts a weekend celebrating the most groundbreaking plays by female playwrights produced by the RSC over the last fifty years, two of which will be curated by Tanika and performed on Saturday 6 August (further details to be announced).

The Sunday Talk: The Swan and the Lost Library of Jacobethan plays
Sunday 21 August, 11.30am, in the Swan Theatre

The Swan Theatre was built 25 years ago and has helped the company rediscover a wealth of lost classics from the Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre. RSC Chief Associate Director Gregory Doran has been instrumental in that search for plays to reintroduce to the canon. Greg and guests will share some of their favourite moments from plays the Swan Theatre has breathed fresh life into.

Play Reading of Singer by Peter Flannery
Sunday 21 August, 2pm Ashcroft Room in the Swan Theatre

A script-in-hand performance of the play which gives a definitive master-class in using dramatic techniques from Shakespeare and his contemporaries and making them your own. Singer has been described as possessing 'a rampaging narrative that sweeps up the great and the small in its wake, political bite, profound insights, wild humour, graceful language, acute characterisation and sharp unbearable heartbreak'. The RSC premiered Singer in 1989.

Theatremakers with Hammers
Saturday 3 September, 10am in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre

The RSC is home to some of the most skilled costume, set and prop makers in the world. RSC Associate Designer Tom Piper introduces some of the strangest and most beautiful things made to serve the imaginations of theatre directors and the people who have made them.

The Sunday Talk: The Theatre Designers' Designer
Sunday 4 September, 11.30am in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Radical, beautiful and extraordinary designs for new productions. RSC Associate Designer Tom Piper and guests explore some of the designs and designers he most admires and takes a look at their greatest creations.

Harold Pinter and the RSC

During the run of The Homecoming there will be two very special events in the Swan Theatre to honour Harold Pinter's genius. Pinter was a significant inspiration to Peter Hall when he was setting up the RSC and wrote six plays for the Company during the RSC's first decade. Details to be confirmed.

Forthcoming programme

The full programme celebrating our 50th Birthday will be announced in the spring. It will include Sunday Talks, Keynote Speeches and a very special birthday party, together with a series of events which will explore the Theatre of Cruelty, Theatre of Protest and a few surprising rediscovered gems.

Notes to Editors

  • Full information on the programme celebrating RSC 50, including details of further readings, Sunday talks, production reunions and keynote speeches will be announced later this spring.
  • A season of three world premieres will be performed by the RSC's long ensemble at Hampstead Theatre in London from April 16 – 18:
    - Little Eagles by Rona Munro, directed by Roxana Silbert
    - Silence by David Farr and Filter, directed by David Farr
    - American Trade by Tarell Alvin McCraney, directed by Jamie Lloyd
    - More information on Hampstead season on
  • The RSC Birthday season in Stratford-upon-Avon will include two major revivals of contemporary plays which were commissioned by the RSC and had a massive impact on the Company:
    - Marat/Sade – The Persecution and Assassination of Marat as performed by the inmates of the asylum of Charenton under the direction of The Marquis de Sade by Peter Weiss, English adaptation by Geoffrey Skelton, verse adaptation by Adrian Mitchell, directed by Anthony Neilson (premiered in 1964, originally directed by Peter Brook).
    - The Homecoming by Harold Pinter, directed by David Farr (premiered in 1965, originally directed by Peter Hall).
    - More information on 50th Birthday Season on
  • The RSC Education team has created an extended programme including bespoke events around Pinter and Artaud and seminal Shakespeare productions in response to the 50th birthday repertoire for students aged 16+
  • The RSC Literary Department is generously supported by The Drue Heinz Trust
  • The RSC Ensemble is generously supported by The Gatsby Charitable Foundation and the Kovner Foundation
  • Tickets for events in Stratford-upon-Avon available from the RSC Box Office on 0844 800 1110 or

Further information

For more information on RSC 50, please contact either:

Philippa Harland on 0207 845 0512 or


Nada Zakula on 01789 412622 or

For press tickets, please contact Dean Asker on 01789 412660 or

Issued: 7 February 2011

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