Mark Ravenhill Sonnet

23 April 2012

The Royal Shakespeare Company launches the World Shakespeare Festival today with a new sonnet specially commissioned from internationally-renowned playwright and RSC Writer in Residence Mark Ravenhill

Monday 23 April 2012

The Royal Shakespeare Company launches the World Shakespeare Festival today with a new sonnet from Mark Ravenhill to mark Shakespeare's 448th birthday and celebrate his role as the world's playwright.

The World Shakespeare Festival is produced by the RSC for London 2012 Festival. It is the biggest Shakespeare festival ever staged and involves over 70 partners coming together to celebrate Shakespeare as the world's playwright, with more than 70 productions, plus events, exhibitions and broadcasts. One million tickets are available and the festival runs from today, 23 April, to November 2012.

Michael Boyd, Artistic Director, RSC said:

“We asked Mark to write a sonnet to mark this unprecedented collaboration. The RSC produced this Festival to celebrate Shakespeare as the world's playwright and we have been overwhelmed by the passion, creativity and sheer enthusiasm of our partners.

“From the RSC, Shakespeare's Globe, LIFT, the National Theatre, National Theatre Wales, Royal Opera House and the BBC to dreamthinkspeak, House of Fairy Tales and Oily Cart's In a Pickle for two to four year olds, there is extraordinary work on offer throughout the summer in London, Stratford-upon-Avon, Newcastle Gateshead, Birmingham, Brighton, Wales and Scotland. International artists have also taken Shakespeare as their own, with radical interpretations of Shakespeare from companies as diverse as the Iraqi Theatre Company, Brazil's Companhia Bufomecanica and Mexico's National Theatre.

“Shakespeare reminds us what it is to be human. Let's celebrate his influence on all our lives and join Mark Ravenhill in celebrating his birthday and this incredible Festival.”

Mark Ravenhill, RSC Writer in Residence, said of the challenge:

“A few weeks ago I spent an afternoon with the RSC acting ensemble. We all shared a revelatory voice class with the RSC's legendary voice director Cicely Berry and then a session exploring the sonnets with directors John Barton and Greg Doran. I came away from the session feeling very inspired and decided to write a sonnet for Shakespeare's birthday and the RSC's World Shakespeare Festival. I've tried to capture my love of Shakespeare (as well as borrowing a few phrases from him in the sonnet). But I've also tried to explore my ambivalent feelings about Shakespeare as a global 'brand'.

“I've used the sonnet form to shape my thoughts and have respected metre and the fourteen line structure. But I've avoided rhyme - it's a sonnet for our times, not a pastiche of Shakespeare and I think rhyme lands a little too heavily on contemporary ears.

“I want this to be a public poem. So if anyone wants to download the text to stick it on their fridge, or study it in their classroom, put themselves reciting it on You Tube or use it as a song lyric, I'd be delighted.

“Like Shakespeare's own sonnets, this has no title. Just a number. Maybe Ravenhill Sonnet 1. And maybe I'll write another 150, if the RSC keep on employing me long enough....”

View the video of Mark reciting his sonnet.

A New Sonnet for Shakespeare by Mark Ravenhill, RSC Writer in Residence:

I envy you. Your world was new, unmapped,
The language that you wrote in barely fixed;
You were Shagsbeer or Shaxpeer - whatever
Form your Will-full pen chose to take each day; 
Whole continents of human thought and heart
Were not yet owned by any national tongue
And were yours to chart, conquer, describe, sell:
You made an empire of our language in your Globe.
And now we rush to patent every cell
Of being: we brand ourselves with jingles,
Every word we speak or write is trading
And our little lives are ended with a deal.
You taught us language and there's profit on't
But still a greater possibility - to curse.

Mark can be heard on BBC Radio 4's Front Row programme at 7.15pm on Monday 23rd April talking about the challenges of creating a modern day sonnet about Shakespeare.

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

For further information, please contact Philippa Harland on or 020 7845 0512 or Nada Zakula on or 01789 412622.

For general information or images about the World Shakespeare Festival please contact Elsie King on or 01789 272417 or visit the World Shakespeare Festival website.  

Social media links at Facebook and Twitter.  

Follow the RSC on #RSCPress

Notes to editors:

The World Shakespeare Festival
The World Shakespeare Festival 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 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.

BP – Founding Presenting Partner
As Founding Presenting Partner of the Festival, BP is supporting the Royal Shakespeare Company's What Country Friends Is This?, three plays staged by one ensemble company of RSC actors, exploring migration, exile, shipwreck and the discovery of brave new worlds. The plays, The Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night and The Tempest, date from the early, middle and late periods of Shakespeare's work as he returned throughout his life to explore these themes. Led by RSC Associate Director, David Farr, this unique trilogy will play in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon before moving to the Roundhouse in London.

WCFIT also includes a major community project that will see members of the RSC's creative team working with the local community to create a performance of Pericles that will be staged at The Courtyard Theatre in Stratford as part of Open Stages, a ground-breaking initiative which brings amateur and professional actors closer together. Additionally, BP are supporting the London season of Julius Caesar, directed by RSC Chief Associate Director, Gregory Doran, and Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Iqbal Khan at the Noel Coward Theatre in London's West End when the shows transfer from Stratford-upon-Avon.

BP are also supporting two off-stage projects, the RSC's myShakespeare, a unique digital project which invites users to join the global Shakespeare conversation through this playful website, and 'Shakespeare: staging the World, The BP Exhibition' presented by BP's longstanding partner, the British Museum, in collaboration with the RSC.

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