21 October 2011

Free tickets available to see Miriam Margolyes, Bill Kenwright and Quentin Letts judge the semi-finals for Sky Arts' Stagestruck series at the Royal Shakespeare Company's Courtyard Theatre

Stratford-upon-Avon audiences have the chance to book free tickets to watch the semi-finalists in a new Sky Arts series Stagestruck perform at the RSC's Courtyard Theatre on Sunday 13 November and hear the celebrity judges Miriam Margolyes, Quentin Letts and Bill Kenwright select the groups to go through to the final. The series is due to be broadcast in Summer 2012 and is produced by Oxford Film and Television.

Sky Arts has been scouring the country in a search for Britain's best amateur theatre groups for the new series. Theatre luminaries Miriam Margolyes (Harry Potter, Black Adder and Wicked), Quentin Letts (BPA Theatre Critic of the Year 2010) and Bill Kenwright (Producer, Whistle Down the Wind and Blood Brothers) selected a shortlist of seven groups from a range of outstanding video auditions which included innovative performances of Macbeth set in a gay bar, A Midsummer Night's Dream performed in a Scots dialect and The Merry Wives of Windsor with a unique Essex twist. The eighth group was chosen by public vote through the Sky Arts website.

These eight finalists were whittled down to four when they performed scenes from Chekhov and Ibsen against one another in Northampton in mid-October, and the four remaining groups will now all perform an extract from Shakespeare's King Lear at the Courtyard Theatre. During their five-week rehearsal period, each group has received the added boost of a voice and movement workshop with the RSC's experts. The judges can select only two of these groups to go forward in the competition, all of which will be featured in the series.

The new series explores the stories, commitment and passion of the members of the amateur theatres as they fine tune their craft to impress the judges. The finalists are mentored by British stars of stage and screen while cameras follow their every move as they hone their performances. The winning group will perform a play at a top London West End theatre.

The four remaining groups are Crossmichael Drama Club from Galloway, Regent Rep from Christchurch in Dorset, Glasgow's Strathclyde Theatre Group and Tell Tale Theatre Company from Toxteth.

'Sky Arts has long wanted to make a series that recognises the rich cultural importance of the amateur dramatics industry,' commented James Hunt, Channel Director of Sky Arts. 'We were thrilled with the high calibre of the groups that have applied and the judges involved, and are confident that this series will do justice to these extraordinarily talented actors.'

'Stagestruck is more than a talent show. It's a celebration of how amateur theatre can be a beating heart of communities all across Britain,' says Nicolas Kent, Creative Director of Oxford Film and TV.

The quality and creative talent of these entries proves that the amateur theatre world is flourishing in the UK. Both Miriam Margolyes and Quentin Letts found their love of theatre and performance through amateur theatre: Miriam Margolyes is an alumnus of Cambridge University Amateur Dramatic Club and Quentin Letts was an active member of the Trinity College Dublin Players.

All four of the Stagestruck semi-finalist groups will be performing an extract from William Shakespeare's The Tragedy of King Lear from 2.30pm on Sunday 13 November at the RSC's Courtyard Theatre, with the judges' verdicts being delivered at the end of the afternoon's performances. Tickets are free of charge, but places are limited. To reserve seats, call the RSC's Box Office on 0844 800 1110.


For more information please contact Katherine Solomon or Dominic Collett

Notes to Editors:

The semi-finalists:

Crossmichael Drama Club
(Audition: A Midsummer Night's Dream in local Scots dialect)
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Galloway based club. Their Scots dialect version of Shakespeare's comedy really resonated with the judges because of its regional innovation.

Regent Rep Theatre Group
(Audition: Much Ado About Nothing)

Christchurch Regent Rep was formed in 2008 as a showcase for the best of local talent in the area. They average two to three productions a year and this is the first competition that the group has entered.

Strathclyde Theatre Group
(Audition: Hamlet)
Glasgow's Strathclyde Theatre Group formed in 1971. It is regarded as an informal academy of theatre, open to all regardless of experience. Its alumni include Henry Iain Cusick, (Lost) and Peter Capaldi (The Thick of it.)

Tell Tale Theatre Group
(Audition: Dr Faustus by Christopher Marlowe)
This Toxteth group was established in June 2010. Tell Tale draws on a diverse cast from Merseyside between the ages of 20 and 45. They have a passion for ensemble plays and strive to create unconventional theatre.

Sky Arts
Sky is all about providing choice. That includes giving arts lovers the content they are passionate about, and making great arts accessible to everyone.

Sky Arts is the only stable of television channels in the UK dedicated entirely to the arts, screening 24 hours a day, every day on Sky Arts 1, Sky Arts 2, Sky Arts 1 HD and Sky Arts 2 HD. Highlights include a world first in opera quad-casting, screening Mike Figgis' ENO production of Lucrezia Borgia on Sky Arts 1, Sky Arts 2 , Sky 3D, whilst simultaneously broadcasting 3D coverage to cinemas nationwide; Songbook, a series of one on one interviews and acoustic performances from seminal songwriters and The Book Show – a series dedicated to books, authors and literary festival coverage. Sky Arts also runs smaller scale partnerships with arts organisations from across the UK. Each partnership sees Sky Arts produce a Sky Arts At...documentary, giving viewers a unique view of the artistic process from behind the scenes. 2011 partnerships include The Northern Arts Prize, Rambert Dance Company and Format photography Festival.

Online showcases the variety of content available on Sky Arts' channels with highlight clips, programme information and offers. Follow us on twitter @skyarts

On the streets
Sky is also one of the largest corporate sponsors of arts in the UK, working with The Telegraph Hay Festival and English National Ballet amongst others. Sky Arts has a two-year partnership with Artichoke, the UK's leading public arts producer. The first project in the Sky Arts Artichoke Season was Antony Gormley's proposal for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. One & Other. This was followed by Lumiere, a festival of light in Durham, a series of Artichoke Salons at the Tate, and The Magical Menagerie which took place at the Milton Keynes International Festival.

Oxford Film and TV
Oxford Film and TV is one of the leading independent production companies in Britain, with an exceptional track-record for making landmark documentaries mainly about history, politics and the arts. They have won many awards for their work, including four BAFTAs, two Oscars and an Emmy. Recent productions include THE AMERICAN FUTURE: A HISTORY and OBAMA'S AMERICA presented by Simon Schama for the BBC; a major drama, THE SECRET DIARIES OF MISS ANNE LISTER, for BBC2; the Rose d'Or award-winning arts documentary THE MONA LISA CURSE with Robert Hughes for Channel 4; the award-nominated anthology series THE GENIUS OF BRITISH ART for Channel 4; and the Bafta, RTS and Grierson award-winning observational documentary series THE FORCE, also for Channel 4, which followed the inner workings of Hampshire Police as they solved three major crimes.

Royal Shakespeare Company's involvement in the programme
RSC Open Stages is a new project that aims to embrace, develop and celebrate amateur theatre, re-forging the bond with the world of professional theatre. Over 2011/2012 the RSC, in partnership with a number of regional theatres and amateur theatre associations, are running a national programme of skills sharing events and showcases, with amateur societies from across the UK invited to produce their own RSC branded Shakespeare themed production.

'The RSC wants to lead a step change in the relationship with the amateur sector; to celebrate its rich traditions, open our doors to its work and collaborate with partners nationally to leave a significant legacy.' Michael Boyd, RSC Artistic Director.

Over 260 amateur companies have signed up to produce RSC Open Stages productions across the UK from the Isle of Skye to the Isle of Wight, with over 7,200 people taking part. Some of these companies have been regularly producing Shakespeare since well before the establishment of the RSC and some are trying it for the first time. Productions are being performed everywhere from castles to village halls, from beaches to ball rooms, with many being performed in the hundreds of successful amateur run theatres around the country.

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