Over 1.5 million experience WSF

6 November 2012

Over 1.5 million experience the World Shakespeare Festival
Final production opens this week, Calixto Bieito's Forests, at the Barbican
(6 – 10 November)

The World Shakespeare Festival (WSF), produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company, has reached over 1.5 million people since it opened on 23rd April, Shakespeare's birthday. Over six months, the biggest celebration of Shakespeare ever staged has presented 69 full-scale productions, 7 exhibitions, 6 film screenings, 5 scratch performances, over 260 amateur shows in Open Stages, over a dozen digital commissions on myShakespeare, 15 commissioned short films on The Space (alongside Globe to Globe's 36 filmed performances); 2 digital broadcasts, an online education collaboration with the BBC, an international education conference and a host of surrounding events and projects.

The Festival, which closes this month, played a significant part in the London 2012 Festival, contributing 26% of the total ticket sales. Over 120 partner organisations and more than 10,000 professional and amateur artists and theatre makers from around the world have taken part. The Festival is supported by BP as Founding Presenting Partner.

To date, 900,000 people have attended World Shakespeare Festival productions and events, more than 700,000 have watched World Shakespeare Festival broadcasts on television and BBC iPlayer and over one million have visited WSF digital platforms.

The Festival has been a mammoth undertaking for the RSC with Festival Director, Deborah Shaw, heading a team which has been planning and programming the celebration over several years, commissioning artists from across the world.

Deborah Shaw, Festival Director, said,
'The World Shakespeare Festival has been an epic celebration of Shakespeare as the world's playwright. We challenged artists and producers to respond to our themes of collaboration, pushing the boundaries of performance and exploring the contemporary world through the prism of Shakespeare. They responded with a staggering array of work.

'At the beginning we had the Globe's joyous 6-week celebration of Shakespeare in 37 languages, brilliantly curated by Tom Bird. At the end, we have the final production in the Barbican's thoughtful series of international encounters, with Calixto Bieito's meditation on Shakespeare's landscapes, Forests (co-produced by Birmingham Rep and Barcelona International Theatre, in association with the RSC).

'In between, audiences have been on extraordinary imaginative journeys – from finding themselves as Plebeians in the midst of cars, explosions and TV cameras in National Theatre Wales's Coriolan/Us in an aircraft hangar in South Wales, to eavesdropping through glass walls on dreamthinkspeak's beautiful The Rest Is Silence. They have been complicit in Dmitry Krymov's deceptively ramshackle and sublimely subversive A Midsummer Night's Dream (As You Like It) which took Stratford and Edinburgh International Festival by storm. And they've been captivated by Shakespeare - Staging the World at the British Museum, which has seen a unique collaboration between the BM and the RSC on the design and ground-breaking animation of the exhibition.

'Beneath the headline figures has been a deeper reflection of the landscape of world theatre in 2012. We've focused on developing our relationships with audiences and opening up the theatre-making process to as broad a range of people as possible and to blur the boundaries between students, amateurs and professionals. We've explored new models for supporting emerging artists and the broader theatre ecology. And there's now a huge bank of shared knowledge about how to collaborate across international boundaries and here at home.

'The RSC's voice, movement, design, producing, technical, administrative and casting teams have run through the WSF like words through a stick of rock – working behind the scenes with a whole range of non-RSC productions and enriching the RSC's practice as they bring those experiences home.

'I'm delighted that so much of the work created will have a future life, as a direct artistic legacy of the WSF. In all, we've had requests for 11 of our commissions from international Festivals. Greg Doran's Julius Caesar heads to Moscow this year and New York next. Many WSF productions will continue to tour and the friendships and networks established across the world will create yet more wonders.'

At the end of this year, the RSC, working with award-winning Citrus Suite, will release a free WSF book app as a unique record of the Festival.

Toni Racklin, Head of Theatre at the Barbican, said,
'As the Barbican presents the finale to the World Shakespeare Festival with Calixto Bieito's Forests, we are proud to have been one of the partner organisations in this huge undertaking. The Royal Shakespeare Company has pulled off an incredible feat; the biggest celebration of Shakespeare ever seen, working with hundreds of companies and thousands of artists. The international dimension of the festival has reinforced Shakespeare as a world playwright and delighted millions of people. It has been a richly rewarding experience helping to bring this ambitious festival to fruition.'

Ruth MacKenzie, Director London 2012 Festival said,
'Thanks to the RSC, the producers of the World Shakespeare Festival, huge new audiences celebrated Shakespeare from round the world, made possible by OLD, ACE and BP amongst numerous partners. Also congratulations to the Globe whose 37 productions in 37 languages inspired communities to come to the theatre for the first time, and to the British Museum and BBC who brought their own world class style to lodge Shakespeare's inspiration in our hearts and minds'.

For further information contact Jane Ellis, jane.ellis@rsc.org.uk, 07966 295032.

About the World Shakespeare Festival
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. 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. For further details visit the WSF website. 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.

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 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.

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