This weekend marks 30 years since we opened the Swan Theatre.

Opened in 1986, the Swan Theatre is a favourite space for many actors, directors and audiences.

When the theatre was constructed, its brief was ‘to present the plays that inspired Shakespeare and which he inspired’. It was a space to stage the plays of Shakespeare's contemporaries, the writers alongside whom he worked, and who shaped the plays he wrote.

group of men and women seated on wooden staging in burgundy opulent dress. Gregory Doran is perched above them on a banister
Our now Artistic Director Gregory Doran seated on the bannister in Ben Jonson's The New Inn, 1987.
Joe Cocks Studio © Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Browse and license our images

Shakespeare’s contemporaries in the Swan Theatre

  • Since the Swan Theatre opened in 1986, we have presented nine of Ben Jonson plays, from Every Man in his Humour, with Pete Postlethwaite and Simon Russell Beale, to this year’s The Alchemist
  • With Dido, Queen of Carthage next autumn we will have presented all the major works by Christopher Marlowe in the Swan, with the exception of the incomplete The Massacre at Paris
  • We have mounted productions of a number of great plays by (or attributed to) Thomas Middleton, including The Revenger's Tragedy, The Changeling directed by Michael Attenborough in 1992, and Women beware Women in 2006 and The Roaring Girl
  • John Webster's two great plays The Duchess of Malfi and The White Devil have both been performed in the Swan
  • John Ford wrote only a few plays and we have produced the most famous: Tis Pity she's a Whore in 1991, with Saskia Reeves and Jonathan Cullen as the incestuous siblings
  • We presented Thomas Dekker’s greatest play The Shoemaker's Holiday in 2014

Here are some of the highlights from plays by Shakespeare's contemporaries during the past 30 years:

You may also like