Find out how our national project to engage new audiences in Shakespeare and theatre continued despite the Covid crisis.

Each year RSC productions visit towns and cities across the UK, sharing our work with over 30,000 people. Yet we know that many within these communities still feel that Shakespeare and theatre don't belong to them. We've partnered with six regional theatres in Blackpool, Bradford, Norwich, Canterbury, Truro and Nottingham for the Shakespeare Nation Project, working to engage those communities that find us hard to reach, helping them experience our work, Shakespeare and the transformative power of theatre.

In light of the pandemic restrictions, we have had to radically reshape the project over the past year, moving more of it online to keep supporting these community groups and our partner theatres through lockdown and beyond.

During this period, two of our partners have been engaging with Signal Fires, a nationwide project inspired by the idea of storytelling around a fire. Our groups in Blackpool and Bradford both produced videos responding to this prompt: in Blackpool, A Muse of Fire celebrated the light and beauty of Blackpool and its illuminations, as well as the Grand Theatre itself; in Bradford, Shakespeare by Candlelight saw members working individually on short Shakespeare pieces performed around a flame.

Norwich Theatre has also had a productive lockdown, with their group of local students and recent migrants to the area creating a Shakespeare soundscape called An Isle Full of Noises (listen below) and a short film built around their own contemporary sonnets. Called To be or not to be, the video sees the group reflecting on going into lockdown after just one workshop together.

Shakespeare Nation around the country

  • Aside from their film, the Blackpool group, working with the Grand Theatre, have also been writing their own monologues and had the chance to take part in a theatre model box workshop with an RSC designer.
  • Norwich Theatre has been continuing its Brave New World project with Doorstep Shakespeare, where participants will record a speech performed on their own doorsteps.
  • As well as developing Shakespeare by Candlelight, Bradford's Alhambra Theatre has been working on recruitment for the next phase of the project.
  • Nottingham Theatre Royal has also been recruiting, as well as staying in contact with their original Shakespeare Nation group, the People's Choir, who previously created the Shakespeare-inspired show Capulets and Candyfloss.
  • In Canterbury, The Marlowe Theatre produced a series of voice workshop videos with RSC voice coach Michael Corbidge.
  • Truro's Hall for Cornwall is recruiting ahead of using Shakespeare Nation as part of their reopening later this year, after a major refurbishment project.

We hope to move forward with the project again later in the year, recruiting new community groups and starting a new journey of theatre making.

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