"Power Shifts" in our first Shakespeare season of the year, the Swan Theatre welcomes back audiences and we celebrate the 400th birthday of the First Folio.


Five of Shakespeare's plays which address the question of who holds power, how it changes human beings and how it shifts, open our new year of artistic offerings in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

  • The Tempest: On an island full of noises, a mother and daughter strike a truce with nature to survive. Then one day, their long-lost enemies sail into view. Against the power of a furious sea, the reunited foes are forced to confront their pasts and themselves. 26 JANUARY - 4 MARCH
  • Julius Caesar: Concerned that Caesar seems dangerous, revolutionaries take the violent decision to murder him. They have no plan for what comes nextIn Stratford: 18 MARCH - 8 APRIL, on tour 20 APRIL - 24 JUNE
  • Cymbeline: From Rome to the hills of Wales, Cymbeline tells the story of the eponymous king of ancient Britain whose daughter Imogen marries against her father’s will. Fairytale characters include a wicked stepmother, a girl in disguise, a faithful servant, lost brothers and even a headless corpse. 22 APRIL - 27 MAY
  • As You Like It: Shakespeare’s joyous tale of freedom and empowerment set in the Forest of Arden is the perfect summer tale. Full of comic characters and memorable moments, it’s the perfect first introduction to a full-length Shakespeare play for all the family. Performance dates to be announced in February 2023
  • Macbeth: A terrifying tale of murder, superstition and madness, Macbeth remains one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. Performance dates to be announced in February 2023
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Alex Kingston as Prospero and Jessica Rhodes as Miranda in The Tempest

The Swan Theatre reopens

The Swan Theatre has been beautifully restored and renovated and is now opening for the first time in more than three years. It returns with a full season of five plays running from April to November.

  • Hamnet begins the reopening season in April. Adapted from Maggie O'Farrell's novel by award-winning playwright Lolita Chakrabarti (Life of PiRed Velvet, Hymn), Hamnet pulls back a curtain on the imagined family life of the greatest writer in the English language.
  • The Empress by Tanika Gupta draws on British Asian history in the reign of Queen Victoria premiered in the Swan Theatre in 2013. This new production directed by Pooja Ghai opens in the Swan then transfers to the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre
  • Falkland Sound is new play by Brad Birch directed by Aaron Parsons telling the story of a rural community and way of life turned upside down following the invasion of the Falkland Islands by Argentine forces in April 1982.
  • The Merchant of Venice 1936 this gripping new production from Watford Palace Theatre offers a rare and vivid insight into a dark chapter in our history, all too relevant to Britain today. Directed by Brigid Larmour and starring Tracy-Ann Oberman as Shylock.
  • Cowbois is part gun-slinging Western, part love-story for our times. This playful and exuberant celebration of queer love, freedom and self-expression from the writer of I, Joan and Bitch Boxer; Charlie Josephine, is co-directed by Charlie Josephine and Sean Holmes.

The First Folio turns 400

Described as one of the great wonders of the literary world, the First Folio, entitled Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, & Tragedies, was published in 1623, seven years after the death of its author. Without this first printed edition of Shakespeare's collected plays, the world would have lost half of his dramatic work. Many of the plays had never been printed before.

It is due to the ingenuity and tireless work of Shakespeare's friends, colleagues and shrewd investors that his work was preserved and can be staged and studied today.

This Folio year, the theatre and academic communities commemorate this remarkable achievement with a series of events including Folio Day on 23 April 2023 and culminating on the 400th birthday of the Folio on 8 November 2023. Read more about the First Folio here (goes to a separate website).

The Comedy of Errors in the First Folio.
We commemorate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's First Folio
© William Shakespeare, Isaac Jaggard and Edward Blount (printers), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons Browse and license our images
The timber of the Swan Theatre shown from the stage area, with the stalls area emptied of seats
New lighting, woodwork repairs and wider seats are just some of the improvements in the newly refurbished Swan Theatre
Photo by Sara Beaumont © RSC Browse and license our images

Immortalise your name in the Swan theatre

You can secure the future of the Swan Theatre by naming a seat or a pillar in the auditorium. 

Changes include new infrastructure for lighting, sound and video, repairs to the woodwork and brickwork, new wider seats with armrests in all positions replacing the previous bench seating, improved access including more designated wheelchair spaces and an enhanced hearing loop.

Find out more

Updated 21 February 2023
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