ADULTS IN BLACKPOOL AND NOTTINGHAM WORK WITH THE RSC AND THEIR LOCAL THEATRES TO CREATE THEIR OWN VERSIONS OF ROMEO AND JULIET
FROM STAR-CROSSED LOVERS TO SHAKESPEARE LOVERS
The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) believes that Shakespeare belongs to everyone, and that experiencing his plays, and theatre in general, can be life-changing.
The RSC recently launched Shakespeare Nation, a four-year long project, funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, aimed at encouraging more adults to experience Shakespeare and live theatre at their local theatres.
Together with six of its partner theatres, the RSC is working alongside communities around the country who would not normally think theatre and Shakespeare are for them. The ambition is to reach over 3,000 adults via co-productions, workshops with RSC actors and directors, and subsidised tickets and theatre coach trips to generate new audiences and lovers of theatre.
Preparations for the first Shakespeare Nation co-productions started earlier this year. Residents in Blackpool (working with the RSC and Blackpool Grand Theatre) and Nottingham (working with the RSC and Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham), most with little or no experience of Shakespeare, began creating their own productions in response to the RSC’s nationwide tour of Romeo and Juliet, which they saw in their local theatre.
In Blackpool adults from the LGBTQ community and Liberty Church members, hoteliers, Betterstart parents and community choir members, took part in taster workshops in February, working with RSC Deputy Artistic Director, Erica Whyman, and Blackpool Grand’s theatre practitioners. Volunteers from the groups have created a production, ‘A Grand Romance’, which mixes extracts of Romeo and Juliet with their own personal stories of love and romance in Blackpool. The volunteers will perform this show in front of a Grand Theatre audience on 17 June, with some of the performance taking place on Blackpool’s iconic promenade.
The Nottingham People’s Choir, which champions wellbeing through the joy of singing, is creating a new musical performance in response to the play. Using songs, their own stories and extracts from the original text, the group retells Romeo and Juliet through their own memories of love, loss and life, set against the backdrop of the famous Nottingham Goose Fair. They will perform their version in Nottingham on 25 July.
This year the RSC will also work with Norwich Theatre Royal, and later in the project with The Alhambra Theatre, Bradford, The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury and Newcastle Theatre Royal.
Erica Whyman, RSC Deputy Artistic Director, said, “Not everyone thinks Shakespeare’s plays are going to be for them, but our experience has been that if you can excite someone about Shakespeare and get them speaking his words and making sense of his ideas, they often feel that, as a result, they can do anything.
“The plays express feelings we all have, they tell stories about the universal experiences of life – love, death, ambition, excitement, disagreement, hope - so they can make us feel connected to one another. And his wonderful words are part of all of our history, they help us explain ourselves, maybe especially at times of change.”
Jo Cleasby, Blackpool Grand Theatre Director for Shakespeare Nation, said, “The participants in ‘A Grand Romance’ are so up for anything we throw at them. Their enthusiasm and willingness to have a go is amazing. Stories everyone has shared of their ‘Romances’ are so honest and truly beautiful.”
Kimberley Allsopp, who co-manages the project with fellow Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham Creative Learning Officer Caroline Pope, said, “We are so pleased to be part of this exciting on-going project with the People’s Choir and the RSC. The People’s Choir has been running for several years at the Royal Concert Hall, and it has been wonderful to see the attendees grow in their singing skills and confidence. We’re looking forward to seeing those skills and new ones in action when they perform their new piece in July.”
Working hand-in-hand with its partner theatres and Associate Schools, Shakespeare Nation is just one of the many nationwide initiatives at the heart of the RSC, which provide opportunities for anybody aged 3-103 to experience the thrill of Shakespeare in their own communities and build a life-long relationship with theatre.
The RSC regularly tours nationwide, and in collaboration with its 11 long term theatre partners, works with a 246 strong Associate Schools network, offers free schools broadcasts and Live Lessons, has 550 young Shakespeare Ambassadors, runs a Next Generation talent development programme for young people, as well as broadcasting its productions into cinemas.
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Notes to editors
The RSC’s partner theatres include:
The Grand Theatre, Blackpool
The Alhambra Theatre, Bradford
The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
Hall for Cornwall, Cornwall
Hull Truck, Hull
Intermission Theatre, London
Newcastle Theatre Royal
Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham
Norwich Theatre Royal
Northern Stage, Newcastle upon Tyne
New Vic Theatre, Stoke on Trent
York Theatre Royal
The Royal Shakespeare Company creates theatre at its best, made in Stratford-upon-Avon and shared around the world. We produce an inspirational artistic programme each year, setting Shakespeare in context, alongside the work of his contemporaries and today’s writers.
Everyone at the RSC - from actors to armourers, musicians to technicians - plays a part in creating the world you see on stage. All our productions begin life at our Stratford workshops and theatres and we bring them to the widest possible audience through our touring, residencies, live broadcasts and online activity. So wherever you experience the RSC, you experience work made in Shakespeare’s home town.
We have trained generations of the very best theatre makers and we continue to nurture the talent of the future. We encourage everyone to enjoy a lifelong relationship with Shakespeare and live theatre. We reach 530,000 children and young people annually through our education work, transforming their experiences in the classroom, in performance and online. Registered charity no. rsc.org.uk.
WITH THANKS TO OUR SUPPORTERS
The Shakespeare Nation adult engagement work is generously supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
The Associate Schools programme is supported by PAUL HAMLYN FOUNDATION, THE ALLAN AND NESTA FERGUSON CHARITABLE TRUST, THE ERNEST COOK TRUST and is powered by SAMSUNG as part of its commitment to inspire learning through technology.
Live From Stratford-upon-Avon is generously supported by the SIDNEY E. FRANK FOUNDATION
Schools' Broadcasts and Live Lessons are generously supported by Virgin Media as part of its commitment to make good things happen through digital
RSC Next Generation is generously supported by THE ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER FOUNDATION, GROW @ ANNENBERG, THE HAROLD HYAM WINGATE FOUNDATION and THE JOHN S COHEN FOUNDATION.
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Arts Council England is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. www.artscouncil.org.uk