Latest Press Releases




Performances run 23 September – 16 November 2019

Press performance: Thursday 26 September, 1.30pm, Nelson Mandela School, Birmingham

As part of its commitment to provide young people with a fantastic first experience of Shakespeare, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), in association with eleven regional partner theatres, will tour The Merchant of Venice to schools and theatres this autumn.  The RSC’s long-running First Encounters programme takes productions into the heart of communities, and this year’s series, produced in partnership with Adobe, will include a digital learning experience for the first time.  These edited versions of the plays, performed using Shakespeare’s original language, have been enjoyed by over 100,000 people to date, and will now equip teachers with resources to teach Shakespeare in new, engaging ways using Adobe Spark and Creative Cloud.

Directed and edited by Robin Belfield, the production will open in September 2019 in Midlands schools and the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, before embarking on a six week national tour of schools and regional theatres.  Although primarily aimed at 7-13 year olds, the production can be enjoyed by all ages.

In collaboration with the RSC’s Regional Theatre Partners and Associate Schools, this production also features young actors from the RSC’s Next Generation Company working alongside the professional acting company. The young actors, aged between 13-18, will take turns to play the two roles of Jessica and Lorenzo, the two characters caught up in a clash between family, money and culture. Next Generation ACT is made up of young people under the age of 18 who show a talent for performance but who would not necessarily have the opportunity to develop it. The young people are drawn from each of the English regions, and, as the production makes its way around the country, where possible, the roles of Jessica and Lorenzo will be performed by two young people local to that area.

Other locations the tour will visit include Melton Mowbray; Birmingham; Northamptonshire; Blackpool (in association with The Grand Theatre, Blackpool); Newcastle upon Tyne (in association with Northern Stage); Middlesbrough; Bradford; Skipton; (in association with Alhambra Theatre, Bradford); Cornwall and Devon (in association with Hall for Cornwall); Canterbury (in association with the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury); Hull (in association with Hull Truck Theatre), and Nottingham (in association with Nottingham Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall). Current tour details at the end of the release.

Robin Belfield, the production’s director, said: “Set against the commercial backdrop of Venice, Shakespeare’s play presents a world where business interests collide with personal ambitions and prejudices.  The Merchant of Venice asks some very challenging questions, especially for audiences today – questions about the way we live, work and behave with people of different faiths and cultures.  At the heart of the play are two young people, Jessica and Lorenzo, about to make some huge choices that will affect their lives forever.  It seemed fitting then that these characters be played by young people, and who better than our terrifically talented young company, Next Generation ACT.”

Jacqui O’Hanlon, RSC Director of Education, said: “At the heart of this First Encounters with Shakespeare production are the regional theatres and schools we are privileged to work in collaboration with to create it.  Together, we bring the excitement of Shakespeare’s work right into the heart of schools and local communities.  This work is testament to the profound impact that partnerships between schools and theatres can have on local communities; partnerships forged out of a shared vision for education in which access to the arts plays a central part.”

Simon Morris, Senior Director, Adobe Creative Cloud, said: “First Encounters has been extremely successful in making Shakespeare relatable and accessible for young audiences up and down the country.  Through our ongoing partnership with the RSC we have been able to create digital learning experiences that turn the initial excitement young audiences feel when watching Shakespeare for the first time into a long-term love of the plays through our creative tools.”

Robin Belfield is the RSC's Young People's Performance Developer. As creative lead for the Associate Schools programme, he is responsible for working with the RSC’s partner schools and theatre partners to create high quality performance opportunities for young people across the country.

Prior to working the RSC, Robin was a freelance theatre director and education practitioner working for many major theatre companies and arts organisations including: National Theatre, Nuffield Southampton Theatres, Bristol Old Vic, Theatre Royal Bath, Watermill Theatre (Newbury) and The Dukes Theatre (Lancaster). He has also worked extensively in a number of the UKs major drama schools including: Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, The Oxford School of Drama and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Last year Robin wrote his first book Telling the Truth: How to Make Verbatim Theatre, a practical handbook for teachers and theatre professionals, published by Nick Hern Books.

Other members of the creative team include: Anisha Fields (Designer), Tarek Merchant (Music) and Ingrid Mackinnon (Movement).

Casting for the production will be announced in due course.

For further information please contact:
Dean Asker, Senior Media Relations Officer
RSC Press Office
01789 412660

First Encounters is presented by Adobe

First Encounters is also kindly supported by TAK Advisory Limited.

RSC Next Generation is generously supported by The Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, GRoW @ Annenberg and The Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation.



The schedule below will be updated on the RSC’s website with booking details as they become available



Captain’s Close Primary School, Melton Mowbray
Monday 23 September, 7pm (public performance)
Tuesday 24 September, 10am and 1.30pm (schools’ performances)

Nelson Mandela Primary School, Birmingham
Wednesday 25 September, 1.30pm (schools’ performance), 7pm (public performance)
Thursday 26 September, 1.30pm (schools’ performance), 7pm (public performance)

Weston Favell C of E Primary School, Northampton
Friday 27 September, 1.30pm (schools’ performance)

STRATFORD-UPON-AVON                                               30 September – 5 October 2019

The Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon – all public performances
Monday 30 September, 7pm
Tuesday 1 October, 10.30am, 7pm
Wednesday 2 October, 10.30am, 2pm
Thursday 3 October, 10.30am
Friday 4 October, 10.30am (Relaxed performance)
Saturday 5 October, 10.30am
Box Office: 01789 331111,

BLACKPOOL                                                                         8-12 October 2019

Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Primary School, Blackpool
Tuesday 8 October, 1.30pm (schools’ performance) and 7pm (public performance)

St Mary’s Catholic Academy
Wednesday 9 October, 1.40pm (schools’ performance)

The Grand Theatre, Blackpool
Thursday 10 October, 10am and 1.30pm (public performances)
Friday 11 October, 1.30pm and 7pm (public performances)
Saturday 12 October, 1.30pm (public performance)
Box Office: 01253 290190,

                                                  15-19 October 2019

Sacred Heart Catholic High School
Tuesday 15 October, 1.30pm (schools’ performance), 6pm (public performance)
Wednesday 16 October, 1.15pm (schools’ performance), 6pm (public performance)

Northern Stage
Thursday 17 October, 1.30pm (public performance)
Friday 18 October, 10.30am (public performance)
Saturday 19 October, 10.30am and 2pm (public performances)
Box Office: 0191 230 5151

MIDDLESBROUGH/SKIPTON/BRADFORD                                  21-24 October 2019

Macmillan Academy, Middlesbrough
Monday 21 October, 1.15pm (schools’ performance), 7pm (public performance)
Tuesday 22 October, 1.15pm (schools’ performance)

Skipton Academy, Skipton
Wednesday 23 October, 1.45pm (schools’ performance), 7pm (public performance)

The Studio, Bradford
Thursday 24 October, 2pm and 7pm (public performances)
Box Office: 01274 432000,

CORNWALL/DEVON                                                                         29–31 October 2019

Treviglas College, Newquay
Tuesday 29 October, 1pm (schools’ performance), 7pm (public performance)

Launceston College
Wednesday 30 October, 1pm (schools’ performance), 7pm (public performance)

Bideford College
Thursday 31 October, 1pm (schools’ performance), 7pm (public performance)

CANTERBURY                                                                                2 November 2019

Studio Theatre, Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury
Saturday 2 November, 11am and 2.30pm (public performances)
Box Office: 01227 787787,

HULL                                                                                               5-8 November 2019

Hull Truck Studio Theatre
Tuesday 5 November, 1pm (schools’ performance), 7pm (public performance)
Wednesday 6 November, 1pm (schools’ performance), 7pm (public performance)
Box Office: 01482 323638

St Mary’s College, Hull
Thursday 7 November, 1.30pm (schools’ performance), 7pm (public performance)
Friday 8 November, 10.30am (schools’ performance), 1.30pm (schools’ performance)

NOTTINGHAM                                                                                   12-16 November 2019

Heathfield Primary School, Kersall Drive Campus
Tuesday 12 November, 10am (schools’ performance)

Bluecoat Beechdale Academy
Tuesday 12 November, 7pm (schools’ performance)

Old Basford School
Wednesday 13 November, 1.30pm (schools’ performance)

Hempshill Hall Primary School
Thursday 14 November, 1.45pm (schools’ performance)

Bonington Theatre
Friday 15 November, 1.30pm (public performance), 7.30pm (public performance)
Saturday 16 November, 2.30pm (public performance), 7.30pm (public performance)

Notes to editors

About RSC Education

We encourage everyone to enjoy a lifelong relationship with Shakespeare and live theatre and through our Education work change the way that children and young people experience Shakespeare at school.

We build long term relationships with school, teachers and communities and particularly those who have the least access to Shakespeare, the RSC and cultural provision. Each year we reach over 530,000 young people in over 1,200 schools across the UK, inspiring children of all ages, backgrounds and abilities and ensuring that Shakespeare is for everyone.

Further information from:

We work in long term partnership with the following regional theatres:

The Grand Theatre, Blackpool
The Alhambra Theatre, Bradford
The Marlowe, Canterbury
Hall for Cornwall, Cornwall
Hull Truck Theatre, Hull
Intermission Theatre
Theatre Royal, Newcastle upon Tyne
Nottingham Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall 
Northern Stage
New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme
York Theatre Royal

About Adobe

Adobe is changing the world through digital experiences. For more information visit

About RSC Next Generation

From the first ever RSC young company of actors, to discovering the next generation of directors, managers and theatre specialists, RSC Next Generation, is a unique skills development programme that gives talented young people who are currently underrepresented in the industry the opportunity to gain experience and explore whether a career in the theatre is for them.

The programme has three strands;

  • RSC Next Generation ACT:  Up to 24 talented youngsters aged 13-18 will join RSC Next Generation to hone and develop their skills as actors.
  • RSC Next Generation DIRECT: This strand is for young people aged 18+ who demonstrate the obvious creative leadership and directing skills needed to take a play from page to stage.
  • RSC Next Generation BACKSTAGE: Each year 40 - 50 students aged 13-18 are given a ‘Backstage Pass’ to discover what goes on behind the scenes to bring each production to life.


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. 212481

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.


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