Final season from Michael Boyd announced at the RSC

Boyd’s last season at the RSC

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s last season under artistic director Michael Boyd has been announced. Boyd said that: ‘I’m very proud to be programming my last season in our new space with many of the theatre artists who have contributed to its success in the last year.’

The Winter’s Tale directed by Lucy Bailey will open the RSC’s 2013 season in January, with plans to take the performance on tour throughout the UK. Following this, a company of actors will perform in repertoire Hamlet, All’s Well That Ends Well and As You Like It.

The Swan Theatre will open its season  with the world premier of Tanika Gupta’s new play The Empress. The play, to be directed by Emma Rice, tells the story of the relationship between Queen Victoria and an Indian manservant. As with the main space, the opening performance will be followed by a company of actors performing three plays; Titus Andronicus, A Mad World My Masters and a new play from writer-in-residence, Mark Ravenhill.

Michael Boyd upon announcing the new season reflected on the successes the RSC has experienced in the past year: ‘Our transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre has really got into its stride this year, setting the pattern for how we celebrate Shakespeare’s work. We’ve created a space that is perfectly balanced on the tightrope between the Renaissance and now, and truly brings the actors closer to the audience. The last 12 months, in which we’ve celebrated the RSC’s 50th birthday in Stratford, opened the most awarded West End musical in history and launched the World Shakespeare Festival right across the UK, point to the healthiest possible future for theatre’

Boyd will leave his post in September to be replaced by Gregory Doran.

Remains discovered from theatre where Shakespeare’s original plays were performed

(c) Museum of London Archaeology

Remains from the venue in which Romeo & Juliet is thought to have been first performed have been unearthed in East London. Archaeologists from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) came across The Curtain Theatre’s gallery walls and playhouse yard when redeveloping the site in Shoreditch.

The Curtain Theatre is thought to be one of oldest theatre spaces in London. It first opened in 1577 and became home to the Lord Chamberlain’s men – Shakespeare’s company – for two years, until the opening of the Globe Theatre. The Curtain fell into disuse and was dismantled in the 17th century, leaving its exact whereabouts unclear, until now.

Chris Thomas, lead archaeologist on MOLA’s redevelopment of the area, said: ‘This is a fantastic site which gives us unique insight into early Shakespearean theatres. On other Tudor theatres we’ve found quantities of little pottery money boxes, which the punters put the price of admission into on the way in, which were then smashed at the back of the theatre to get the takings – I’m sure some from the Curtain are still there, just waiting for us to find them.’

The Curtain hosted two significant premieres of Shakespeare’s work – Romeo & Juliet and Henry V. The theatre itself is referred to in the prologue to the latter: ‘Can this Cock-Pit hold within this Wooden O, the very Caskes that did affright the Ayre at Agincourt?’

RSC artistic director, Michael Boyd said of the discovery: ‘I look forward to touching the mud and stone, if not wood, and feeling the presence of that space where Shakespeare’s early work, including the histories, made such a lasting impact.’

First national Shakespeare recital to be recorded for BBC

The first national Shakespeare recital competition for secondary school students will take place on Sunday 29th January. The final of Off By Heart Shakespeare will be filmed in front of an audience this weekend and will be broadcast on BBC 2 in April. The programme will coincide with the launch of the World Shakespeare Festival 2012 and William Shakespeare’s 448th birthday.

Off By Heart Shakespeare will be presented by Jeremy Paxman and students will be judged by historian Simon Schama, actress and playwright Imogen Stubbs and Samuel West, theatre director and former star of Lucy Prebble’s ENRON.

The programme is a spin-off from the 2009 BBC contest Off by heart, which also was presented by Jeremy Paxman. The competition saw primary school students from across the country take-part in a poetry recital.

The nine finalists competing in this year’s Shakespeare themed competition are currently rehearsing at the Royal Shakespeare Company’s base in Stratford-upon-Avon. They will get the opportunity to meet artistic director Michael Boyd before the televised final. During their stay in Stratford, RSC practitioners are taking students through a number of workshops to help develop their voice and movement skills for the competition.

More information about the competition is available on the Off By Heart Shakespeare website. Also available are a number of resources to encourage teachers to get their students to explore the language of Shakespeare. There are tips for learning a Shakespearean speech off by heart, a voice and text preparation pack and ideas for teachers about how to go about setting up their own Shakespeare recital competition.