Launched in conjunction with the British Library, the two-CD set includes live extracts from RSC performances, including such past and present company stalwarts as Laurence Olivier, Judi Dench, Derek Jacobi, Antony Sher, Robert Stephens, David Warner, Ian McKellen and Alan Rickman.
The selection has been curated by RSC Associate Director Gregory Doran. In a press release he commented, "I felt a sense of privilege at being able to listen to performances I had heard so much about, but never imagined would be able to experience. Theatre is a transitory art. That is its essence. It vanishes into thin air. But here it has been snatched back."
The extracts have all been treated to some degree by the British Library Sound Archive. Audience reactions, however, have been kept in.
The extracts include:
Laurence Olivier, Harry Andrews and Michael Blakemore in Coriolanus, directed by Peter Hall from 1959.
Donald Sinden and Peggy Ashcroft in King Henry VI, Part 3, directed by Peter Hall and John Barton, from 1964.
Paul Scofield in King Lear, directed by Peter Brook, from 1964.
David Warner in Hamlet, directed by Hall, from 1966.
Sinden, Tony Church, Alton Kumalo and Jeffrey Dench in Twelfth Night, directed by Barton, from 1971.
Patrick Stewart and John Wood in Julius Caesar, directed by Trevor Nunn, from 1973.
Janet Suzman in Antony and Cleopatra, directed by Nunn, from 1973.
Richard Pasco and Ian Richardson in Richard II, directed by Barton, from 1974.
Ian McKellen, Francesca Annis and Marie Kean in Romeo and Juliet, directed by Nunn, from 1977.
Emrys James in Henry V, directed by Terry Hands, from 1976.
Alan Howard in Henry V, directed by Hands, from 1978.
Roger Rees and Michael Williams in The Comedy of Errors, directed by Nunn, from 1977.
Derek Jacobi and Mark Rylance in The Tempest, directed by Ron Daniels, from 1983.
Antony Sher and Penny Downie in Richard III, directed by Bill Alexander, from 1985.
Alan Rickman in As You Like It, directed by Adrian Noble, from 1986.
Janet Dale and Lindsay Duncan in The Merry Wives of Windsor, directed by Alexander, from 1988.
Brian Cox in Titus Andronicus, directed by Deborah Warner, from 1988.
Robert Stephens and Michael Maloney in Henry IV, Part I, directed by Noble, from 1992.
David Oyelowo in Henry VI, Part 3, directed by Michael Boyd, from 2001.
Judi Dench in All's Well That Ends Well, directed by Gregory Doran, from 2002.
In the press release, Judi Dench comments, "a simply sensational series of extracts. It's incredibly moving to hear some of our greatest actors performing Shakespeare." Sher adds, "I have found it amazing to listen to certain extracts from this CD — like Olivier's Coriolanus and Scofield's Lear. Performances that I missed and thought would never experience. . . . It's like uncovering a hidden treasure. Thrilling." Priced at £15.95, the set can be purchased at various book stores throughout the U.K., and at the British Library and RSC shops. It can also be bought online at www.bl.uk/services/publications/onlineshop.html.