And, the balance will swing from tragedy (2004 saw performances of Macbeth, Hamlet, King Lear, Othello and Romeo and Juliet) to comedy, with the RSC ensemble performing four of the Bard’s laughers. The biggest news of all, though, is the company’s scheduling of their previously stated ambition to host a year-long Complete Works of Shakespeare Festival, beginning April 2006.
The 2006 festival will involve international companies, visiting U.K. professional as well as amateur groups and, of course, the RSC. It is the first time, says the company, that the entire Shakespeare canon has ever been performed together at the same event. As well as the plays, there will be performances of Shakespeare’s sonnets, poems and the apocrypha. The festival will involve all the RSC theatres in Stratford and other venues across the town and will include film, opera, music and dance as well as drama. Deborah Shaw, formerly director of the Bath Shakespeare Festival and artistic director of the Chester Gateway, will lead the project.
RSC artistic director Michael Boyd said in a press release, “This has been the first year steering the company in a new direction. As well as clearing the deficit from £2.8 million to under £1/2 million, the Tragedies have outperformed any previous Festival Season at the box office. The adventurous Spanish Golden Age Season is more than matching our Jacobean Season of two years ago. Pitched against contemporary events . . . our comedies season is not just about laughter, but the yearning for harmony and reconciliation which lies at the heart of Shakespeare’s great comedies.”
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre will present A Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by Gregory Doran, Twelfth Night directed by Boyd, The Comedy of Errors directed by Nancy Meckler and As You Like It directed by Dominic Cooke. The Swan Theatre will play a season of political drama entitled Gunpowder led by Doran. That season will include Thomas More by Shakespeare, Munday and Chettle; A New Way to Please You by Middleton, Rowley and Massinger; Believe What You Will by Massinger; Sejanus — His Fall by Jonson; and Speaking Like Magpies by Frank McGuinness.
The Other Place will host new work, including Zinnie Harris’ play Solstice and David Grieg’s The American Pilot. And, the RSC season will conclude with a new writing festival, to include Breakfast with Mugabe by Fraser Grace (about Zimbabwe leader Robert Mugabe’s relationship with a psychiatrist), and Chicago playwright Brett Neveu’s Eric La Rue, about the aftermath of a U.S. school shooting.