The ambitious year-long festival launches on Shakespeare’s birthday, April 23, and features 23 RSC shows, 17 international productions and a further 14 productions by U.K. theatre companies.
It is the first time that all of Shakespeare’s 37 plays, as well as his sonnets and poems, will be performed during the same event.
The latest announcement confirms Geoffrey Streatfeild (The History Boys), Chuk Iwuji and Jonathan Slinger (currently playing Puck in the West End transfer of the RSC’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream) in the title roles of, respectively, Henry V, Henry VI and Richard III.
The RSC’s artistic director Michael Boyd said, “With visiting companies from almost every continent, this is a real opportunity to extend our relationships with audiences and artists from around the world. As well as a platform to celebrate our own work, the festival is a conscious attempt to showcase and explore the way different cultures, languages, styles of theatre and art forms approach Shakespeare.”
Of the international contributions New York’s Tiny Ninja Theatre will perform Hamlet for the first time in the U.K. using inch-high ninja figurines. There is also room in the festival for a life-sized production of the tragedy at Stratford’s Swan Theatre. Boyd went on to say, “Like any great festival, there's plenty of opportunity to experiment and stumble across the new. There's enough in this year to cover all tastes, but in the process you might also experience the Sky Orchestra floating over Stratford in hot air balloons, or catch the Tiny Ninja's unique take on Hamlet.”
At the festival’s launch a series of special events are planned celebrating Shakespeare’s birthday, including a Montague vs. Capulet soccer game.