The RSC Announce Spring Summer 2016 Season

tumblr_inline_nuaskybXlO1rgiv1h_500Very exciting news this morning as the Royal Shakespeare Company announce their spring/summer season for 2016. A special year as it marks the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare himself! Read on below for full details.


A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation, by William Shakespeare, directed by Erica Whyman

A co-production with amateur theatre companies across the UK (an arrangement developed between the RSC and Equity)

17 February – 5 March and 15 June – 16 July in Stratford-upon-Avon.  On tour across the UK between March and June

The RSC’s ground-breaking national touring production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Deputy Artistic Director, Erica Whyman and designed by Tom Piper, marks Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary and celebrates his love letter to amateur theatre. Lighting is by Charles Balfour, music by Sam Kenyon, sound by Andrew Franks and movement by Sian Williams.

The production opens in Stratford-upon-Avon and will tour to all nations and regions of the UK with the same professional company.  In each region, Bottom and the mechanicals will be played by a local amateur group, cast and trained by the RSC, in collaboration with 13 partner theatres. Titania’s fairy train will be played by local school children in every location.  A Midsummer Night’s Dream returns to Stratford for Midsummer, when all 14 amateur companies will have an opportunity to play on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage. Follow the journey of the company at:

Everyone can take part in the Midsummer Magic, with free activities in Stratford-upon-Avon in June 2016, as the company returns to Stratford-upon-Avon and Slung Low present THE FAIRY PORTAL CAMP.

RSC Education invites every UK school to join the DREAM TEAM and take part in a nationwide celebration of the play.  Free resources for schools, include 30 and 60 minute edited versions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for schools and a specially-composed score, are now available at

Audio described performances: 5 March, 2 July.  Captioned performances: 4 March, 30 June.  Semi-integrated British Sign Language interpreted performance: 22 June.

tumblr_inline_nuaso3T1hS1rgiv1h_500Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, directed by Simon Godwin

12 March – 13 August 2016.  Live Cinema Broadcast 8 June 2016 and selected encore dates worldwide, with Picturehouse Entertainment.

The summer season continues with Hamlet, Shakespeare’s most famous and complex play, in a searing new production directed by Simon Godwin, withPaapa Essiedu in the title role.

Hamlet has the world at his feet.  He is young, wealthy and living a hedonistic life abroad when word reaches him that his father is dead. Returning home, he finds his world utterly changed, his certainties smashed and his home a foreign land.  Struggling to understand his place in a new world order he faces a stark choice: submit, or rage against the injustice of the new reality.

Simon Godwin directed The Two Gentlemen of Verona for the RSC to great acclaim in 2014 and this year his credits include Man and Superman and The Beaux’ Strategem at the National Theatre and Richard II at Shakespeare’s Globe.  Paapa Essiedu was last at the RSC playing Fenton in Philip Breen’s production of The Merry Wives of Windsor and has recently appeared at the Tobacco Factory as Romeo, in a production directed by Polina Kalinina, and at the National Theatre, in Sam Mendes’ production of King Lear.  Hamlet is designed by Paul Wills, with lighting by Paul Anderson and sound by Christopher Shutt.

Audio described performances: 16 April, 25 May.  Captioned performances: 21 July, 10 August.


Cymbeline, by William Shakespeare, directed by Melly Still

29 April – 12 August 2016.  Live Cinema Broadcast and encore screening dates worldwide, with Picturehouse Entertainment, to be confirmed.

Cymbeline rules a divided Britain. When Innogen the only living heir, marries her sweetheart in secret, Cymbeline banishes him. Distracted by Innogen’s marriage, Cymbeline is blind to the actions of a powerful figure behind the throne who is plotting to seize power by murdering them both.  In exile, Innogen’s husband is tricked into believing she has been unfaithful to him and in an act of impulsive jealousy begins a scheme to have her murdered.  Warned of the danger, Innogen runs away from court in disguise on a journey fraught with danger that will eventually reunite Cymbeline with a lost heir and reconcile the young lovers.

Shakespeare’s romance is directed by Melly Still, who designed Tales from Ovid and Midnight’s Children for the RSC and whose directing credits include The Cunning Little Vixen for Glyndebourne Opera and Coram Boy and The Revenger’s Tragedy for the National Theatre.  The designer is Anna Fleischle and lighting is by Philip Gladwell.

Audio described performances: 23 July, 11 August.  Captioned performance, 4 June.

tumblr_inline_nuaspp2vMs1rgiv1h_400SWAN THEATRE

Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe, directed by Maria Aberg

4 February – 4 August 2016

Faustus is a brilliant but embittered academic, a solitary scholar who has exhausted the confines of human knowledge.  Frustrated with the futility of religion, law and science, he is desperate for a deeper understanding of the universe – and the worldwide fame it will bring him.  Risking everything, he conjures the demon Mephistopheles and asks him to strike a deal with Lucifer; twenty four years of absolute knowledge and infinite power in exchange for his soul.

Christopher Marlowe’s tale of vanity, greed and damnation, Doctor Faustus, is directed by Maria Aberg, who returns to the RSC following her recent productions of King John, As You Like It and The White Devil.  Naomi Dawson designs, lighting is by Lee Curran, music by Orlando Gough, sound by Tom Gibbons and movement by Ayse Tashkiran.

Audio described performances: 5 May, 24 June.  Captioned performances: 27 April, 28 July

Don Quixote, adapted by James Fenton from the novel by Miguel de Cervantes , directed by Angus Jackson

25 February – 21 May 2016

After a lifetime of reading books on chivalry, Don Quixote decides to embark on a quest of his own and sets out to become a wandering knight, defending the helpless and vanquishing the wicked.  Hopelessly unprepared and increasingly losing his grip on reality, he travels across Spain with his faithful and equally ill-suited squire.  With each calamitous adventure they experience, the romantic ideal of Quixote’s books seems further away than ever.

Angus Jackson returns to the RSC after his highly-acclaimed production of Oppenheimer, to direct the stage adaptation of Cervantes’ comic novel, widely regarded as one of the foundation stones of modern fiction.  The production marks the 400th anniversary of Cervantes’ death in 1616, by coincidence the same date as William Shakespeare.  Don Quixote is newly adapted by award-winning poet and writer James Fenton, who previously adapted The Orphan of Zhao in 2012 for the RSC. The designer is Robert Innes Hopkins and music is by Grant Olding.

tumblr_inline_nuasrdE1LJ1rgiv1h_500David Threlfall takes on the title role of Don Quixote. During his long and successful career, spanning stage and screen, he is perhaps best known for his role in Channel 4’s Shameless and more recently in dramas Housewife 49, What Remains, The Ark and Code of a Killer. This will be his first role at the RSC since his highly acclaimed role of Smike in the RSC’s landmark production of Nicholas Nickleby in Stratford, London, New York and on television.

Rufus Hound makes his RSC debut as Quixote’s faithful companion, Sancho Panza. His recent stage work includes West End runs of One Man, Two Guvnors, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Trevor Nunn’s Wars of the Roses at the Rose Theatre. He also appears in numerous radio and television shows including BBC’s Doctor Who, Channel 4’s Cucumber, as well as Argumental and Celebrity Juice. His feature film credits includeBeautiful Devils, Scottish Mussel and The Wedding Video.

Audio described performances: 28 April, 14 May.  Captioned performances: 8 April, 4 May

The Alchemist by Ben Jonson, directed by Polly Findlay

26 May – 6 August 2016

When London is hit by an outbreak of the plague, the wealthy Lovewit flees to the country, leaving his townhouse in the hands of his trusted butler, Jeremy.  But no sooner has his master left, than Jeremy begins turning the house into a den of criminal activity.  Assuming an alias, he recruits fellow conman, Subtle, and prostitute, Doll Common to help him and sets out to rip off half of London.  Things couldn’t be going better for the gleeful trio, until they receive a very unwelcome visitor.

Polly Findlay returns to the RSC following her productions of Arden of Faversham and The Merchant of Venice in the last two seasons, to direct Jonson’s hilarious satire, 400 years after the first publication of his collected works in a folio edition. Her production of As You Like It plays at the National Theatre from October 2015.

Audio described performances: 16 July, 6 August.  Captioned performances: 8 July, 3 August.

Tours, events and exhibitions through the 400th Anniversary Year

Shakespeare’s Steps, Stan’s Café (in association with Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Shakespeare’s Schoolroom and Guildhall, supported by the Stratford Society) visitors are invited to step into Shakespeare’s shoes and follow the route from Shakespeare’s Birthplace, up to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Well Said! Favourite Shakespeare Quotes, a visual feast of Shakespeare’s most memorable and inspiring lines selected by famous writers, actors and poets and transformed into beautiful artworks in a free exhibition in the PACCAR Room from the 19 March.

The Other Place, Page to Stage Tours, The Other Place is the RSC’s research and development hub, home to the Company’s new studio theatre, rehearsal rooms and costume store and café bar.  It will reopen in April 2016, and a new discovery tour will take visitors on a journey from Page to Stage, from the first day of rehearsals to the first performance, with an opportunity to look inside the RSC’s store of 30,000 costumes for the very first time. Booking open now.

The Swan Wing – following a major heritage restoration, the oldest part of the RSC’s theatres reopens with a stunning new public art commission and a new family-friendly café bar.

The Birthday Celebrations – everyone is invited to join the traditional celebrations on 23 April for Shakespeare’s birthday and to take part in a fun-packed day of free outdoor events for all the family, including a breath taking show by acrobatic company, Mimbre, inspired by Shakespeare’s stories.  The day will end with a spectacular free firework display. For those who can’t make it to Stratford, The Shakespeare Show (working title) will be broadcast live on BBC2.  A unique collaboration between the RSC and the BBC, this special evening, hosted by David Tennant, will celebrate Shakespeare’s legacy across all the arts.

The Play’s The Thing, the RSC’s major new exhibition opens, celebrating the magic of Shakespeare on stage and revealing the secrets and stories from 100 years of theatre-making in Stratford-upon-Avon.  Full of treasures from the RSC’s archive and museum collection, including rarely-seen props, exquisite costumes and original set designs, the exhibition will also be packed with hands-on activities and digital interactives to spark the imagination.  Booking from January 2016.

Magic at Midsummer, free activities to mark Midsummer and the return to Stratford of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, including The Fairy Portal Camp, a feast of dance, song and fire, led by Slung Low theatre company, to reopen the connection between us and the spirit world on Midsummer’s Eve.  Slung Low will spend a week in the Avonbank Gardens, welcoming all comers who wish to help create the ceremony.

The Other Place Festival, the first performances take place in The Other Place studio theatre with a new work festival.  Titles to be announced in the spring 2016.


Learning Performance Network 10th anniversary: The RSC’s Education Team celebrates an extraordinary decade of achievement by schools, young people and teachers across the country with a special Symposium on 5 July 2016.

For ten years, the RSC has worked with over 400 schools across England, giving young people a great first experience of Shakespeare’s work.  The schools are all recruited from areas of significant socio-economic disadvantage with limited access to cultural experiences.

The initiative works over a three year period, with each school working in partnership with their regional theatre and the RSC. It involves intensive teacher professional development, creative projects between young people and artists and performance festivals of work made by young people with the support of teachers and theatre directors.

The programme will have reached 750,000 children and young people by its 10th anniversary in 2016, delivering real and significant benefits, boosting confidence, skills and aspirations.

NEW RSC School Shakespeare Editions: Oxford University Press and the RSC are working in partnership to create a new series of Shakespeare editions for 11 – 14 year olds. Developed in consultation with teachers across the country, the plays introduce young people to Shakespeare’s world and work using approaches direct from the RSC’s rehearsal rooms. Available from March 2016, the first titles to be released will be Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing followed by Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream in September 2016.

RSC Artistic Director, Gregory Doran, said:

Stratford-upon-Avon is the place to celebrate Shakespeare’s enduring influence and 2016 is surely the year to come to his hometown.

Our summer season opens with Erica Whyman’s nationwide touring production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation, which sees our professional company work with 13 partner theatres, 14 amateur companies and 580 schoolchildren. This truly national production celebrates the UK’s passion for theatre-making and one of Shakespeare’s most loved plays.

Our main house will then be home to one of the most famous and performed plays in the Shakespeare canon, Hamlet. In this production, directed by Simon Godwin, we hope to reveal new layers to this complex and inexhaustibly compelling play.  Paapa Essiedu plays the title role.

We will follow this with Melly Still’s production of Cymbeline, a late play with some of Shakespeare’s most beautiful language. And we conclude the summer season with my production of King Lear.  Following his performance as Willy Loman in Miller’s Death of A Salesman, Antony Sher takes on the monumental title role.

In the Swan Theatre, we want to place Shakespeare’s genius firmly in the context of his peers.  We open with Marlowe’s great play, Doctor Faustus, directed by Maria Aberg, and then mark two other important anniversaries.  Shakespeare’s great contemporary, Miguel de Cervantes, died on the same date as Shakespeare in 1616. We mark his own 400th anniversary by mounting a new adaptation of Don Quixote, by James Fenton, directed by Angus Jackson, with David Threlfall and Rufus Hound as Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.

Shakespeare’s friend and rival playwright, Ben Jonson, brought out a folio edition of his own work in 1616: the first time any playwright had ever published a collected edition of plays. It is arguable that if Jonson had not done so, Hemmings and Condell would not have assembled Shakespeare’s plays for publication, in 1623, some seven years after his death. Without that folio, more than half of Shakespeare’s plays would now be lost to us.  To celebrate Jonson’s achievement, we follow up Trevor Nunn’s current production of Volpone with a new production of The Alchemist, directed by Polly Findlay.

As well as all our work on stage, there’ll be magic and surprise throughout the whole year, from Birthday fireworks and acrobatic outdoor theatre to a new exhibition of hidden treasures and even a secret fairy portal which will open at midnight on Midsummer’s Eve.  At the end of the summer, we will formally open our new studio theatre with a powerful new work festival and gear up for an extraordinary end to the year – watch this space for further news!”  



RSC undertakes a historic tour to the National Centre for the Performing Arts, Beijing, Shanghai Grand Theatre, and Hong Kong Arts Festival from February 2016 with Henry IV Parts I & II and Henry V. This tour is kindly supported by our Global Tour Premier Partner, J.P. Morgan.

New York & USA:

King and Country: Shakespeare’s Great Cycle of Kings at Brooklyn Academy of Music

24 March – 1 May 2016 All four History plays – Richard II, Henry IV Parts I & II and Henry V – will then tour to BAM for an extraordinary theatrical event in the Harvey Theatre.  This tour is kindly supported by our Global Tour Premier Partner, J.P. Morgan. The Royal Shakespeare Company in America is presented in collaboration with The Ohio State University.

Matilda The Musical continues to thrill audiences on Broadway at the Shubert Theater, and tours across the USA to more than 30 cities


Matilda The Musical plays in Sydney following its critically acclaimed opening in August 2015.


‘Live from Stratford-upon-Avon’ cinema broadcasts, with Picturehouse Entertainment, continue with Shakespeare productions from his home town shown all over the US and around the world in 17 countries, and the RSC’s free Schools’ Broadcasts in the UK, reaching thousands of young people each year.  Further information at:


Matt has been writing on all manner of subjects for over 15 years. He has written for a number of music magazines, made appearances on BBC Introducing and regularly contributed to local newspapers. These days he mostly writes about rugby and is passionate about providing insight into women's rugby! He also writes on theatre and regularly reviews shows across the south.

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