The RSC At 60

Laura Sherratt

This year marks the 60-year anniversary of the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon. The company was formally established on 20 March 1961, following Peter Hall’s creation of a summer Shakespeare festival and has since achieved global acclaim. The RSC is at the forefront worldwide of performing Shakespeare and keeping his work alive in the present day. The problems explored in many of their performed plays are echoed in current society – these include racism, feminism, war and homophobia, making their work continually relevant to contemporary society. Their work has been hugely successful, with the theatre welcoming over 1 million visitors every year.

The RSC has propelled the careers of many actors over the years, from Dame Judi Dench who played Lady Macbeth in 1976 to Paapa Essiedu who played Hamlet in 2016. The RSC has also broken many social norms surrounding the view of Shakespeare being dominated by white actors. In 2012, their Artistic Director Gregory Doran directed a production of Julius Caesar, with a cast consisting entirely of actors of colour. In their 2018 production of Romeo and Juliet, Romeo was played by British-Asian actor Bally Gill and Mercutio was played by a woman. The challenging of traditional social boundaries has always been common in their work, to reflect the changing social landscapes overtime.

The RSC has also broken many social norms surrounding the view of Shakespeare being dominated by white actors

The company have not only staged Shakespeare plays, but they have also pioneered new writing from emerging playwrights. This has helped to maintain the exploration of new talents from different backgrounds to ensure that their theatre has constantly evolved. One of their main hits has been Matilda The Musical, having had over 9 million audience members worldwide and winning 95 awards. Other successful new writing has included The Boy in the Dress, A Museum in Baghdad and The Whip.

The RSC have also contributed much over the years to young people through their educational programme. They produce shows specifically targeted at children, having toured them to schools around the UK. Through their education work, they have seen more than 1200 schools and 500,000 children to help young people develop their creativity and expand their confidence. The theatre has done much crucial work in continuing Shakespeare’s legacy in future generations and this will only continue with time.

The RSC has been a true asset to the national and global theatre industry in both pioneering new writing and retelling Shakespeare’s traditional tales with great imagination. The company has contributed much over the past 60 years to keeping his writing alive through their innovative work and will undoubtedly continue to inspire in the future as they reach greater milestones.

Laura Sherratt

Featured image courtesy of Kelly Sikkema via Image license can be found here.  In article images courtesy of matildathemusical and thersc via 

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