Most people hear Stratford-upon-Avon and their first thoughts are Shakespeare. The richly cultural medieval market town was famously the birthplace of Britain’s most prolific playwright, and he continues to be source of great pride amongst local residents.
A day in Stratford-upon-Avon naturally includes a visit to Shakespeare’s birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s cottage and Mary Arden’s farms. Plus once a year residents come out in force to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday, with parades, street entertainment and fancy dress aplenty!
But the gem in Stratford-upon-Avon’s Shakespearean crown is the Royal Shakespeare Company. The world-renowned theatre company perform some 20 productions a year, educating new generations in the wonder of Shakespeare’s writings. Here are some of our favourite facts about the 48-year old company:
1. Enjoy a truly Elizabethan theatrical experience
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is unlike any other theatre in the world. Recreating the atmosphere which Shakespeare’s plays were originally performed in, the RSC has designed a “one-room” theatre, where the actors and the audience share the same space. The stage comes right into the auditorium, with audience members seated on three sides of it, meaning viewers can enjoy spectacularly intimate performances; from the iconic balcony scene of Romeo and Juliet to the harrowing moment Macbeth reveals his blood-drenched hands.
2. Three is company at the RSC
Whilst the Royal Shakespeare Theatre is the most well-known theatre in Stratford, the RSC have two other auditoriums close by. Occupying a Victorian Gothic structure, The Swan Theatre was originally named the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, opening in 1879 before being destroyed by a fire in 1926. It wasn’t until 1986 when the RSC re-opened the theatre, renaming it and resuming plays within the 450-seat auditorium. Plus in addition to this, The Other Place is a brand new creative hub with versatile studio space and dedicated rehearsal rooms and costume storage.
3. Shakespeare just had a makeover
In 2010 The Royal Shakespeare and The Swan theatres underwent a huge £112.8m renovation known as the Transformation Project. This included the creation of a new 1040+ seat auditorium with thrust stage bringing the audience even closer to the action – the furthest seat from the stage is now only 15m away! Plus there’s a new 26m observation tower providing views over the town, and new Riverside Café and Rooftop Restaurant.
4. They don’t just do Shakespeare
A common myth is that the RSC only perform works by Shakespeare, but in reality they present all kinds of shows! They’ve recently premiered some of the UK’s most exciting new musicals, including award-winning Matilda the Musical, whilst this Christmas they are debuting a new stage-adaptation of David Walliams’ The Boy in the Dress. Meanwhile, play-lovers can enjoy upcoming productions from Shakespeare’s contemporaries including John Vanbrugh’s The Provoked Wife, John Kani’s Kunene and the King and Robin French’s Crooked Dances.
Find out more about the RSC by clicking here