Ninja toys to play the Bard

The Royal Shakespeare Company's complete works festival will embrace everything from ninjas to Ninagawa according to the event's director, Deborah Shaw.

The Royal Shakespeare Company's complete works festival will embrace everything from ninjas to Ninagawa, and head out towards the "wilder shores of Bohemia", according to the event's director, Deborah Shaw.

Announcing the final details of the festival, which will dominate Stratford-upon-Avon from Shakespeare's birthday on April 23 for an entire year, Ms Shaw described productions the like of which Warwickshire will never have seen before.

A New York based company called Tiny Ninja Theatre, for instance, will present its version of Hamlet, using as its cast miniature plastic figures of ninjas as found in vending machines in New York city. Audiences will be able to use pinhole cameras to observe Ophelia drowning in a glass of water, according to Ms Shaw. As if RSC audiences - more used, perhaps, to Dame Judi Dench's stately progress round the stage than avant-garde puppeteering - had not enough to cope with, they will also be treated to a Daoist King Lear from China's Yellow Earth Theatre, which sets the play in a Shanghai penthouse with the old king as the head of a global business empire. They will also be able to see Poland's Song of a Goat Theatre, which will perform its production of Macbeth in Stratford.

The company awed audiences at the 2004 Edinburgh festival with its show Chronicles A Lamentation; its rehearsal techniques have involved taking part in matriarchal fire walking rituals on a Greek island and learning polyphonic singing in Albania.

The festival will also present more traditional names, however, with former artistic directors Trevor Nunn and Sir Peter Hall each presiding over productions. Sir Peter, who will bring his own company's production of Measure for Measure, has not worked at Stratford for 11 years. Adrian Noble, the predecessor of current artistic director Michael Boyd, who departed in 2002 after a dark series of crises, had been invited to return to direct, but has so far declined. According to Boyd, "I said, 'Any day you're ready, I'm ready.' We should be so lucky to have him back."

Another notable absentee, who was "too busy" for the year, according to Boyd, is Kenneth Branagh, once an RSC stalwart. His only presence will be via a screening of the film of Henry V in which he took the lead. The RSC was also unable to agree any collaborative effort with that "other" Shakespeare company, the Globe, despite, according to Mr Boyd, the RSC's keenness.

While productions will come from as far afield as India, Russia and South Africa, the backbone of the festival will be the RSC's own work, with four "companies within a company" being established. Chief associate director Gregory Doran's will tackle The Tempest, Julius Caesar and Antony and Cleopatra; Dominic Cooke's will take on the late plays and a new commission by Roy Williams; Nancy Meckler's will look at Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing; and Nunn's will pitch into King Lear.

There will also be music: the RSC is to team up with Opera North to commission composer Gavin Bryars to curate a project setting Shakespeare's sonnets.

A series of debates and talks will also be staged. The Archbishop of Canterbury was invited to speak on spirituality in Shakespeare but declined, electing instead to discuss creativity.


Charlotte Higgins, arts correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
RSC plans to get up close to audience in £100m revamp
The £100m refurbishment of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre should transform it from a cavern in which performers feel they are "acting from Dover to Calais", into an intimate place, according to Michael Boyd, the Royal Shakespeare Company's artistic director.

Charlotte Higgins, arts correspondent

15, Jun, 2006 @10:33 AM

Less Shakespeare in RSC renaissance
The Royal Shakespeare Company, keeper of the flame of the greatest playwright ever, plans to 'knock Shakespare off his podium'.

Charlotte Higgins, arts correspondent

21, Nov, 2006 @9:45 AM

Article image
Shakespeare classic in seven languages
Tim Supple's Indian production of A Midsummer Night's Dream will be performed at the restored Roundhouse in north London before going on a national tour.

Mark Brown, arts correspondent

01, Nov, 2006 @11:56 AM

Article image
Merry Wives: the Musical, RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon

RSC, Stratford-upon-Avon

Michael Billington

13, Dec, 2006 @11:01 AM

Article image
Why Arab directors are turning to Shakespeare

When fighting dictators and censorship, Arab directors have one playwright they can fall back on: Shakespeare. By Sulayman Al-Bassam.

Sulayman Al-Bassam

22, Sep, 2005 @11:01 AM

Article image
Taming of the crew: the bard meets Cunard in RSC cruise deal
Royal Shakespeare Company signs three-year agreement for productions onboard Queen Mary 2

Harriet Sherwood Arts and culture correspondent

13, Jan, 2022 @4:57 PM

Article image
Germaine Greer: Stratford-upon-Avon is such a dump

Germaine Greer: Why is "world-class Stratford-upon-Avon" such a dump?

Germaine Greer

21, Aug, 2006 @10:44 AM

Observer review: Will and Me by Dominic Dromgoole

The Globe's new artistic director, Dominic Dromgoole, examines Shakespeare's huge influence on us all in his inspiring Will and Me, says Ranjit Bolt.

Ranjit Bolt

02, Apr, 2006 @10:21 AM

Article image
I can prove that 'William Shakespeare' is buried in Westminster Abbey – scholar
Alexander Waugh says secret clues confirm that author of world-famous plays was Edward de Vere, who lies in Poets’ Corner

Dalya Alberge

28, Oct, 2017 @6:00 AM

Article image
RSC to stage play about plague death of William Shakespeare’s son Hamnet
Adaptation of Maggie O’Farrell’s novel will premiere at Swan theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in April

Harriet Sherwood Arts and culture correspondent

08, Nov, 2022 @6:00 AM