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.