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Olympic-sized Shakespeare Festival unveiled

Published 6 September 2011

The World Shakespeare Festival, which will run in the UK from 23 April to November 2012, will feature 70 productions and exhibitions, and more than 50 arts organisations.

Among the notable highlights of the Shakespearean celebration are Simon Russell Beale starring as Timon Of Athens at the National Theatre, Jonathan Pryce playing King Lear at the Almeida theatre, a single Royal Shakespeare Company ensemble performing The Comedy Of Errors, The Tempest and Twelfth Night, and Globe To Globe, which sees 37 plays performed in 37 languages at Shakespeare’s Globe.

Speaking about the project, which is staged as part of the London 2012 Festival, the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad, Michael Boyd, Artistic Director of the RSC said: “Shakespeare is no longer English property. He is the favourite playwright and artist of the whole world and studied at school by half the world’s children. People of all races, creeds and continents have chosen to gather around his work to share stories of what it is like to be human. To fall in love or fall from grace. To be subject to the abuse of power or to live with the dreams of angels in the shadow of our own mortality. The World Shakespeare Festival celebrates this most international of artists at a time when the eyes of the world will be on London, that most international of cities, for the Olympic Games.”

More than one million tickets go on sale for productions across London, Stratford-Upon-Avon and the UK on 10 October.

With more than 50% of the world’s schoolchildren studying Shakespeare, the World Shakespeare Festival is also aiming to create a legacy for young people. Its initiatives include an international education conference, a new World Shakespeare Festival Arts Award for 11-25 year olds, a collaboration bringing together teachers and students from across the world to share thoughts and projects, and the launch of Shakespeare Unlocked, a new set of digital resources for teaching Shakespeare.

In addition to the many performances taking place across the country, the British Museum will also host Shakespeare: staging the world – The BP Exhibition, which aims to “explore the world through the eyes of Shakespeare, his players and audiences in the changing world of the 17th century”.

Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, commented: “William Shakespeare is our greatest cultural export, and is quite rightly considered to be the finest writer of all time. His work – written when this country was a boom nation leading trade around the globe and setting the foundations for modern England – is still just as relevant now as it was almost 500 years ago. This festival is a fantastic opportunity for these fine works to be brought to a new generation of schoolchildren, while at the same time reminding existing fans of Shakespeare’s unparalleled insights into the workings of the human heart.”

Other productions being staged as part of the World Shakespeare Festival include a site-specific production of Pericles, an Iraq-set version of Romeo And Juliet, Meera Syal starring as Beatrice in an India-set Much Ado About Nothing, Yukio Ninagawa’s production of Cymbeline, and Desdemona, a collaboration between acclaimed novelist Toni Morrison, Malian singer/songwriter Rokia Traoré and American director Peter Sellars.

Ed Vaisey, Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries added: “With over a million tickets available, the World Shakespeare Festival is extraordinarily ambitious and certain to attract a new audience to the magic of Shakespeare. The launch of this remarkable series of events is testament to the hard work and passion of all those involved. It exemplifies what the Cultural Olympiad and London 2012 Festival is trying to achieve and I am sure it will be a tremendous success.”

Detailed information about productions can be found on the World Shakespeare Festival website.

MA

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