The Royal Shakespeare Company is probably the world’s most famous drama company. It specialises in plays by William Shakespeare, although the works of other Renaissance playwrights are regularly produced. The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is also a showcase for contemporary writers.
In 1875, Charles Edward Flower, a Stratford brewer, launched an international campaign to build a theatre in Shakespeare’s birthplace. He donated a two-acre site on the banks of the River Avon and The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre was built there. It opened in 1879 with a performance of Much Ado About Nothing. The company was granted a Royal Charter in 1925 but a year later the theatre burnt down. A worldwide campaign was launched to build a new theatre and 1932 the new Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, designed by Elizabeth Scott, was opened by the Prince of Wales on 23rd April, 1932, Shakespeare’s birthday.
In 1960 Peter Hall formed the modern Royal Shakespeare Company and The Memorial Theatre was renamed the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
The Swan Theatre was opened in 1986. It is a modern theatre based on the design of Elizabethan theatres with intimate performances created by the close proximity of the audience to the actors.
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre goes from strength to strength and in the 21 st century it is more popular than ever. In spite of its international status it has changed very little during the past century. It retains the purity of its original spirit.
London also plays an important role in the life of the RSC. The Company performs in London throughout the year in different theatres.
In 1977 Newcastle became a third centre for the RSC. Each year the company transfers productions to the city’s theatres for a season of work, together with a range of educational and community projects.