Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 November 2007
Well before its inauguration, the RSC’s Complete Works Festival – a drive to stage or host productions of every play in the canon in Stratford between April 2006 and April 2007 – is already making 2006 an unusual year for the classical repertory in England. For one thing, it results in there being no Shakespeare at all on offer in Stratford for the first three months of the year, with the RSC playing adaptations of Chaucer and Dickens (reserve national poets?) while they gather their resources for what the publicity department is calling The Essential Year. The company administrators with whom I have corresponded sound slightly perplexed and, looking at the intricacy of the Complete Works Festival performance schedule available on the company’s website I can see why. Every Stratford venue possible has been mobilized: productions are to be mounted in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (prior to its closure for internal remodelling); in the Swan; in the temporary 900-seat Courtyard Theatre (a large corrugated steel shell occupying the Other Place car-park, due on completion to open with a revival of Michael Boyd’s production of the first tetralogy of histories, described in Survey 55); and, as if just to demonstrate which organization is the real spiritual and temporal power in Stratford-upon-Avon nowadays, the RSC has even gone beyond their own premises to borrow an extra performance space from the Church of England, conscripting Holy Trinity Church for a very brief run of Henry VIII in the late summer. One other local body has mucked in too: what is perhaps the least popular play in the canon, Timon of Athens, is to have a short autumn run in the Birthplace Trust’s little lecture hall at the Shakespeare Centre on Henley Street.