Coventry & Warwickshire

RSC actors talk of love for company

Actors at the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), which is opening its newly revamped theatres in Stratford-upon-Avon, have been speaking about what the company stands for.

Internationally renowned, the RSC draws tourists from across the globe, many of whom experience their first "live" Shakespearean performance.

Actor and RSC board member Noma Dumezweni, recently seen in A Winter's Tale, said she remembered being told she had been given a job with the company.

She said she walked for miles after receiving the call in London as she was too excited to get on to the Tube.

Exciting history

One of her first parts was in Much Ado About Nothing.

She only had a small role, but when she was given the shoes with her costume she was thrilled to discover they had once been worn by Dame Peggy Ashcroft.

"It's little things like that," she said.

"There is a history that is passed down and just to be a part of that lineage is so exciting for me," she said.

Sir Antony Sher, whose performances in plays such as Richard III and the Merchant of Venice have impressed audiences and critics, described his first visit to to the RSC as one of the most significant experiences of his life.

Stratford pilgrimage

Moving to Britain from South Africa, he made, with his mother, what he described as "a pilgrimage" to the theatre.

"It (the RSC) has been doing Shakespeare for a very long time with some of the top Shakespearians in the world," he said.

Shakespearian scholars are often involved in the process of staging a new play.

"We are in the enviable position of being able to offer the best Shakespeare available both for people in this country and visiting tourists," Sir Antony said.

Acknowledged as one of the most creative theatre companies, the ensemble has never been afraid to tackle Shakespeare with originality and indeed sometimes controversy.

Over the years they have entertained with not just Shakespeare and his contemporaries but also with Checkhov, Euripides, Ibsen, Pinter, David Edgar and many more.

It also puts on annual Christmas productions for children - the company is currently in rehearsal for Roald Dahl's Matilda - while its performances of Les Miserables still sells out 25 years on.

The RSC has also said it is committed to making Shakespeare accessible to everyone and has an extensive education programme.

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