The Rsc At 50

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01The Ensemble

01The Ensemble20110405

James Naughtie goes backstage as the Royal Shakespeare Company celebrates its 50th birthday and reopens its main theatre in Stratford upon Avon.

Part 1.The Ensemble.

The RSC is now so much a feature of the British cultural landscape that it is easy to imagine it has been around ever since Shakespeare wrote his plays.

Far from it.

In this three-part series, James Naughtie explores how the company first came into being in 1961; the creation of its unique ensemble system; its landmark productions; the opening production in April 2011 in its newly built state-of-the-art auditorium within the historic theatre on the banks of the Avon in Stratford.

This series has enjoyed an exclusive breadth of access to the key players of the last half century.

It includes the voices of all five of the artistic directors - Peter Hall, Trevor Nunn, Terry Hands, Adrian Noble and Michael Boyd; luminaries such as Peter Brook, Cicely Berry, Judi Dench, Patrick Stewart and David Tennant; not to mention many members of the wider team of artists, technicians and crafts-people who support the actors on stage.

James Naughtie explores not only the history of the company but also why the work it does matters to the British cultural scene.

In the first programme, James follows Michael Boyd and company as they prepare the new production - Macbeth - which will formally open the new theatre in April 2011.

Producer: Beaty Rubens

ENDS.

James follows Michael Boyd and company as they prepare the new production, Macbeth.

02The First Ten Years

02The First Ten Years20110412

James Naughtie explores the history of the Royal Shakespeare Company as it marks its 50th birthday and reopens its main Stratford theatre.

Part 2: The First Ten Years.

In the second programme of his three-part series, James Naughtie explores how the Royal Shakespeare Company came into being in 1961 and its extraordinarily dynamic first ten years.

He speaks with the two key players - Peter Hall and Peter Brook (both now in their eighties, both still busily working in theatre) - about the stultifying 1950s theatre culture which they inherited.

As Brook vividly recalls, "those old laddie codger actors just boomed away".

The two Peters discuss other aspects which were ripe for change - the need for a European-style ensemble, for training in verse-speaking, for longer and more open rehearsals, for productions which arose from a particular time rather than simply being wheeled out again and again - all RSC hallmarks which are now taken for granted.

Veteran members of the company Patrick Stewart and Judi Dench recall the joys of that time, including, in Dench's case, the indiscrete joys of affairs which inevitably arose due to the geographical isolation of Stratford.

Contemporary Associate Director Greg Doran explains the attraction of working in Stratford - walking daily, on his way to rehearsals, past the church where Shakespeare was baptized and buried; while Hall explains how vital it was to start up a London season if he was to succeed in turning a group of actors into a world-class company.

Meanwhile, the current Company dramaturge Jeannie O'Hare explains how productions of new works by contemporary writers - Pinter, Bond, Hare - helped re-energize the RSC, culminating in what is often seen as its aesthetic high-point - Brook's Dream in 1971 - which, in a rare interview, the great Peter Brook himself recalls for the programme.

The series as a whole features an exclusive breadth of interviews with the key players of the past half century.

With the help of all five artistic directors: Peter Hall, Trevor Nunn, Terry Hands, Adrian Noble and Michael Boyd; luminaries such as Peter Brook, Cicely Berry, Greg Doran, Judi Dench, Patrick Stewart and David Tennant; and backstage artists, technicians and craftspeople, James Naughtie explores both the history of the company and the reasons why its work matters to the wider British cultural scene.

Producer: Beaty Rubens.

James Naughtie marks the 50th birthday of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

03 LASTThe New Theatre20110419

James Naughtie explores the history of the Royal Shakespeare Company as it marks its 50th birthday and reopens its main Stratford theatre.

Part 3.

The new theatre.

The struggle to create a new theatre in Stratford, fit for the diverse work of the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 21st Century, goes right back to its founding in 1961.

In the final episode of his three-part series, James Naughtie speaks with the key players about the problems with the Elisabeth Scott Shakespeare Memorial Theatre built in 1932, the triumphant experiments at The Other Place and The Swan, and - built within the original walls - the brand new theatre with its thrust stage which will open with Michael Boyd's production of Macbeth in April 2011.

Former Artistic Directors Trevor Nunn, Terry Hands and Adrian Noble tell Jim about their times with the company while Judi Dench recalls the terror and hilarity of performing with Ian McKellen in Nunn's famously intense production of Macbeth at The Other Place in 1976.

Architect Rab Bennetts and current Artistic Director Michael Boyd explain the challenge of creating the new space while the series culminates in an examination of why performing Shakespeare matters to the artistic well-being of the nation.

As Peter Brook says to Jim in a rare interview: "This is Shakespeare.

Not "Shakespeare Memorial" but this is Shakespeare as the real, living example that there is something more".

The series as a whole features an exclusive breadth of interviews with the key players of the past half century.

With all five artistic directors Peter Hall, Trevor Nunn, Terry Hands, Adrian Noble and Michael Boyd; luminaries such as Peter Brook, Cicely Berry, Greg Doran, Judi Dench, Patrick Stewart and David Tennant; and backstage artists, technicians and craftspeople, James Naughtie explores both the history of the company and the reasons why its work matters to the wider British cultural scene.

Producer: Beaty Rubens.

James Naughtie marks the 50th birthday of the Royal Shakespeare Company.