Royal Shakespeare Company announces Summer 2021 Programme

  • First visual of Lydia & Manfred Gorvy Garden Theatre released
  • Performance schedule announced for The Comedy of Errors, directed by Phillip Breen.
  • RSC Artistic Director, Gregory Doran and Owen Horsley present Henry VI Part One: Open Rehearsal Project culminating in a live online rehearsal room performance on 23 June.
  • Next Generation Act present All Mirth and No Matter, a creative response to Much Ado About Nothing; online Playmaking Festival to celebrate creativity of young people & adults from across the UK and Live Schools’ Broadcast of Macbeth (2018) announced.

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has today released full details of its Summer 2021 programme which includes an artists’ impression of the newly conceived Lydia & Manfred Gorvy Garden Theatre. This specially constructed outdoor performance space is located in the Swan Theatre Gardens, flanked by the River Avon and overlooked by the Swan Theatre.

Gregory Doran, Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, said;

As nations all over the world emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, and the UK theatre industry prepares to welcome in-person audiences, the RSC is re-opening by sharing our work in new, creative and surprising ways.  We want to respond to our changing world and the needs of our audiences with performances and experiences outdoors and online – opening up our rehearsal rooms for the first time.

‘By creating an outdoor theatre space for The Comedy of Errors we hope audiences will feel safe to return to the theatre with confidence. Our buildings will gradually come back to life during the summer through our café and restaurant, and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre will be ready for indoor performances in the autumn.

‘The last year has taught us many things and we know that we can reach new audiences around the world through our work online. We want to build on this by inviting the public to join our rehearsal process for the first time and working in collaboration with the BBC to adapt The Winter’s Tale specifically for the screen. We know there is an appetite from those who can’t join us in Stratford, and we want to welcome them to the RSC. Throughout the pandemic we have continued to support and work alongside the thousands of young people and adults in the RSC community. Arts and culture are vital to help people to reconnect after lockdown, and our work continues across the UK with our partner theatres to support the recovery of our towns and cities. Many of those young people will join us at our Playmaking Festival, on our Garden Theatre stage and in their classrooms for the Live Schools’ Broadcast of Macbeth.

‘As our thoughts turn to new beginnings, we cannot wait to work again with our freelance colleagues and to welcome audiences back to the place where, for so many, their love of live theatre first began.’

The Comedy of Errors

As previously announced, the Summer 2021 programme begins with an outdoor production of The Comedy of Errors, directed by Phillip Breen running in the Garden Theatre from Tuesday 13 July – Sunday 26 September 2021.

Phillip Breen’s previous RSC directorial credits include The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Provoked Wife and The Hypocrite. The production is designed by Max Jones with Lighting by Tina MacHugh, Music by Paddy Cunneen, Sound by Dyfan Jones, Movement by Charlotte Broom and Fights by Renny Krupinski. The 2021 production of The Comedy of Errors is sponsored by Darwin Escapes.

The Comedy of Errors and The Winter’s Tale were both due to begin performances in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Spring 2020 and were preparing to open when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold.

The previously announced screen adaptation of The Winter’s Tale, directed by Erica Whyman, RSC Deputy Artistic Director, will be broadcast on BBC Four on Sunday 25 April at 7pm as part of BBC Lights Up, an unprecedented season of plays for BBC TV and radio, produced in partnership with theatres across the UK and continuing BBC Arts’ Culture in Quarantine initiative. A BSL signed version of the production will be broadcast on Thursday 29 April at 1.10am. Both versions will subsequently be available on iPlayer.

The RSC will also stream the production to Subscribers, Members and Patrons based outside the UK following the BBC broadcast. The streaming will be available for 24 hours on 25 April 2021 at 9pm BST and on 8 May 2021 at 6pm BST.

Following its Stratford run, The Comedy of Errors will tour to partner theatres around the nation including The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury from Wednesday 27 – Saturday 30 October 2021. Additional dates and venues to be announced.

Henry VI Part One; Open Rehearsal Project

For the first time in the RSC’s history, Artistic Director Gregory Doran will invite audiences inside the full rehearsal process for three weeks this Summer, culminating in a complete rehearsal room performance of Henry VI Part One broadcast online on Wednesday 23 June at 7pm.

Running from Tuesday 1 – Friday 25 June, Henry VI Part One; Open Rehearsal Project will see directors Gregory Doran and Owen Horsley re-unite to reinvent the Henry VI plays afresh.

The daily schedule of activity begins with a Company Warm Up, led by members of the acting company and creative team, in which participants develop skills such as voice technique and stage fighting, as well as physically preparing for the day.

From noon, online audiences are invited to join a live rehearsal session as the actors and directors put the show on its feet. This will be followed by the opportunity to join members of the company for a post-rehearsal Green Room Chat as they reflect back on the day, unwind after rehearsals and answer audience questions about the process.

The Henry VI Part One; Open Rehearsal Project will culminate in a live streamed final rehearsal room run through from Stratford-upon-Avon on Wednesday 23 June, available to watch on demand until midnight on Friday 25 June.  This will give audiences a unique chance to see the end result of three intensive rehearsal weeks – the moment just before a show hits the stage.

The three Henry VI plays were originally due to be presented in the Swan Theatre from 10 October 2020 – 2 January 2021 by a single company of actors, across two performances but were later postponed due to the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

The Henry VI Part One; Open Rehearsal Project will be co-directed by RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran and Owen Horsley, who last worked alongside each other between 2013-2015 on the critically acclaimed King and Country cycle featuring Richard II, Henry IV Parts I and II and Henry V.

 A Summer of Play & Playmaking

As children and young people start to reconnect with each other, their wider families and school communities, it is more important than ever that we continue to champion the role that arts and cultural learning can play in supporting wellbeing, developing young people’s skills and talents and getting them ready to learn for the next academic year.

The Royal Shakespeare Company will therefore play host to a Summer of Reconnection which celebrates the creativity and resilience of our Royal Shakespeare Community of young people, children and adults, creating opportunities for people of all ages to make and share Shakespeare’s work with friends, within schools and with their local communities.

The Royal Shakespeare Community incorporates 1,000 schools, 1,500 adults and over half a million young people across the nation, enabling them to learn about, participate in, challenge, and make performances of Shakespeare’s plays.  

 Intergenerational Online Playmaking Festival

The summer of reconnection opens with a week-long online celebration of playmaking from Mon 5 July featuring 20 original digital commissions involving 600 young people aged 5 to 18 from the RSC’s national Associate Schools network and adults from the Shakespeare Nation community programme. All delivered in collaboration with regional theatre partners. Composer Tarek Merchant and Movement Director Tanushka Marah will be providing creative inspiration for students as they make short films based on a range of Shakespeare’s plays. A team of freelance directors will work with teachers, students and adults in the development of their work.

In previous summers, pupils from across the country have followed in the footsteps of some of the world’s best-known actors by performing on stage in Stratford-upon-Avon as part of the RSC’s Playmaking Festival.

This year’s Playmaking Festival goes online via a specially designed new website. It features an interactive map with three themed zones that audiences can click on and visit. Each zone contains footage of young people and adult community group members from across the country performing their versions of edited scenes or speeches from a Shakespeare play of their choice.

Accompanying the microsite will be wraparound activities throughout the week, including online workshops and creative challenges.

Next Generation Act: All Mirth and No Matter

The Summer of Reconnection includes an original performance from the RSC’s Next Generation ACT young company inspired by William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing directed by Sameena Hussain, with Keiren Hamilton-Amos as Movement Director.

The RSC’s Next Generation ACT company will resume in-person performances on Friday 23 July with All Mirth and No Matter, a fusion of new writing and Shakespeare’s text. The production will run in the Garden Theatre for two public performances following a week-long rehearsal residency in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Taking inspiration from the wedding of Claudio and Hero, this fresh response to Shakespeare’s most problematic of nuptial celebrations brings together movement, original music and spoken word to shed new light on the story of the slandered Hero.

Made up of 24 young people aged between 13 and 18 from across the country, Next Generation Act is one strand of the RSC Next Generation programmea unique talent development scheme that provides gifted young people from backgrounds currently under-represented in the theatre industry with the opportunity to gain experience in acting, directing or backstage roles and explore whether a career in the theatre is for them.

 Learning in Schools, Online and for life

Meanwhile, the RSC continues to work alongside regional theatre partners supporting a nationwide network of over 250 Associate Schools to develop new and innovative ways to transform how students learn about and through Shakespeare’s plays, in their classrooms or at home.

Upcoming highlights include the 2021 Schools’ Broadcast of Macbeth (2018), directed by Polly Findlay with Christopher Eccleston in the title role, which will be available on demand for a week from Mon 17 May.

2021 will also see the return of the RSC’s annual Summer School for lifelong learners, which will run online from Monday 23 – Friday 27 August with an inspiring mix of sessions soon to be announced.

Free family activities on the Bancroft Terrace

As Stratford-upon-Avon re-opens its doors to visitors and residents, the RSC will be celebrating the arrival of Summer with a series of free pop-up performances, interactive workshops and outdoor performances for families running for four weeks from Tuesday 27 July – Friday 20 August on the Bancroft Terrace and across the newly installed Garden Theatre.

On Tuesdays, visitors can brush up on their stand-up with a programme of fun, interactive sessions inspired by comedy and clowning.

On Wednesdays, twice-daily pop-up performances inspired by the RSC’s own history of costume-making, accompanied by a free making workshop in which participants will be invited to make their own item of costume. There will also be a separate craft workshop inspired by The Comedy of Errors where you will be able to create giant chains to funny disguises.

On Thursdays free musical performances open to all.

Would-be crafters can also put their skills to the test with free making-workshops lead by RSC Costume Practitioners.

Bringing the weekly programme of activity to a close on Friday mornings, visitors are invited to join RSC workshop leaders for a weekly Community Warm Up in the Garden Theatre. Open to all ages at a cost of £5 per ticket, with family ticket offers available, these fun, interactive sessions are the perfect excuse to get on their feet and join in the fun with family and friends, whether taking your place centre stage or joining in from the comfort of your seat.

On Friday 20 August we will celebrate our costume making heritage with a Costume Day; featuring a series of free pop-up performances, workshops and family-friendly activities taking place across the town with further details soon to be confirmed. These activities are part of THREADS, a programme of events that celebrate the heritage of costume making in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Riverside Cafe and Rooftop Restaurant Re-opening

Elsewhere at the RSC, the Riverside Cafe will resume its popular takeaway service from Wednesday 21 April if restrictions allow.

Visitors can also take advantage of the ‘Rocket’ ice cream van located at the front of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre on selected days throughout the Summer.

Both outlets will serve a selection of drinks, sandwiches, ice cream, crisps and delicious cakes plus a full range of fair-trade tea and coffee.

The Riverside Cafe will be open at 10am, six days a week, Tuesday – Sunday.

From Tuesday 13 July, in line with government guidelines, the Rooftop Restaurant will re-open its doors with a reduced menu, available from Tuesday – Sunday.

The restaurant will operate with reduced capacity so pre-booking is essential. The outdoor terraces will be open, overlooking the RSC’s picturesque landscape.

A picnic offer will be available to purchase via click and collect as well as drinks for pre theatre and interval via a new online ordering service for Garden Theatre audiences.

Listings Information:


The Comedy of Errors

Tuesday 13 July – Sunday 26 September 2021

Press Performance: Tuesday 20 July, 6.30pm

Premium, £45 (£35 previews) Tickets, £35 (£25 previews)

A limited number of back row tickets are available at £20. All seats offer an uninterrupted clear view of the stage.

These are strange times. Confusion and uncertainty everywhere.

A father ends up in the wrong country on the wrong day as a government makes hasty proclamations about travel. A lonely son, while searching for his brother, loses himself. Across town a wife starts to realise her husband is not the man she thought he was (but rather likes it). Will anything ever be the same again?

Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors, a fairytale farce of everyday miracles, mistaken identity and double vision, is directed by comedy master Phillip Breen (The Provoked Wife 2019The Hypocrite 2017)Join us for a joyous moment of reunion, celebration and laughter in the brand new open air Lydia & Manfred Gorvy Garden Theatre, on the banks of the Avon. Come outside and play.

Next Generation Act: All Mirth and No Matter

Friday 23 July, 10.30am & 2.30pm

£5 (Under 16s, Free)

This summer we invite you to join the Next Generation Act company as we celebrate the wedding of the year! Come and witness the marriage of Hero and Claudio as they knit their souls together and dance under the stars. Complete with hilarious speeches from the Best Man, Benedick, and Maid of Honour, Beatrice, we guarantee a night of revelling. This performance is a response to Much Ado About Nothing by the RSC Next Generation Act young company, made up of 24 talented young people from our Associate Schools across the country.


Henry VI Part One: Open Rehearsal Project

Tuesday 1 – Friday 25 June 2021

Access All Areas (online live performance plus rehearsals) £20

Backstage Pass (online rehearsal access only) Free.

For the first time, we welcome you inside our full rehearsal process for a Shakespeare play, culminating in a final live online rehearsal room run through of the entire play.

Rehearsals normally happen behind closed doors, with the results only seen when the production reaches the stage.

This spring, we are opening up to you online. Alongside the company and Directors Gregory Doran and Owen Horsley, you can join in the daily warm up or learn new skills from the RSC Team.

You can share the excitement of watching actors grapple with the text and put the play on its feet, working out how (under Covid protocols) to choreograph fights or negotiate intimate scenes. This is our chance to reinvent how we explore and present the Henry VI plays – originally programmed for the Swan Theatre – as we emerge from the Covid crisis.

The final live rehearsal room run through will take place live on Wednesday 23 June, with the chance to watch on demand until midnight on Friday 25 June.

  • 10-10.30am: Company Warm Up. Led by members of the acting company and creative team, warm-ups are a chance to develop skills like voice work and fights, as well as physically preparing for the day.
  • From noon: A fascinating glimpse into live rehearsals as the actors and directors put the show on its feet (45-90 mins sessions).
  • 6-6.30pm: Green Room Chat. Members of the company unwind after rehearsals, reflecting on the day and answering your questions.

RSC Online Summer School

Monday 23 – Friday 27 August 2021

We are pleased to announce the return of our much-loved RSC Summer School with a week-long programme of online talks, sessions with actors, insights and provocations from theatre makers, academics and reviewers, all to be enjoyed from the comfort of your home. The week will explore RSC productions past, present and future, including gems from our archive, special insights into our summer season production of The Comedy of Errors and an exclusive peak into our 2022 programme. Each day will include 2 streamed sessions as well as a Green Room discussion to round off the day where summer schoolers can connect and reflect together. In addition, the week will include access to two full length RSC productions that will streamed specifically for summer school participants.

A full schedule will be released nearer the time and participants can either purchase a day ticket or join us for the whole week.