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The RSC showdown

After years of decline and mismanagement, the Royal Shakespeare Company is staking it all on a cycle of the complete works. But is it now too late to regain the one principle that gave the RSC meaning—a national ensemble of actors working in contemporary theatre through the Shakespearean example?

By Michael Coveney   January 2006

In April 2006, and for the subsequent 12 months, the Royal Shakespeare Company will stage the biggest festival in its history, the “Complete Works,” which will bring all 37 Shakespeare plays to Stratford-upon-Avon, 15 of them produced by the RSC itself. These will include Ian McKellen as Lear, Judi Dench in a musical version of The Merry Wives of Windsor, Patrick Stewart in The Tempest and an entire cycle of the history plays. The remainder of the plays will be performed by visiting companies: among them a Hamlet from South Africa, an Edinburgh festival co-production of Troilus and Cressida, a…

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