Taming the Crew: Bard Meets Cunard on RSC Cruise Deal | Shakespeare’s Royal Company

More than 400 years after Hamlet was played by the crew of a ship anchored off West Africa in the first known production of a Shakespeare play outside the British Isles, the bard takes to the high seas again.

Proving that the whole world is a stage, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has signed a three-year contract with Cunard for productions aboard the company’s flagship liner, the Queen Mary 2.

Passengers will be able to enjoy a new one-hour compilation, Boundless As the Sea, described by the RSC as “a unique blend of Shakespeare’s iconic love scenes”, in the purpose-built theatre.

Actors on board will also lead a series of workshops exploring their craft and “intimate and informal events” where actors perform favorite sonnets and speeches and answer questions from the audience.

An abridged version of the 2018 CBC production of Miss Littlewood, a musical about the life of actress and director Joan Littlewood, known as the “mother of modern theatre”, will also be shown.

Erica Whyman, acting artistic director of the RSC, said: “Shakespeare can seem off-putting. Some people got the impression that he belonged to a certain kind of audience. So an introduction that shows how beautiful the language is, that brings the language to life and respects it, can unlock it for new audiences.

The deal with Cunard was an “elegant partnership between two organizations offering people the opportunity to broaden their horizons”, she added.

“In a way, it’s an extension of what we’re already doing on tour in the UK, and we’re very proud of that work. We offer a tailor-made “first encounter” program for people seeing Shakespeare for the first time in schools and communities in areas with multiple challenges. [This] is just a different way to travel.

Sonia Massai, Professor of Shakespearean Studies at King’s College London, said: “The more Shakespeare the better. Shakespeare survived, in fact thrived, in whatever shape or form in which [his work] has been presented to the public over the last centuries. I’m not a purist as a scholar – in fact, I’m very interested in contemporary uses of Shakespeare.

The Bard’s plays had “always functioned as a platform for debate on the great issues of our time. This is the purpose of the arts more generally, and Shakespeare clearly occupies a central place in it.

The RSC – the “gold standard” of Shakespearian performance – has received considerable public funding, so “any innovation, any attempt to reach new audiences must be welcome”.

But, she added, the cruise ship audience was “probably quite similar to the audience that already visits Stratford [the RSC’s base] or theaters around the world”.

Whyman said the RSC works “very, very hard these days to make sure we reach the most diverse audience. Cunard is a particular project, which allows a particular audience to have access to our work, and there is no reason to deprive them of this experience”.

Prices for Shakespeare cruises start at £379 pp for an inside cabin on a two-day voyage from Southampton to Hamburg, and reach £19,389 pp for a 26-day round trip between New York and the Norwegian Fjords in a top-of-the-line suite. In addition to Shakespeare, passengers can enjoy live music, wine tasting, an onboard planetarium, and a quoits game on deck.

Lee Powell, Vice President of Brand and Product at Cunard, said, “Being able to offer our guests access to performances from world leaders in contemporary theater and Shakespeare’s best works is an amazing opportunity that I know our guests will fully immerse themselves. themselves.

The RSC declined to release financial details of the partnership.

The depiction of Hamlet on September 5, 1607 aboard the Red Dragon, an English ship en route to India, is recorded in the diary of Captain William Keeling, considered authentic by Massai.

The play was presented to a prominent guest, the local king’s brother-in-law, Lucas Fernandez. Keeling was happy enough with the result that his team performed Richard II a few weeks later.

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