• English Touring Theatre celebrates its 21st anniversary this year
• 21 popular plays honoured nationwide
• Including full productions, rehearsed readings and measures to introduce new people to theatre
English Touring Theatre, the country’s leading touring company, celebrates its 21st birthday today. The company is producing a series of events marking the occasion, which began in December 2013 with the countrywide search for The Nation’s Favourite Play and culminates in 21 productions and events.
Rachel Tackley, Director of English Touring Theatre, said “The last 21 years have been the most incredible journey for English Touring Theatre, playing to over 1.4m people, producing 688 weeks of touring and working with 1500 artists. Producing 21 different things this year has been both completely bonkers and enormous fun and will set us up for the next two decades.”
Earlier this year English Touring Theatre produced Howard Brenton’s Eternal Love, Brian Friel’s Translations and Noël Coward’s series of 9 short plays, Tonight at 8:30, touring to both critical and audience acclaim.
Now several more plays will be made available to audiences through a series of full-length productions, rehearsed readings, and audience engagement activities spanning the length and breadth of the country.
Currently playing is English Touring Theatre’s production of the nation’s 8th favourite play, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, directed by Jonathan Munby and co-produced with Sheffield Theatres, which set off on its UK tour on September 18.
English Touring Theatre’s 2015 season sees full scale productions of the nation’s fourth favourite play: Tom Stoppard’s meditation on the intricate relationship between the past and the present, Arcadia, directed by Blanche McIntyre and co-produced with the Theatre Royal Brighton from January 30; and, in collaboration with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Thomas Middleton’s Jacobean city comedy, A Mad World My Masters – a revival of the critically acclaimed, 50s-set production from 2013, edited by Sean Foley and Phil Porter and directed by Sean Foley, which embarks on its tour on February 26.
In addition to these full productions, English Touring theatre is working with theatres all over the country to organise a very special series of rehearsed readings, all of which will be free to attend, as well as helping to open up access to some of the best theatre in the country.
On Saturday September 27, Theatre by the Lake in Keswick will host a rehearsed reading of Beckett’s enigmatic tragi-comic masterpiece Waiting for Godot, which came in at number 11 in the list of the Nation’s Favourites, directed by Theatre by the Lake Associate Director Mary Papadima. Theatre by the Lake used to play host to Century Theatre, from which English Touring Theatre was born, making this performance a return for English Touring Theatre to its theatrical roots.
Friday November 7 will see a rehearsed reading of Donkeys’ Years by Michael Frayn take place at Cambridge Arts Theatre. It will be read by actors from the Twelfth Night Company and directed by Lisa Spirling, whose company Buckle for Dust was one of the founding members of English Touring Theatre’s Forge programme.
In Truro on Friday November 14, English Touring Theatre will produce a reading of The King of Prussia by local playwright Nick Darke, directed by Simon Harvey, Artistic Director of o-region, Hall for Cornwall’s resident company.
Widening access and encouraging new audiences also forms a large part of English Touring Theatre’s birthday celebrations.
From 17 Oct – 08 Nov, English Touring Theatre will also be working with Leicester Curve to welcome new attenders to Suba Das’s production of Abigail’s Party, number 17 in the poll. English Touring Theatre will be working with the theatre to give away 50 pairs of free tickets to audiences who have never attended the venue before. This promotion will be run in conjunction with Leicester-based Asian radio network, Sabras Radio.
Also in October, English Touring Theatre will team up with West Yorkshire Playhouse ahead of the latter’s production of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible (Number 13 in the list of the Nation’s Favourite plays,) directed by James Brining, to offer tickets and free workshops to local schools who are new to their education work.
The mission to bring top quality to new audiences will continue in 2015 when the Nation’s Favourite Play, Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, embarks on a nationwide tour in January 2015, directed by Kate Saxon and produced by touring company Sell A Door. English Touring Theatre is offering 100 pairs of free tickets to anyone new to the venue they attend. To apply for a pair of tickets visit www.ett.org.uk
English Touring Theatre has also been working with director Kelly Hunter and actor Mark Quartley to develop a version of Hamlet aimed at an audience of people who may be unable to access the arts, specifically those who have suffered trauma or mental health difficulties. The aim is to create a chamber piece, which directly confronts the maelstrom of family relationships and their impact upon the human psyche, for touring to studio theatres. English Touring Theatre has been working with Kelly, following the success of her production of The Tempest for children with Special Educational Needs, at the RSC earlier this year.