Creative Learning

RSC To Tour Merchant of Venice

7 min read

Creative Learning

7 min read


RSC to tour Merchant of Venice continuing the company’s First Encounters with Shakespeare series of productions for 7 – 13 year olds and it’s coming to Blackpool’s Grand Theatre.

In addition the RSC adds a new digital learning experience for the first time.

As part of its commitment to provide young people with a fantastic first experience of Shakespeare, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), in association with eleven regional partner theatres, will tour The Merchant of Venice to schools and theatres this autumn. The RSC’s long-running First Encounters programme takes productions into the heart of communities, and this year’s series, produced in partnership with Adobe, will include a digital learning experience for the first time. These edited versions of the plays, performed using Shakespeare’s original language, have been enjoyed by over 100,000 people to date, and will now equip teachers with resources to teach Shakespeare in new, engaging ways using Adobe Spark and Creative Cloud.

Directed and edited by Robin Belfield, the production will open in September 2019 in Midlands schools and the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, before embarking on a six week national tour  of schools and regional theatres (including Blackpool’s Grand Theatre). Although primarily aimed at 7-13 year olds, the production can be enjoyed by all ages.

In collaboration with the RSC’s Regional Theatre Partners and Associate Schools, this production also features young actors from the RSC’s Next Generation Company working alongside the professional acting company. The young actors, aged between 13-18, will take turns to play the two roles of Jessica and Lorenzo, the two characters caught up in a clash between family, money and culture. Next Generation ACT is made up of young people under the age of 18 who show a talent for performance but who would not necessarily have the opportunity to develop it. The young people are drawn from each of the English regions, and, as the production makes its way around the country, where possible, the roles of Jessica and Lorenzo will be performed by two young people local to that area.

RSC Merchant of Venice

Robin Belfield, the production’s director, said: “Set against the commercial backdrop of Venice, Shakespeare’s play presents a world where business interests collide with personal ambitions and prejudices. The Merchant of Venice asks some very challenging questions, especially for audiences today – questions about the way we live, work and behave with people of different faiths and cultures. At the heart of the play are two young people, Jessica and Lorenzo, about to make some huge choices that will affect their lives forever. It seemed fitting then that these characters be played by young people, and who better than our terrifically talented young company, Next Generation ACT.”

Jacqui O’Hanlon, RSC Director of Education, said: “At the heart of this First Encounters with Shakespeare production are the regional theatres and schools we are privileged to work in collaboration with to create it. Together, we bring the excitement of Shakespeare’s work right into the heart of schools and local communities. This work is testament to the profound impact that partnerships between schools and theatres can have on local communities; partnerships forged out of a shared vision for education in which access to the arts plays a central part.”

Simon Morris, Senior Director, Adobe Creative Cloud, said: “First Encounters has been extremely successive in making Shakespeare reliable and accessible for young audiences up and down the country. Through our ongoing partnership with the RSC we have been able to create digital learning experiences that turn the initial excitement young audiences feel when watching Shakespeare for the first time into a long-term love of the plays through our creative tools.”

RSC Merchant of Venice

Robin Belfield is the RSC’s Young People’s Performance Developer. As creative lead for the Associate Schools programme, he is responsible for working with the RSC’s partner schools and theatre partners to create high quality performance opportunities for young people across the country.

Prior to working the RSC, Robin was a freelance theatre director and education practitioner working for many major theatre companies and arts organisations including: National Theatre, Nuffield Southampton Theatres, Bristol Old Vic, Theatre Royal Bath, Watermill Theatre (Newbury) and The Dukes Theatre (Lancaster). He has also worked extensively in a number of the UKs major drama schools including: Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, The Oxford School of Drama and Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. Last year Robin wrote his first book Telling the Truth: How to Make Verbatim Theatre, a practical handbook for teachers and theatre professionals, published by Nick Hern Books.

Other locations the tour will visit include Melton Mowbray; Birmingham; Northamptonshire; Newcastle upon Tyne (in association with Northern Stage); Middlesbrough; Bradford; Skipton; (in association with Alhambra Theatre, Bradford); Cornwall and Devon (in association with Hall for Cornwall); Canterbury (in association with the Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury); Hull (in association with Hull Truck Theatre), and Nottingham (in association with Nottingham Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall). Current tour details at the end of the release.

Other members of the creative team include: Anisha Fields (Designer), Tarek Merchant (Music) and Ingrid Mackinnon (Movement).

Casting for the production will be announced in due course.


RSC To Tour Merchant Of Venice To BLACKPOOL GRAND THEATRE | 8-12 October 2019

Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic Primary School, Blackpool
Tuesday 8 October, 1.30pm (schools’ performance) and 7pm (public performance)

St Mary’s Catholic Academy
Wednesday 9 October, 1.40pm (schools’ performance)

The Grand Theatre, Blackpool
Thursday 10 October, 10am and 1.30pm (public performances)
Friday 11 October, 1.30pm and 7pm (public performances)
Saturday 12 October, 1.30pm (public performance)

Box Office: 01253 290190



About RSC Education

The RSC encourages everyone to enjoy a lifelong relationship with Shakespeare and live theatre and through our Education work change the way that children and young people experience Shakespeare at school. They build long term relationships with school, teachers and communities and particularly those who have the least access to Shakespeare, the RSC and cultural provision. Each year we reach over 530,000 young people in over 1,200 schools across the UK, inspiring children of all ages, backgrounds and abilities and ensuring that Shakespeare is for everyone. Further information from:

The RSC works in long term partnership with the following regional theatres:

The Grand Theatre, Blackpool
The Alhambra Theatre, Bradford
The Marlowe, Canterbury
Hall for Cornwall, Cornwall
Hull Truck Theatre, Hull
Intermission Theatre
Theatre Royal, Newcastle upon Tyne
Nottingham Theatre Royal and Royal Concert Hall
Northern Stage
New Vic Theatre, Newcastle-under-Lyme
York Theatre Royal

The Royal Shakespeare Company creates theatre at its best, made in Stratford-upon-Avon and shared around the world.  They produce an inspirational artistic programme each year, setting Shakespeare in context, alongside the work of his contemporaries and today’s writers.

Everyone at the RSC – from actors to armourers, musicians to technicians – plays a part in creating the world you see on stage.  All their productions begin life at our Stratford workshops and theatres and we bring them to the widest possible audience through our touring, residencies, live broadcasts and online activity. So wherever you experience the RSC, you experience work made in Shakespeare’s home town. They have trained generations of the very best theatre makers and we continue to nurture the talent of the future. They reach 530,000 children and young people annually through our education work, transforming their experiences in the classroom, in performance and online.  Registered charity no. 212481

Arts Council England is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.

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