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Permanent exhibition devoted to Shakespeare's plays

It's curtain-up on the first ever permanent exhibition devoted to the staging of Shakespeare's plays.

Many South East schools have already booked trips to "The Play's the Thing" - the Royal Shakespeare Company's unique interactive visitor attraction.

And while there they will discover how strongly Kent features in The Bard's work, with scenes from King Lear set in Dover, Henry the 4th Part 1 set in Rochester and Henry the 4th part 2 at Gads Hill. Kevin Ashford reports.

Anderson stars as Brighton Festival launches line-up for its 50th year

The wait is almost over. Tickets for Brighton's 50th festival will shortly go on sale with the full line-up revealed this morning.

As well as daring and one-of-a-kind commissions the month-long festival will also include international names from the worlds of theatre, music, arts and dance. So who will we be watching in May?

Andy Dickenson reports and we hear from guest director Laurie Anderson, chief executive Andrew Comben, Toby Park & Tim Crouch of The Complete Deaths, and Ajay Chhabra, artistic director of Dr Blighty.


Dream come true for amateur actors in RSC production

For many professional actors, starring in a play by the Royal Shakespeare Company is a high point in their career. So imagine what it's like for an amateur.

Up and down the country, members of 14 amateur dramatic groups are experiencing just that, as they take part in an ambitious co-production with the RSC.

Among them are 12 men and two women who are - alongside their day jobs - rehearsing to play the role of Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Emma Wilkinson reports:

Interviewees: Erica Whyman, Deputy Artistic Director of the RSC, John Chapman, amateur actor playing 'Bottom' and Lucy Ellinson, professional actor, playing 'Puck'.

Shakespeare meets street dance

Something now for all Shakespeare fans - one of his most famous plays - but as you've never seen it before. Romeo and Juliet is being played out through street dance. Asana Greenstreet went to the Corn Exchange in Newbury to see just how hip Shakespeare can get.


To be or not to be? The Bard online

Stephen Fry on the day he received an honorary degree from Sussex University Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Leading stars of stage and screen, including Stephen Fry and Vanessa Redgrave, have added their backing to a new campaign by Oxford University's Bodleian Libraries to make the first volume of Shakespeare's plays available online.

The Libraries have launched a fundraising appeal to digitise the first collected edition of the Bard's plays, known as the First Folio, dating back to around 1623.

The Sprint for Shakespeare campaign aims to raise £20,000 to put the playwright's work online - a cost of around £20 per page.

Once the work is complete, anyone will be able to access the website and the plays free of charge, Bodleian Libraries said.

There would also be articles and blogs from academics, specialists, theatre professionals and members of the public available.

Actress Vanessa Redgrave Credit: Yui Mok/PA Archive/Press Association Images

The campaign has won the support of a number of actors, actresses, directors, producers and scholars. Fry said he was "whole-heartedly" supporting the project.

"First Folio as a phrase sounds so distant from our everyday lives, but this priceless and extraordinary collection of plays turned the world upside down (or should that be the right way up?) every bit as much as Newton was to do nearly 60 or so years later," he said.

"The works of Shakespeare, now as much as ever, tell us what it is to be alive. The ambiguity, doubt, puzzlement, pain, madness and hilarity of existence had never been expressed so well and to this day never has.

To bring the First Folio, the great authoritative publication, to everyone in the world via digitisation is as noble and magnificent a project as can be imagined."

Sir Peter Hall, founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company and theatre and film director said: "The digitisation of the Bodleian copy of Shakespeare's First Folio is a project of huge importance.

"It will provide an unrivalled opportunity for textual study not only for actors, directors and other theatre practitioners and their academic colleagues, but also for audiences whose love of the plays has remained undiminished over the centuries."

Bodleian said that while copies of this book were not rare, their First Folio was a rarity because it had not been rebound or restored in nearly four centuries.

It shows marks of wear that reveal the literary tastes of early readers - while the pages of Romeo and Juliet have been nearly worn to shreds, King John has been left virtually intact, it added.