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VIDEO: Blackpool Grand Theatre and The RSC Channel Henry V in ONCE MORE UNTO THE BEACH

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Blackpool residents channel spirit of Shakespeare's Henry V in stirring new theatre piece inspired by the hopes and fears of communities leaving lockdown for the first time.

Check out the video below!

As the nation prepares to take its first, tentative steps out of lockdown, the Royal Shakespeare Company has been working with the Grand Theatre to reach vulnerable groups in Blackpool and across the UK to explore their hopes and fears about re-emerging into a newly altered world.

The Royal Shakespeare Company's Learning and National Partnerships team have been working in collaboration with Blackpool Grand Theatre and with local community groups including Liberty Church, Better Start, Friends of Stanley Park and the Landlord and Hoteliers Group, to deliver weekly zoom community gatherings in which participants are tasked with creating a version of Henry V's great battle speech, 'Once more unto the breach, dear friends'.

The initiative, which forms one part of the RSC's Shakespeare Nation adult-participation work, is aimed at vulnerable groups, many of whom are older, living in isolation or with underlying health conditions. Working in partnership with Blackpool Grand Theatre and RSC Voice practitioners, these creative sessions have been to set up to explore the participants hopes and fears about returning to the world, post-lockdown and to offer a call to arms to communities up and down the country who face similar challenges as a result of the pandemic. Other community projects currently underway with the Grand Theatre in Blackpool include weekly Live Storytime Sessions delivered by the RSC actors Georgia Landers, Zoe Lambert and Amanda Hadingue in collaboration with Better Start targeting the children of key workers with young families in the local area, Dial A Sonnet conference calls to vulnerable adults living alone and without internet access, in which RSC actors call in to share one of Shakespeare's well-known verses accompanied by a friendly chat and Do-it-yourself Shakespeare films featuring a beginners guide to performing Shakespeare's plays in your own home.

Elsewhere in the UK, RSC Voice Practitioner Michael Corbridge has been working with long-term RSC partner, The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury to deliver a series of fun, interactive video voice workshops which use theatrical voice techniques to help inspire people to get used to using their voices again in a post-lockdown world. With an emphasis on fun and wellbeing, these interactive sessions offer a 'Joe Wicks-style workout for the voice' suitable for all ages yet particularly suited to those who have been living alone or in isolation over the past three months.

In Bradford, the RSC has been working in partnership with it's Shakespeare Nation Champions at Liberty Arts Yorkshire, a thriving, community arts hub in the heart of Shipley, to produce over 200 Theatre Boxes filled with practical materials and resources to help families to stay creative at home. The boxes have been distributed to local families at risk including low income households and to those with limited access to the internet.

Shakespeare Nation is an adult participation project, funded through a £492,300 grant from the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, which aims to reach out to communities around the country who would not normally engage with theatre or Shakespeare.

Deputy Artistic Director, Erica Whyman, said: "The Royal Shakespeare Company is a National Theatre Company, funded by people from all over England, and we believe Shakespeare belongs to everyone. Not everyone thinks his plays are going to be for them but our experience, has been that if you can excite someone about Shakespeare and get them speaking his words and making sense of his ideas they often feel that suddenly they can do anything. The plays express feelings we all have, they tell stories about the universal experiences of life - love, death, ambition, excitement, disagreement, hope, so they can make us feel connected to one another. His wonderful words are part of all of our history, they help us explain ourselves, maybe especially at times of extreme change, which is why its so important to give voice to communities up and down the UK as they attempt to navigate this unprecedented moment in our shared history".

Celine Wyatt is Head of Programmes and Learning at Blackpool Grand, said; "We are really proud to of all our Shakespeare Champions. They have met regularly throughout Lockdown to work with local Director Jo Cleasby, RSC actors and artists. Together they have created a new film, "Once More Unto The Beach," where they share their experiences of Lockdown through Shakespeare's powerful stories. The Grand may be closed for a while but the life of the theatre carries on, the words of Shakespeare uplift us and through this partnership we are connected."

Launched in 2019, following the nationwide tour of the Royal Shakespeare Company's 2018 production of Romeo & Juliet, Shakespeare Nation aims to reach out to communities around the country who would not normally think theatre and Shakespeare are for them. The ambition is to reach more than 3,000 adults via co-productions, workshops with RSC actors and directors, and subsidised tickets and theatre coach trips to generate new audiences and ambassadors for Shakespeare and theatre in their communities.

Previous Shakespeare Nation projects include working with vulnerable adults in Blackpool to create their own version of Romeo and Juliet. Directed by Jo Cleasby, 'A Grand Romance' premiered at the Blackpool Grand Theatre in June 2019, with some of the performance taking place on Blackpool's iconic promenade. The production mixed extracts from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet with personal stories of love and romance in Blackpool and featured volunteers from Blackpool's LGBTQ community, Liberty Church, hoteliers, Better Start parents and a community choir.

This was followed by an original performance of Capulets and Candyfloss by Nottingham People's Choir, a Shakespeare-inspired story of love, loss and life-performed for an audience of friends and family and backed by singers from Nottingham Voice Collective. The show was set against the backdrop of the Nottingham Goose Fair and was facilitated through funding from the Institute of Mental Health.

In Norwich, refugee communities, asylum seekers and isolated migrant communities joined forces with members of Evolve, a weekly support group open to 11-25 year olds who are transgender, intersex, genderqueer and gender-questioning young people and students and staff from the University of East Anglia to create a new work inspired by their own links to THE themes of Romeo and Juliet. Working with practitioners from Norwich Theatre Royal and the RSC, 'Palm to Palm' premiered at Norwich Theatre Royal in November 2019 and was inspired by the personal journeys of participants as they navigate an unfamiliar world filled with new colours, new freedoms and new loves.

RSC Learning and National Partnerships provides opportunities for young people and adults to learn about, participate in and make performances of Shakespeare's work in classrooms and communities across the nation. Our aim is to harness the transformative power of making theatre together to help build life-long relationships with live theatre and Shakespeare's plays.

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