Macbeth (Adam Buss) and Lady Macbeth (Jane Upton) at Poole's Cavern © 1623

1623 was formed in 2005, when we performed scenes from Shakespeare's plays in a show garden at BBC Gardeners' World Live. This high-profile event at the NEC attracted over 10,000 visitors including HRH The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall, both of whom stopped by to watch a scene from Much Ado About Nothing.

Since then, we have performed our Shakespeare productions in all sorts of non-traditional theatre spaces all over the United Kingdom including a quarry, a courtroom, a shopping centre, city spaces, rural village halls and arts festivals.

Our promenade production of Macbeth (pictured above) through the spectacular chambers of Poole's Cavern in the Peak District received five stars in a national review before transferring to the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site.

Soon after Macbeth, we returned to Poole's Cavern with a sell-out Hamlet, a collaboration with Maison Foo who performed The Murder of Gonzago, the play-within-the-play. Hamlet was nominated Best Production at the Buxton Festival Fringe.

More recently, we created Ellen Terry - Shakespeare's Leading Lady, a new memory play commissioned by the National Trust and performed in the barn at Ellen's final home at Smallhythe Place. We are currently planning to document the play with Gielgud Films.

Our Emergency Shakespeare! show was performed with St John Ambulance at QUAD in 2009 and the National Theatre in 2010, before winning Best Live Event at the CIN 2010 Awards, where 1623 was also named Creative Company of the Year.

Learning projects, which include practical workshops and reflective discussions based on Shakespeare's plays, have taken place at schools, colleges, city academies, universities, libraries, community centres and company away days.

Previous major learning projects include The Great Shakespearean Workout, which was awarded the prestigious London 2012 Inspire Mark for its innovative approach to combining Shakespearean verse and physical fitness.

Lear/dementia was our most recent major project, which involved exploring King Lear in the context of dementia through three strands of participatory research that led to a scratch performance at Derby Theatre Studio. Find out more about the project by clicking here.

Patrons are Dame Janet Suzman, award-winning playwright and National Theatre associate Mark Ravenhill, and leading Shakespeare expert Professor Carol Rutter at the University of Warwick. With their guidance and support, we continue to develop our work in exciting new directions.  

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Why are we called 1623?

The First Folio © 16231623 turned out to be one of the most significant years in world culture.

It was the year in which an amazing body of work called Mr William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories and Tragedies was published. 

This was the first-ever collected edition of Shakespeare's plays; it is also known as the First Folio.

Shakespeare had died seven years earlier, in 1616, but two of his colleagues and friends from the King's Men theatre company - John Heminge and Henry Condell - worked with a stationer and bookseller to ensure that the plays of their fellow theatre-maker survived for future generations.

If it wasn't for Heminge and Condell and the publication of the First Folio in 1623, then the majority of Shakespeare's plays would have been lost forever.


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