Thursday, 7 May 2009

Leading British playwright Mark Ravenhill has become the new patron of 1623 theatre company, which performs Shakespeare in non-traditional theatre spaces and leads Shakespeare learning projects across the UK.

Following the company's recent appearance on BBC News performing on Shakespeare's birthday in a hospital, Mr Ravenhill agreed to advocate the company for its innovative approach to performing Shakespeare's work.

He explained: "'Shakespeare expands our minds and our hearts like no other playwright can. He tells the best stories with the most incredible language.

“Seeing a good Shakespeare production makes us more alive.  I'm excited to see that 1623 are bringing these incredible plays to new audiences in new spaces. Go and see them."

Ben Spiller, artistic director and producer of 1623, said: “We’re thrilled to have Mark as our new patron.  While he is associated primarily with new, ground-breaking and often controversial theatre, he has a deep respect for the classics, Shakespeare in particular.

“He joins our existing patron - Professor Carol Rutter of the University of Warwick - in our fifth year, which sees us taking Shakespeare to Glastonbury, a shopping centre, a derelict school and many other new spaces.”

The company is also developing a new play on Ellen Terry, the popular Victorian actress whose innovative approach to acting redefined a number of Shakespeare’s women.  The play will be performed in the barn at Smallhythe Place in Kent, Ellen’s final home, in the summer.


Information on Mark Ravenhill

Mark Ravenhill studied English and Drama at Bristol University. His first play, a ten-minute dialogue called Fist, was staged at London's Finborough Theatre. Max Stafford-Clark, director of Out of Joint Theatre Company, saw the production and invited Ravenhill to contribute a full-length play, which became Shopping and Fucking; it opened at the Royal Court Theatre in 1996.  His next play, Faust Is Dead, was produced by the Actor's Touring Company and toured nationally in 1997. Next was Handbag (1998), which won an Evening Standard award, and Some Explicit Polaroids (1999), which opened at the Ambassadors Theatre.

In 1998, while literary director of Paines Plough, a company started in 1974 to develop new writing, he organised 'Sleeping Around', a collaborative writing project.  Mother Clap's Molly House, set in 18th-century London, was first performed in 2001 at the National's Lyttleton Theatre with music by Matthew Scott. His radio play Feed Me was broadcast by BBC Radio 3 in 2000. Totally Over You (2004), is a play which explores the world of instant celebrity. In 2006, four further plays were published: The Cut and Product; and Citizenship and pool (no water). His latest play to be published is Over There (2009).

Information on 1623 theatre company

Five-star 1623 theatre company ("uplifting ... unusual and entertaining" - British Theatre Guide) performs in non-traditional theatre spaces to engage new and existing audiences with Shakespeare’s inspirational language, vibrant characters and exciting sense of theatre.  Recent venues and events include Poole's Cavern, RSC Fringe, Derby City General Hospital, Galleries of Justice, Nottingham Playhouse, Milton Keynes Theatre, Glastonbury Festival, Matlock Live, World Heritage Discovery Festival, Buxton Fringe, rural village halls and city spaces.

The company leads Shakespeare-based learning projects in schools, colleges, universities and workplaces.  Recent projects include Romeo and Juliet with sinfonia ViVA, Sixth Form Study Day at Sheffield Hallam University, Shakespeare's Sonnets at the University of Derby, Shakespeare For Leaders at Associated Northcliffe Digital and workshops in schools and colleges throughout the UK ("an exceptional experience for pupils and teachers alike" - Westminster Cathedral Choir School).

Notes for editors

An image of Mark Ravenhill and the 1623 logo are available on request; both images are copyright-free.

To see 1623 performing on BBC News, visit

Photographs of 1623 in action are in the Gallery at

Ben Spiller, 1623 artistic director and producer, is available for interview on 07867 996959 (office hours).


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