2016 sees Shakespeare Lives - a major programme of events and activities celebrating Shakespeare’s work in the 400th anniversary year of his death. 

Brought to you by the British Council and the GREAT Britain campaign, the programme is an invitation to the world to join in the celebrations by experiencing the work of Shakespeare directly on stage, through film, exhibitions, in schools and online. The programme is sparking cultural, educational and economic exchange, through the shared language of Shakespeare.

The programme was launched at the National Centre for the Performing Arts, where the Royal Shakespeare Company will perform in February.

Since his earliest plays Shakespeare has inspired entire generations - world leaders, writers, film makers, artists, composers and performers have all turned to Shakespeare to reflect their own lives and times, and change the course of history. 

Michelle O’Neill in Macbeth at the Guthrie Theater.  ©

Photo by Michal Daniel.

Shakespeare Lives is an innovative showcase of the UK’s rich cultural heritage and contemporary UK creativity in China. Building on the momentum of the 2015 UK-China Year of Cultural Exchange, Shakespeare Lives features a programme of events bringing cutting-edge UK culture to China. Highlights include the Royal Shakespeare Company’s King and Country Tour, featuring Henry IV Parts 1 & 2 and Henry V; National Theatre Live screenings across cinemas in China including Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch; Shakespeare’s Globe presenting The Merchant of Venice and a season of films curated by British Film Institute presenting some of the great adaptations of Shakespeare’s work. As part of the British Film Institute’s showcase, world-renowned actor Sir Ian McKellen will be attending Shanghai International Film Festival.

The programme will also inspire and support creative talent in the UK and China, stimulating further and deeper collaboration between artists and professionals in both countries. In a groundbreaking new collaboration, the UK’s Gecko Theatre and the Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre will premiere a new work in Shanghai, linking legendary Chinese playwright Tang Xianzu’s Dream Plays and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Shakespeare is seen as a master of the English language. His 37 plays and 154 sonnets have added over 3000 words and hundreds of idioms to the English language. Shakespeare Lives is supporting English language learning in China through a new, free massive open online course (MOOC), Exploring English: Shakespeare, as well as through Learn English mobile apps for kids.

Shakespeare Lives is also developing educational links between the UK and China, sharing the best of UK education and inspiring Chinese students to study in the UK, particularly in subjects such as English literature, theatre, performing arts and film. A free Shakespeare schools pack will be available online for teachers and pupils to explore some of the key issues, themes and ideas in Shakespeare’s plays. Shakespeare Smart Talks will give young people in China an insight into UK education, with high-profile creative professionals discussing the impact of Shakespeare in society, arts and culture worldwide.

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