Play out the Play

The Complete Plays: 3 years, 38 plays, 76 workshops and a lot of baked goods…


Over the 3 years of workshops held twice a month, we formed a company of theatre practitioners who share our passion for Shakespeare and with whom we could start to explore his plays. Starting on 10th March 2013 and concluding in April 2016, the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the 3-year project of workshops was designed as the foundation upon which Scaffold’s future productions will be built.

There were no selection criteria for attending the workshops, no long-term commitment was required (each workshop was a stand-alone day exploring each play as an individual), and there was no need to prepare anything in advance (it did always help to have read the play).

They were an opportunity for all comers to explore the individual texts, and the canon as a whole, free from the demands of production.

Each month we looked at a new play, working in rough chronological order through them, following Shakespeare’s development as a dramatist. We held two workshops each month. Workshop 1 involved a read-through of the whole play, followed by discussions in small or large groups about any aspect of the work the participants found interesting. In workshop 2, held a fortnight later, we offered participants a masterclass, the topic of which was inspired by that month’s play. A record of the workshops with what was discussed and the relevant masterclass is included on our Workshops page.

The workshop cycle was invaluable as an extensive R&D where we continually asked ourselves the question “What do these plays mean for us now?”. Producing and performing Shakespeare always comes with 400 years of pressure, expectation and Chinese whispers. It has become clear to us that only by challenging received wisdom and a perceived “sanctity” in Shakespeare’s writing can you get past a “correct” Shakespeare to something vital, honest and human – the qualities in Shakespeare’s plays and characters we value the most.


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