He had died seven years earlier but two of his colleagues from the King’s Men theatre company produced The First Folio to ensure that the plays survived for future generations.
In 2005 when self-confessed Shakespeare obsessive Ben Spiller was forming his own theatre company to champion the playwright’s work 1623 seemed to be the most appropriate name.
Ten years on and the award-winning company based at QUAD in Derby has become synonymous with thought-provoking, innovative projects which ensure that everyone has a chance to experience The Bard.
“It was just an idea ten years ago but people have really run with it and made my dream a reality,” said Ben who is now the company’s artistic director.
“For me it is all about allowing people to see Shakespeare differently through performances and workshops in ways that relate to the world around us today. I truly believe that all of life is in that body of work.”
The company has just celebrated the anniversary with a party for everyone associated with the group.
“We had almost 100 guests and it was a wonderful event. It was so good to see so many people who have been a part of the journey and to be able to share so many memories,” said Ben.
The decade has seen Ben and his team perform 193 shows of 12 different productions in more than 70 locations across the country.
“Many have been in all sorts of non-traditional theatre spaces including a quarry, a courtroom, a shopping centre, and even Poole’s Cavern where we were nominated Best Production in the Buxton Festival Fringe,” said Ben.
The group has also held 254 workshops in schools and colleges and even more at libraries and community centres.
The most recent project they have embarked on has been exploring King Lear in the context of dementia and that has involved running creative workshops in care homes.
The results of the research will be seen in a new adaptation of the play set in a care home, which is being produced with Derby Theatre next year to mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
A second new play that explores the impact of dementia on family life is being written from the perspective of Lear’s youngest daughter Cordelia.
“This is a very exciting project for us and I am thrilled that the new play is being written by Birmingham REP Foundry playwright Farrah Chaudhry,” said Ben who will be adapting and directing Lear.
“For me it is all about inclusivity and diversity. Shakespeare is for everyone and I don’t think I will ever get tired of saying that.”
To find out more go to 1623theatre.co.uk