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Gregory Doran: ‘Passport to Shakespeare is every child’s birthright’

Gregory Doran. Photo: RSC/Ellie Kurttz Gregory Doran. Photo: RSC/Ellie Kurttz
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Royal Shakespeare Company artistic director Gregory Doran has called for every child in the UK to have a “passport” to Shakespeare, claiming they are denied their “birthright” without this.

Doran made the plea as he delivered the Richard Dimbleby Lecture, broadcast on the BBC at 10.45pm on March 16.

He used his speech to talk about his own association with Shakespeare as a child and said: “I was very lucky to have been offered the passport that the arts give to enrich your journey through life. In his jubilee, there can be no greater legacy of Shakespeare’s ability to enrich and enhance our lives than to grant every child that passport.”

He described this as a child’s “inheritance” and added: “Our provision of access to Shakespeare, to drama, to literature, to music, to art, to culture, is an index by which we judge ourselves to be civilised. To deny that, to disregard that, to under-fund that, is to cheat ourselves and our children and deny them their birthright.”

Doran highlighted in particular a school that had taken part in one of the RSC’s education programmes. He explained that initially parents at the school had claimed Shakespeare was only for “clever” people. “To cut a long story short, after two years working with the RSC, teachers and pupils at the school are getting excited about Shakespeare,” he said.

Doran also used his lecture to reveal that he had always been “suspicious of the sort of universalising dogma about Shakespeare: the assertion (or the Great British propaganda) that he is indisputably, unquestionably the world’s greatest writer” and that to “suggest otherwise is some sort of dangerous heresy”.

However, he went on to say that his recent trip to China, where the RSC has opened Henry IV and Henry V, had given him “living proof of his genius unfolding before my very ears and eyes”. “In truth it would seem Shakespeare has become fashionable in China,” he said.

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