The set of stamps to be issued on 12 April celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Britain’s most famous publicly funded theatre company.

It was in 1961 that famous director Sir Peter Hall founded the modern RSC as a permanent company, although earlier companies had been putting on seasons of plays in Stratford-upon-Avon, William Shakespeare’s birthplace,
since 1879.

The six counter sheet stamps highlight six famous productions of Shakespeare plays, in most cases showing living actors who are eminently recognisable, albeit in character. They also include quotations from the relevant play.

The four-stamp miniature sheet celebrates the RSC’s four theatres in Stratford-upon-Avon by means of a three-dimensional collage based on the concept of theatrical scenery.

Philip Parker of Royal Mail Stamps said: ‘We wanted to mark this important anniversary by producing stamps which reflect the drama and excitement generated by RSC productions over the past five decades.’

Michael Boyd, Artistic Director of the RSC, said: ‘It has been an almost   impossible job to choose images which represent the extraordinary range of work we have produced, but I hope people will enjoy what they see and join us in Stratford or on tour in the future.’

The stamps were designed by Hat-Trick, with typography by Marion Deuchars.

VERDICT

COMMEMORATIVE WORTH   
The issue celebrates a great British institution which showcases the best of British literature and culture

QUALITY OF DESIGN    
A lot of effort has gone into the designs, and yet they seem unlikely to be win universal acclaim

WOW FACTOR    
The stamps will get noticed. Are they tarnished by depicting living people?


1st class Hamlet
The troubled Prince of Denmark, is shown being played by David Tennant in 2008, in modern dress. The quotation is from the most famous soliloquy in Shakespearean tragedy.

66p The Tempest
This scene shows the wizard Prospero, played by Antony Sher in 2009, conjuring up a storm to wreck the usurping Duke of Milan and his entourage on Prospero’s remote island.

68p Henry VI
The Lancastrian King is shown being played by Chuk Iwuji in 2006, during the RSC’s Complete Works cycle, in which the company performed all of Shakespeare’s plays in a year.

76p King Lear
In one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies, the title role is seen played by Paul Scofield in 1962. His performance was voted the best ever in a 2004 poll of RSC members.

£1.00 A Midsummer Night’s Dream
In Shakespeare’s best-known comedy, confused lovers roaming the forest outside Athens fall into the grip of the queen of the fairies, Titania, played here by Sara Kestelman in 1970.

£1.10 Romeo & Juliet
In this version of the famous tragedy, first printed in 1597, the doomed lovers from feuding families are played by Ian McKellen and Francesca Annis in 1976.

MINIATURE SHEET

1st class Royal Shakespeare Theatre
The RSC’s newly recontructed 1,040-seat showpiece theatre, with Janet Suzman as Ophelia from the 1965 production of Hamlet.

68p Swan Theatre
The 400-seat theatre which opened in 1986, with Patrick Stewart as Antony in the 2006 production of Antony & Cleopatra.

76p The Courtyard Theatre
The 1,000-seat temporary theatre, with Geoffrey Streatfield in the 2007 production of Henry V.

£1.00 The Other Place
The small ‘black box’ theatre dating from 1974, with Dame Judi Dench as Lady Macbeth in 1976.

(The border of the miniature sheet shows Vivien Leigh in Macbeth, Andrea Harris in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the playwright William Shakespeare himself)

OTHER PRODUCTS
The presentation pack, written by theatre critic Benedict Nightingale, takes a detailed look at the RSC’s work. Stamp cards and a first day cover are also available.

PRICES

Set of 6 stamps    £4.66
Miniature sheet    £2.90
Presentation pack     £8.10
Stamp cards     £4.95
First day envelope     £0.30
First day cover (stamps)     £6.07
First day cover (sheet)    £3.96
TOTAL    £30.94