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Last Updated: Monday, 11 July, 2005, 12:05 GMT 13:05 UK
Dench joins Shakespeare festival
Dame Judi Dench
Dame Judi will star in a production of The Merry Wives of Windsor
Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellen are to take part in a festival in which every play, sonnet and long poem written by Shakespeare will be staged.

The year-long festival, called The Complete Works, will be staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford- upon-Avon from April next year.

It will be the first time all of the Bard's 37 pieces have been presented at one event.

Organisers said it will be the biggest festival in the history of the RSC.

Theatre groups from around the world have also be invited to take part in the festival, with companies from South and North America, Russia, the Middle East, Asia, Africa and across Europe lined up to take part.

Cultural festival

Fifteen of the productions in The Complete Works will be staged by the RSC, including a new musical adaptation of The Merry Wives of Windsor, starring Dame Judi, and the return of Sir Ian as King Lear.

RSC artistic director Michael Boyd said: "While there will be some who'll relish the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see all the plays in one Festival, The Complete Works is not only for Shakespeare aficionados.

"The Festival looks set to be the most extensive celebration of Shakespeare's genius - at once a national knees-up for the RSC's house playwright and a survey of the different approaches to his work from around the world.

"Our ambition is to stage one of the most significant cultural festivals of the year in Stratford-upon-Avon," he added.

A new outdoor theatre - The Dell - will be built in the riverside gardens beside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and a temporary 100-seat studio will be erected inside the auditorium for a month.

Actors will also perform in the 1,000-seat Courtyard Theatre, which is scheduled to open in July 2006, and Holy Trinity Church, the burial place of Shakespeare.

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