Background & History
Original Shakespeare Company
The OSC was founded by Patrick Tucker, Christine Ozanne and Graham Pountney in 1991, endeavouring to recreate Elizabethan performance conditions. Their professional actors were trained to observe and theatricalise the clues which they had identified in First Folio text and believed to be put there by the author for the benefit of the working actor.
Putting on the plays in this manner was always a revelation, as new thoughts and ideas about the plays came out of this attempt at re-creating the original working practices. It soon became obvious that the Folio text was a much more accurate guide to performance than had previously been thought by academics and theatre people alike.
We tried to give the audiences the authentic experience by only doing one performance, or if we did more than one we would change the cast round to keep the spontaneity that would have been in the first performances. Such performances were thrilling, popular, and very uneconomic both financially and in the time taken to mount them. This led to the company going into suspension after presenting plays from each section of the First Folio, of Comedies, Tragedies, Romances and Histories.
OSC performances include most of The Comedie of Errors at the Mermaid Theatre, As you Like it; King John; Cymbeline at Shakespeare's Globe, London; Margaret of Anjou (scenes from the Henry VI and Richard III plays) in the Great Hall at Hampton Court Palace; Scenes from Measure for Measure and Hamlet for the English Department, Cambridge University; As you Like it and The Taming of the Shrew at the Du Maurier Festival in Toronto, Canada; A Midsommer Nights Dreame in Sydney, Australia; Germany and Jordan.
Between 1993 and 1999 the OSC presented full length presentations on 29 occasions, with the actors never meeting for group rehearsals, each only being given their Part, and all asked not to read the play or to make any acting decision other than that found in the text. The Platt for that performance would be hung backstage, and a copy of it given to the audience as a programme.
Full details of the work and philosophy of the company are contained in Secrets of Acting Shakespeare – the original approach, and in Acting from Shakespeare's First Folio; see both in Publications.
Full Length Productions
(a) = abridged
Please see our Roll of Honour for a list of the actors, musicians and costumiers who brought the Original Shakespeare Company's productions to life.