The North East’s contribution to the World Shakespeare Festival, part of London 2012 festival and the culmination of the Cultural Olympiad, has been announced.

It will run across three venues between 26 June and 28 July 2012 – The Sage Gateshead, Northern Stage and Newcastle Theatre Royal and include five new productions in celebration of The Bard.

The national World Shakespeare Festival forms part of London 2012 Festival, and will bring together leading artists from all over the world in a once-in-a-lifetime experience of extraordinary theatre in celebration of Shakespeare as ‘the world’s playwright’. Produced by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in an unprecedented collaboration with leading UK and international arts organisations, and with Globe to Globe, a major international programme produced by Shakespeare’s Globe, it will showcase the best of UK and international creative talent. It is the first ever collaboration of its kind on such a major scale.

As half the world’s children study Shakespeare at school, the major focus of the Festival is on young people – inspiring them through Shakespeare and the challenge and fun of performance, and encouraging creativity. Hundreds of amateur groups and thousands of teachers and young people will be taking part.

The five North east offerings, all either commissioned or produced by the RSC include: The Rest is Silence (26 – 30 June) by dreamthinkspeak at Northern Stage, a textual and visual deconstruction of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, interweaving performance, film and installation to create a vigorous new interpretation.

In A Pickle (27 – 30 June) by Oily Cart is a new show for children under 6 inspired by Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale.

West Side Story (4 – 7 July) produced by The Sage Gateshead in association with the RSC’s Open Stages, a full-scale production of Bernstein’s classic musical featuring a cast of professional as well as new and emerging talent, selected from across the region and beyond. Auditions will take place between October 3 and 8 and those successful will be directed and choreographed by Will Tuckett and feature alongside Northern Sinfonia, orchestra of The Sage Gateshead, conducted by Gateshead-born conductor John Wilson.

Macbeth (11 – 14 July) produced by Tunisia’s Artistes, Producteurs, Associés for Northern Stage is a modern day adaptation, mixing contemporary reportage and Shakespeare in a production inspired by the tumultuous events of the Arab Spring. Macbeth’s brutality and terrifying actions are transposed to north Africa, to a region on the brink of uprising.

Julius Caesar (19 – 28 July) produced by the RSC for Newcastle’s Theatre Royal gives dark contemporary echoes to Shakespeare’s great political thriller, set in modern Africa. It is directed by RSC Chief Associate Gregory Doran, whose most recent productions include Shakespeare’s ‘lost play’ Cardenio, as part of the RSC’s 50th birthday celebrations, as well as his 2008 production of Hamlet.

The World Shakespeare Festival runs from 23 April to November 2012 and is supported by the National Lottery through the Olympic Lottery Distributor, Arts Council England and BP, whose sponsorship as Founding Presenting Partner is announced today. Over 70 productions and exhibitions, as well as events and activities, take place across the UK, including London, Stratford-upon-Avon, Newcastle/Gateshead, Birmingham, Brighton, Wales and Scotland as well as online.

It is hoped the legacy of the festival will be to bring Shakespeare to a wider audience and to ensure that artists and audiences continue to be inspired by and learn from this extraordinary playwright. It is also hoped that relationships seeded from artistic collaborations around the world will generate groundbreaking future projects.