RSC Plans to Demolish Stratford LandmarkDate: 28 August 1998
The Royal Shakespeare Company confirmed yesterday that it hopes to demolish the landmark Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and replace it with a more production-friendly modern building.
Director Adrian Noble is already in discussion with Dutch architect Erick Van Egeraat on the construction of the new theatre which is likely to cost in the region of £80 million and which would be heavily subsidised by funds from the National Lottery.
Built in 1932, the current Art Deco-style building was designed by Elisabeth Scott, the first woman to architect a theatre. Perched on the bank of the Avon river, the theatre was meant to resemble an ocean liner when viewed from the opposite bank. During its 66 year history, many famous actors - such as Paul Robeson, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Sir Laurence Olivier and Sir John Gielgud - have performed at the Theatre.
In recent years, however, the 1,500-seat theatre has become a less popular space for directors, performers and audiences alike who complain of the vast space, poor sightlines and acoustics. They prefer the Swan Theatre, a much smaller, mock Elizabethan venue next door. At a recent performance of Twelfth Night in the main theatre, attendance was only 10 per cent of capacity.
The RSC wants to build the new theatre on the same location but with significant changes to the auditorium as well as a more welcoming and spacious front of house which would feature an information centre, meeting rooms and performance space.
Even if the RSC's lottery application is approved, rebuilding is unlikely to begin until after 2000.