Noble's RSC Departure Prompts Stratford RethinkDate: 29 April 2002
Just days after Adrian Noble's resignation announcement, Royal Shakespeare Company management has started to pull back from some of the controversial plans that hounded Noble out of his position as artistic director and chief executive. In particular, Noble's much-criticised proposal to demolish the company's Grade II-listed Royal Shakespeare Theatre (pictured) in Stratford-upon-Avon - in favour of a £100 million 21st-century "theatre village" - now looks unlikely to go ahead.
Speaking in various Sunday newspapers, RSC executives distanced themselves from the development project which has drawn consternation from such theatrical dignitaries as Judi Dench, Michael Gambon and Donald Sinden as well as the Prince of Wales, politicians, conservations and other pundits.
Jonathan Pope, the RSC's redevelopment director, told the Sunday Telegraph that talk of demolition of the 1932 riverside venue was premature. "The RSC has decided that it needs to look at a whole series of major changes, one of which may be the demolition of the RST, but we certainly haven't decided we are going to do that. We have absolutely not decided."
Meanwhile, despite a carefully worded statement last week in support of Noble and his plans, RSC chairman Lord Alexander told the Sunday Times this weekend that, "Demolition may not happen. It may be reshaping. Demolition also needs to be tested against other things. We're working on various options."
Alexander went on to criticise some of Noble's practices while stewarding the company - in particular his recent "factory line" productions and the confusion created for theatregoers by the withdrawal from the Barbican and other scheduling changes - and admitted that internal morale had sunk very low. The chairman said that the RSC were determined to "get it right" with the changes and that, in future, the roles of artistic director and chief executive were likely to be separated.
In a decision that shocked many in the theatre world for its timing, Adrian Noble announced last Wednesday, 24 April 2002, that he would be leaving the RSC in March 2003, after 22 years with the theatrical flagship and 12 leading it as artistic director and chief executive. An official statement at the time claimed that he thought it was "now time for me to seek new artistic challenges", Noble has admitted that it he had finally had enough of the sustained abuse directed at him and his family. He has come under fierce fire for the past year, during which he has announced a series of radical changes to the RSC - including the termination of its London residency at the Barbican Centre in favour of one-off West End seasons, the rewriting ensemble contracts and the demolition of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
- by Terri Paddock