RSC Misses Transfer Deadline, Lets Company GoDate: 14 October 2003
Following last week's contract extension (See News, 7 Oct 2003), the Royal Shakespeare Company has disbanded its current Stratford acting company, which includes such luminaries as Henry Goodman, David Bradley, Daniel Evans, Emma Fielding, Alexandra Gilbreath and Jasper Britton.
At a company meeting called last Friday afternoon (10 October 2003), the actors were informed that the option to extend their contracts beyond the current Stratford, Newcastle and Washington DC commitments was not being taken up.
London will therefore be denied the chance to see a run of acclaimed productions that includes the unique complementary pairing of The Taming of the Shrew and John Fletcher's The Tamer Tamed, unless their director Gregory Doran uses his powers of persuasion, as he did last year with the six-play Jacobethan season that was brought to the West End's Gielgud Theatre, to convince a commercial producer to move them to London instead. But the producers of that season, Bill Kenwright and Thelma Holt, also ratcheted up losses of over £1million in the process, so it won't be an easy job.
However, Whatsonstage.com has now learned that the RSC may have had another option all along to avoid setting the history-making precedent (of an entire Stratford season bypassing the capital for the first time since the company's foundation in 1960). When the company left London's Barbican Centre in May 2002, an offer was publicly made by the Barbican management to enable the RSC to return there for a rent-free period of eight to ten weeks annually - an offer that has not only never been revoked but, apparently, also been reiterated.
An RSC spokesperson told Whatsonstage.com that they would not, however, return as a resident company to the Barbican but would go back for joint productions, such as the January 2003 staging of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children. "But the Barbican is now booked two years hence, so it is not a solution at this moment in time."
In May 2001 (See News, 25 May 2001), however, when the then artistic director Adrian Noble announced the Barbican withdrawal, he stated, "The RSC will adopt a more flexible model for its operations in London, moving centre stage with more plays in a wider range of venues, more premieres and an important presence in the West End. We will have more first nights. All that is attractive to actors as well as audiences."
It has now, on the contrary, moved offstage entirely, and failed to establish any presence in the West End, let alone an important one. There are now no first nights on the immediate horizon.
Having inherited this difficult situation, the newly installed artistic director Michael Boyd has now promised to announce, at the start of the new year, plans for a temporary London home that, from autumn 2004, will re-establish the RSC presence in the capital which the company is partly funded to provide. During the company's current bid for stabilisation, however - and with its deficit now running at an accumulated £2.8million - that risk cannot be taken with the current season now playing out its final weeks.
- by Mark Shenton