RSC Builds Temporary 1000-seat Theatre for 2007Date: 16 December 2004
In preparation for its £100 million transformation of the Grade II-listed Royal Shakespeare Theatre (pictured) in Stratford-upon-Avon, the Royal Shakespeare Company will construct a 1,000-seat temporary venue that will allow it to continue to perform its core large-scale repertoire uninterrupted (See News, 22 Sep 2004).
The interim structure, for which the RSC has this week submitted a planning application to the local council, will be built on the site of the car park adjacent to its studio theatre, The Other Place. Work is scheduled to commence in summer 2005 so that the venue will be available in time for the year-long Complete Works of Shakespeare Festival kicking off in April 2006.
By 2007, when work is due to begin on redeveloping the RST into a more intimate thrust-stage auditorium, the temporary theatre will become the Stratford home for the company’s main house ensemble until the opening of the new RST in 2009.
Commenting on the transitional plan, RSC artistic director Michael Boyd said: “We don’t want our audiences stuck in a theatrical waiting room until we re-open the RST in 2009. Although temporary, we want to create an exciting theatrical space, with all the facilities our audiences expect. In many ways, the auditorium will be a prototype for the new RST, allowing us to test and experiment with our ambitions for a new one-room thrust stage.”
Executive director Vikki Heywood added: “We wanted to build a new temporary auditorium close to our existing theatres; somewhere our audiences are already used to coming to. By building on a brownfield site and piggybacking on existing facilities, we’re planning to keep disruption to a minimum. We’ve always been committed to continuing to perform in Stratford throughout our redevelopment. That’s important for us, but also for visitors to the town and our audiences in Stratford and the wider region.”
The present Other Place auditorium will house foyer and other audience facilities for the new theatre while it’s operational throughout the redevelopment. The company is also exploring additional spaces in the town as venues for the company’s small- and mid-scale repertoire. Following the transformation of the RST, The Other Place will return to its current use as the company’s small-scale, studio theatre.
The thrust-stage redevelopment of the RST supersedes previous artistic director Adrian Noble’s plan to demolish the 1932 Stratford landmark in favour of a “21st-century waterfront theatre village” (See News, 18 Oct 2001). The controversy surrounding that and his decision to withdraw the company from its London residency at the Barbican Centre eventually led to Noble’s resignation in April 2002 (See News, 24 Apr 2002). Since succeeding him in April 2003 (See News, 31 Mar 2003), Michael Boyd has been dealing with the consequences of Noble’s company changes, almost all of which have now been overturned.
- by Terri Paddock