The Royal Shakespeare Company has decided to expand its redevelopment plans for making the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (pictured) in Stratford-upon-Avon “the best theatre in the world for Shakespeare”, after exceeding the original £100 million fundraising target before work has even begun on the three-year transformation. The RSC will now launch a public appeal to raise an additional £12.8 million for more extensive renovations to the Grade II-listed building.

In September 2004, the RSC officially scrapped controversial plans put in place by former RSC artistic director Adrian Noble to demolish the RST (See News, 22 Sep 2004). Instead, a new 1,030-capacity auditorium is being created within the existing 1932 riverside building, which currently seats 1,400. Once redesigned, the distance from the furthest seat to the stage will be reduced from the current 27 metres to 15 metres.

According to RSC artistic director Michael Boyd, the RST’s new, more intimate thrust-stage auditorium – which will be the largest thrust stage with a tiered auditorium in the world - will “marry truth and epic” (See News, 14 Jun 2006). The revitalised building will include expansion of both front of house (more disabled access, bar, restaurants, toilet and exhibition space) and backstage facilities (improved dressing rooms, technical and support areas).

The further improvements, to be covered by the additional £12.8 million announced today, will include a double-height rooftop restaurant with dual views across the Avon river and Bancroft lawns, as well as increased space and facilities for artists and staff. At the same time, the original 1932 riverside façade, the foyer and circle bar will be restored.

After securing £70 million from public funding, £50 million from Arts Council England and £20 million from Advantage West Midlands, the RSC raised more than £30 million from its own fundraising efforts, some £22 million of that from five private philanthropists, to cover the £100 million cost of its original scheme.

Work begins on 30 April 2007, when the RST will be officially decommissioned, and is due to be completed in 2010. Until then, the temporary 1,000-seat Courtyard Theatre will act as the RSC’s main home in Stratford.

- by Terri Paddock