Royal Shakespeare Theatre
The future Royal Shakespeare Theatre
The RSC’s ambition is to create a modern take on the courtyard theatres of Shakespeare’s day, with a thrust stage auditorium seating just over 1,030 people. The aim is to transform the relationship between artists and audiences, reducing the distance from the furthest seat to the stage from 27 to 15 metres
At the heart of the project is a new main stage for the Company, designed with theatre consultants Charcoalblue. The new Royal Shakespeare Theatre will replace the problematic 1932 auditorium, which owes more to cinema than theatre design, and separates the audience from the actors.
A new auditorium for Shakespeare
‘We want to move away from the 19th Century proscenium ‘picture frame’ to a theatre which celebrates interaction. Our commitment to bring an immediacy and clarity to Shakespeare means we need to bring the audience to a more engaged relationship with our actors. The best way we can achieve this is in a bold, thrust-stage, one-room auditorium - a modern take on the theatres of Shakespeare’s day.’
— RSC Artistic Director, Michael Boyd
Key elements of the scheme include:
- A new thrust stage seating over 1,030 for the Royal Shakespeare Theatre;
- Restoration of the valued heritage elements of the building; including the Art Deco foyer, fountain staircase and front façade;
- An accessible riverside walkway running alongside the RSC’s theatres enhancing access to the river and gardens;
- Dramatically expanded and fully accessible public areas with improved facilities for audiences, including a rooftop café/restaurant and two new café/bars, foyers linking the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres, and more and better toilets;
- A theatre tower marking the new entrance, providing circulation to all parts of the building and unrivalled views across Stratford;
- A public square, providing a meeting place and outdoor stage for music and performance that connects the theatres and their surrounding environment;
- Improved and accessible backstage conditions for artists and stage crew, including new dressing rooms as well as training, study and rehearsal spaces for actors;
- A centre for the RSC’s workshop, learning and administrative facilities immediately opposite the theatre, providing opportunities for tours revealing the backstage life of the Company.
RSC to perform in Stratford throughout the project
The RSC, which contributes over £58 million a year to the economy of the West Midlands, will continue to perform in Stratford throughout the transformation at the new The Courtyard Theatre, completed in phase 1 of the project. In addition to a year-round presence in Stratford, the Company will continue to perform in London, Newcastle upon Tyne and on tour in the UK and overseas.
£100 million already pledged
The RSC has already secured over £100 million in its international campaign to transform the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. In 2005 Arts Council England confirmed their £50 million pledge for the project to be matched from other sources. In January 2006, regional development agency Advantage West Midlands pledged to invest a further £20 million in the project to reflect the RSC’s position as a flagship for cultural tourism and a significant economic force in the region.
RSC Honorary Associate Artist, Dame Judi Dench and RSC Deputy Chair Susie Sainsbury, are leading the international fundraising campaign to reach the target. The RSC has also secured over £22 million in private pledges, with significant commitments from the RSC Board and Governors and supporters in the West Midlands. As with the fundraising for the construction of the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres, funding has also been secured from donors in the United States through RSC America and its Board members.
In August 2008 a public appeal was launched to raise £1 million towards the project. Find out more.
Wide ranging consultation
Before deciding on the final designs, the RSC undertook a wide-ranging programme of public consultation, shaped by a Community Forum which was set up in March 2006. The Company also canvassed opinions widely among actors, theatre artists, staff, and crucially, audiences. Research among RSC audiences shows their priorities include: improved sightlines and stage visibility; more foyer space and informal spaces to meet; and better use of the theatres’ riverside setting.
The RSC’s plans have been developed in tandem with the proposals from Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Warwickshire County Council to develop the waterfront area in the town. The RSC is working closely with World Class Stratford to ensure both projects work hand in hand.
‘We want to open up the theatre and improve its relationship with the town. We had a building that felt like a fortress with its gates shut to visitors. I’m confident that we’ve got a scheme that reflects the RSC’s ambition to reach out and make Shakespeare fresh and relevant to a new generation.’
— RSC Chairman, Sir Christopher Bland
Work begain in April 2007 and is due for completion in 2010. Read the diary of events.