Frequently Asked Questions
What are the current timescales for the project?
Architects Bennetts Associates, came on board in March 2005 and work on the initial designs began immediately.
The Courtyard Theatre opened in July 2006 with Michael Boyd’s re-working of the Henry VI trilogy as part of the Complete Works Festival.
Planning permission and listed building consent were granted in April 2007. This led to the closure of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at the end of April with work beginning immediately on the site. It is expected the new theatre will open during 2010.
What will happen to the theatre seat plaques in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre?
The plaques on the back of theatre seats will be transferred to the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST) for its reopening in 2010.
In April 2007, the RSC removed the theatre seats from the RST as part of the decant process, and at the same time, seat plaques were carefully removed and stored. Due to the condition of some existing plaques and in order to fit in with the new auditorium, we will transfer the inscriptions onto replacement plaques to be located within the stalls of the new RST.
The opportunity to inscribe one’s name or that of a loved one on the back of a theatre seat is now available in the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre. For details, see the Take Your Seat Appeal.
If you would like more information or have any questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the RSC Campaign office on 01789 272526.
What are the RSC’s plans now for the site?
Our intention is to produce a theatre that will be the best space for artists to work in and for audiences to experience Shakespeare’s work. Our aim is to bring the action on stage closer to the audience creating the relationship for which Shakespeare and his contemporaries originally wrote.
In addition to replacing the existing auditorium with a 1,000 seat thrust stage, the plan includes improvement of the front of house facilities with enhanced provision for disabled access, bars, restaurants, toilets and exhibition space. Backstage facilities will be expanded, with improved dressing rooms and a greater separation between the main house and Swan theatres – addressing the current cramped technical and support facilities. The Swan and The Other Place theatres will be retained, and a new dedicated space for the Company’s educational activity will be created.
The Art Deco foyer, including the fountain staircase will remain, however this may not be the main entrance to the building. The architects are examining the potential for a new foyer and other audience facilities which can be accommodated by adapting the building on the western side of the current Royal Shakespeare Theatre, adjacent to Waterside.
The history of continuous Shakespeare performance on the Royal Shakespeare Theatre site will be retained alongside the development of the RST which creatively retains and transforms the building whilst respecting the historic and architectural elements.
You have decided to get rid of your proscenium theatre space in favour of a thrust space. What if theatre trends change and you decide that was the wrong decision?
One room theatre spaces, like the Swan, aim to get the actor and the audience in the same environment reinforcing the idea that they are part of a collaborative event. Shakespeare wrote for a space where actors and the audience where in the same environment not watching the action in a cinema style space. Over the past five years we have adapted the Royal Shakespeare Theatre stage experimenting with ways to bring the stage further out into the audience.
Thrust spaces and one room theatres are nothing new. From the ancient Greeks onwards, audiences and performers have liked the intimacy of a shared space. Most 20th century theatres have sought to create one room rather than two room theatres.
Unlike the ‘picture frame’ proscenium theatres a stage which thrusts into the audience allows a quick transformation of mood, scale, setting and environment that in Shakespeare is led by language rather than stagecraft. It also encourages audiences to bring their imagination to the space and to concentrate more on the language. We are confident that this is the right space to present the work of Shakespeare.
Is the intention still to remain open during the building work?
Yes. It is imperative to the Company and for the economics of Stratford-upon-Avon that we continue to perform throughout the building process.
A temporary theatre – the Courtyard Theatre will open on the site of The Other Place in July 2006. This theatre will open to coincide with the 2006 Complete Works Festival which will take place throughout Stratford involving local, national and international theatre companies. Although temporary, this will be a professional theatre building and the auditorium will have a similar feel to the proposed auditorium for the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
Why did you choose Bennetts Associates as the new architects?
Bennetts Associates are recognised as one of the UK’s leading firms of architects and proved they clearly understood our responsibilities as a local, regional, national and international theatre company – and the challenges of marrying the wide range of architectural styles on and surrounding our site.
Their style of working means they work in a collaborative and creative way – a critical aspect of the project. They are the architects of the Hampstead Theatre in London, Wessex Water’s Operations Centre in Bath, and the Loch Lomond Gateway and Orientation Centre. Their most recent completed project is the Central Library in Brighton.
Bennetts Associates completed a feasibility study in October 2005. The study details the issues involved in the project and begins to examine how problems may be resolved. The architects then work on the outline designs for the building.
Why do you need to change the theatres?
The RSC theatres and related estate are now in need of major renewal. There is growing concern amongst audiences about the inadequate public facilities. The working environment is out-of-date and creates increasing difficulties in meeting legislative requirements and places constraints on the artistic and technical work.
Currently the RSC education work too often takes place on the margins of the Company. The RSC has a duty to create the best education work within the theatre world with integrated work at the heart of the RSC’s operation. The education work should be scheduled alongside the core repertoire but also in suitable spaces that are currently unavailable.
The project will produce revitalised theatre spaces for our work, artists, audiences, employees and visitors; a high profile new Shakespeare playhouse, a 21st century re-interpretation of the stage-audience relationship for which Shakespeare and his contemporaries wrote; major restoration of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Swan Theatre, revealing the beauty of their original design, plus a re-landscaped waterfront area and pedestrianised road areas to create new public spaces for people to enjoy.
Our intention is to create a theatre which has the best artists wanting to work in our core Shakespeare space.
Will the Swan Theatre close during the project?
Because the Swan Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Theatre are so intrinsically linked we will have to close the Swan Theatre for a significant period during the building work on the theatre. It would be impossible for us to operate in that space for health and safety reasons. However, we are looking to minimise the amount of time the building has to close and we are currently looking at how we can supplement our activity in the Courtyard Theatre during the time that the Royal Shakspeare Theatre and Swan Theatre are closed.
Why does the RSC need a temporary theatre?
It has always been our intention that the RSC continues performing during the transformation of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre not only for the benefit of its audiences but also the economic health of the town.
- Visitors to the RSC number approximately 475,000 a year (approximately 15% of visitors to the district).
- They are high value visitors spending approximately £59 per person per night.
- Direct spending attributable to RSC visitors is estimated at £12.8 – 14.7 million p.a. or 20% of visitor spending (excluding tickets).
- Around 200 hotel/guesthouse rooms are occupied by RSC visitors each night.
- Approximately £4 million is spent on food and drink outside the RSC.
- The RSC contributes approximately £32 million each year to the region.
None of the above can be achieved if the RSC is not performing while the Royal Shakespeare Theatre is being transformed.
Why was The Other Place site chosen?
A number of sites were looked at as a potential place to build the temporary theatre. The Other Place site was by far the best option because:
- The site allows us to use the existing facilities at The Other Place, reducing the cost and size of the building.
- We can build away from the flood plain.
- Audiences are used to seeing our work in that building.
- The building will be relatively discrete as it will sit back from the roadside. If it was built on the theatre gardens or leisure centre car park it would dominate those areas.
What does the exterior of the building look like?
All visible external surfaces are built in a building material called ‘Corten A’ – a rich natural deep autumn colour. This steel material was chosen so that it blended with the surrounding environment.
There are certain characteristics of the steel fabric which can be exploited in the building:
- It is sound proof.
- It is fast to assemble on site.
- More than 90% recycled steel will be used.
- It will have the potential to be recycled after deconstruction.
What will the temporary theatre be?
- The auditorium will have a thrust stage with the audience wrapped around three sides. The auditorium will, in some ways, be a prototype for the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre auditorium.
- It will seat up to 1000 people.
- The Other Place theatre space will be transformed into a double level foyer and bar area which will serve light snacks for those visiting the shows.
- Additional cloakrooms, toilets, actors’ changing facilities will be built in TOP.
What will happen to the building afterwards?
The theatre will be temporary. Much of the building material used will be recycled. ‘Corten A’, the fabric used to construct the shell, is highly desirable and can be melted down and sold. Other material can be used for scrap. Only the roof membrane and the carpets cannot be recycled. The Other Place will revert to being the RSC’s small scale studio space.