Gregory Doran tells RSC audiences “We will be back.”
“Cruel are the times” says Ross, in Macbeth. We “float upon a wild and violent sea / Each way and move”.
How often we look to Shakespeare to articulate our fears and anxieties, and how much we need that human reassurance today.
So, when we had to close all our theatres in the middle of March, it was a blow to lose the platform on which we share the wisdom and compassion of our great house playwright. King John closed early in the Swan. The Taming of the Shrew, As You Like It and Measure for Measure had to interrupt their national tour and cancel the international visits to the United States, Seoul and Tokyo. And The Winter’s Tale andThe Comedy of Errors company had to put their rehearsals on hold for the moment.
Alongside the Shakespeares, our new work has been interrupted. The last performances of Juliet Gilkes Romero’s wonderful play The Whip in the Swan, and of John Kani’s brilliant two-hander, Kunene and the King at the Ambassadors in the West End also had to close early. Our Spring transfers of A Museum in Baghdad to the Kiln Theatre and Tartuffe to Birmingham Rep have also had to be cancelled. Performances of Matilda The Musical at the Cambridge Theatre have been suspended.
Since then, we have had to make even tougher decisions. Due to the financial impact of the crisis, we have decided to close the Swan Theatre until the autumn, cancelling all performances of Maria Aberg’s Projekt Europa season. This includes the new adaptation of Patrik Ourednik’s Europeana, Barbara Frey’s production of Peer Gyntand Tiago Rodrigues’ adaptation of José Saramago’s Blindness and Seeing, which are now, regrettably, cancelled. We have considered this very carefully, but it is sadly unavoidable. We will also postpone the production of Pericles to 2021.
However.... we will be back.
Shakespeare knew all about theatre closures. His career was peppered with them. He had to find different ways to stay solvent and visible. And he turned creatively to poetry, writing both the deliciously erotic Venus and Adonis[, and graver The Rape of Lucrece, and he collected together and published his sonnets which cover the entire gamut of human emotions.
We are thinking as laterally and creatively as possible too, as are our colleagues across the cultural industries, who are finding that necessity is the mother of many wonderful inventions. We are developing all sorts of ways to reach out and share our work – with our Stratford-upon-Avon home, our community, our partners across the country and with the world – and we are working on ways to do more. For starters, you can access many RSC Live From Stratford-upon-Avon broadcasts via Marquee TV and the BBC, and we have created a hub for home learning to support teachers and families across the nation with our extensive resources.
With certainty as rare a commodity as loo rolls these days, it is hard to say when precisely we will re-open, but we will be back as soon as we can, with a new appreciation of the power and value of the shared experiences we create with audiences, artists and partners. We are going to need to ask for help from all of our friends to ensure we can indeed return as strong as we were before; if you feel you can help, please get in touch.
Please keep safe and look out for your friends and loved ones and we look forward to welcoming you back as soon as this is over.
As Shakespeare also says: “Things at the worst will cease, or else climb upward /To what they were before”.