The Swan Theatre on Waterside, Stratford-upon-Avon is a favourite space for many actors, directors and audiences. An intimate theatre, it has the capacity for up to 469 people on three sides of a deep thrust stage.

The Swan Theatre shares its front of house space with the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, with audiences enjoying the same foyer, Box Office, bars and restaurant.

We regularly stage the work of Shakespeare's contemporaries in the Swan Theatre, as well as plays by later writers, such as Restoration playwrights, and new work by today's writers.

The Swan Theatre view of all the seats, empty and flipped up, from the stage
The Swan Theatre auditorium
Photo by Lucy Barriball © RSC Browse and license our images


Swan Theatre seating plan (from April 2023)

Getting to the Swan Theatre

We have partnered with You.Smart.Thing, a travel assistant which helps visitors to the RSC and Stratford-upon-Avon find the best routes and receive personalised travel updates and live travel news when travelling to our theatres and events. It’s free to use, there’s nothing to download and you can quickly and easily plan your trip.

You can use You.Smart.Thing. to choose an efficient travel plan that suits you, that will help you reduce your carbon footprint or find the most suitable active travel route to our theatres. It can also help you access electric vehicle charging points, accessible parking and Park and Ride services.

Our travel assistant is still in development and will continue to be updated during this time.

The History of the Swan Theatre

The Shakespeare Memorial Theatre was the brainchild of a local brewer, Charles Edward Flower. He donated a two-acre site by the River Avon and in 1875 launched an international campaign to build a theatre in the town of Shakespeare’s birth.

The theatre, a Victorian-Gothic building seating just over 700 people, opened in 1879 with a performance of Much Ado About Nothing. Plays were performed during the weeks of the festival designed to celebrate Shakespeare, which took place each spring. For the rest of the year, the building provided a venue for local events, in addition to a museum and library to study Shakespeare. The Memorial Theatre was awarded a Royal Charter in 1925 to recognise almost 50 years of excellence.

In 1926, the theatre burned down, with only the library and art gallery being saved. After a period in ruins, the burnt-out shell of the old theatre was then converted into a conference centre with a flat roof. It was only in 1986 that the Swan Theatre, designed by architect Michael Reardon, opened within the original red-brick gothic façade, with a performance of Two Noble Kinsmen.

The Swan Theatre temporarily closed in 2007 as part of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Transformation project, reopening on 24 February 2011.

2023 Refurbishment

The Swan Theatre closed during the pandemic and then went through a year-long programme of works to refurbish it, including:

  • New wider seats with armrests in all positions replacing the previous bench seating to improve audience comfort.
  • More wheelchair spaces and a new induction loop for those with hearing impairments, continuing our commitment to making our work accessible to as many people as possible.
  • Work to reduce our environmental impact and improve the theatre's sustainability by including new technical systems that are futureproof and energy efficient.
  • Structural work to enable the Ashcroft rehearsal room situated above the theatre to be used again.

The theatre reopened in April 2023 with the world premiere of Hamnet.