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Thursday, 24 May, 2001, 16:46 GMT 17:46 UK
RSC announces shake-up
RSC production of Henry IV
The RSC wants more big names
The Royal Shakespeare Company is to scale down operations at the Barbican and mount productions in a wider range of theatres as part of a major overhaul.

Under the plans, the company will become much more flexible, but it could mean job losses in both London and Stratford-upon-Avon.

Ralph Fiennes and Kenneth Branagh, both former alumni of the RSC, will perform under the new plans which include shorter contracts, bold programming of plays and better pay and conditions for actors.

The current structure of the RSC, where actors must commit to a lengthy contract in order to perform with the company, is a deterrent to many actors and directors.

RSC production of A Russian in the Woods
A scene from the RSC production of A Russian in the Woods
RSC artistic director Adrian Noble said that the only way to keep arts institutions "fresh and relevant" was to "break the mould".

"The crucial thing about the process we have embarked on is that it gives us the flexibility to stage bold and original theatre."

New venues

Instead of creating a season of plays which transfer from Stratford to Newcastle to London, a more flexible model will involve a number of smaller companies opening plays throughout the year in a variety of venues.

The company will still stage some productions in the Barbican main theatre, but not in the smaller Pit.

Barbican, London
Talks have begun with 85 staff at the Barbican
The Barbican's Artistic Director Graham Sheffield welcomed the plan, saying it would also give the Barbican greater flexibility, freeing its stages for other projects.

"These changes promise benefits for the Barbican as the release of the summer period in 1998, which enabled us to launch our own BITE international theatre season," he said.

Next generation

Part of the plan is to launch an academy at Stratford in order to recruit actors at the start of their careers and bring them on.

Though a host of stars including Dame Judi Dench, Juliet Stevenson, Ian McKellan, Emily Watson have worked at the RSC, this plan will formalise training and development of actors.

"We want to continue to support classical actors and directors of the future - to offer a unique training ground to the next Judi Dench or Anthony Sher," said Noble.

The Arts Council of England, which RSC's main source of funds, welcomed the RSC's review of its operations.

"We are supportive of the move towards a more agile model on the understanding that the substantial change envisaged will enable the RSC to fulfil its national role in the 21st century," said a spokesman.

The Arts Council is waiting for more detailed proposals which will help them determine what financial assistance they will provide.

The RSC's Adrian Noble and critic Michael Billington
discuss the planned shake-up of the Royal Shakespeare Company
See also:

22 Mar 01 | Arts
Cash boost for arts
15 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Radical shake-up at Arts Council
28 Mar 01 | Arts
RSC: Shakespeare and beyond
13 Mar 01 | UK Politics
'Give arts back to the people' - Tories
08 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Theatres share in 25m windfall
08 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Theatres: The agony and the ecstasy
28 Jun 99 | Entertainment
No more 'fossils' at the Arts Council
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