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Tuesday, 8 January, 2002, 14:37 GMT
RSC aims to ditch 'boring' image
The RSC's plans
Stratford's new theatre would seat more than 1,000
The Royal Shakespeare Company hopes to shed its "boring" image with a major revamp of its Stratford home, it has told MPs.

The RSC was responding to questions from the Commons Culture, Media and Sport select committee over its plans to rebuild its theatre using National Lottery money.

The 100m redevelopment would be funded with 50m from the Arts Council, while the RSC would pay for the rest, but MPs said many of their constituents were not theatre-goers.

Sinead Cusack
Cusack: Dislikes RSC's "them-and-us" image
Under the proposals, the existing 1930s, art deco-style theatre in the Warwickshire town would be demolished and replaced with a "theatre village" capable of seating an audience of than more than 1,000.

But Labour MP Debra Shipley said her constituents in nearby Stourbridge were not interested in theatre, and lottery money should go towards alleviating social deprivation in the area.

"You don't reach out to my constituents, I am afraid," Ms Shipley told actress Sinead Cusack, RSC artistic director Adrian Noble, managing director Chris Foy and redevelopment director Jonathan Pope.

Cusack said she conceded that Stratford audiences were seen as "boring old fogeys", adding that she felt the new plans would "reach out" to new audiences.

Adrian Noble
Adrian Noble: Making theatres "more lively"
"I don't think we are throwing out the baby - we are just cleaning out the bathwater."

She said there was "something seriously wrong" with Stratford's "them-and-us" image.

"There is a quality of exclusivity about theatregoing in this country - and I hate it," she said.

Noble said the RSC was seeking to attract more "explorers" - occasional theatre-goers who were more accustomed to attending other types of public performance, such as concerts.

The RSC's plan to end its residence at the Barbican centre, in London, was part of this aim, he said.

Protest

By freeing itself to perform elsewhere, the company would better be able to tailor "the space to the art rather than the art to the space", Noble said.

He cited as an example forthcoming performances in promenade by the RSC of three of Shakespeare's late plays at London's Roundhouse - which is more usually used as a rock venue.

The Winter's Tale, The Tempest and Pericles are being performed there between March and July this year

The company's plans to redevelop in Stratford while pulling out altogether from its London home at the Barbican complex have sparked controversy.

In November, former artistic director Terry Hands resigned from his advisory role.

Also in November, members of stage workers' union Bectu voted in favour of industrial action in protest at the job losses that would follow from the closure of the Barbican site.

Union representatives said they were considering tactical and legal issues before announcing whether or not a strike would be called.

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The BBC's Nick Higham
"Critics are not convinced"
See also:

13 Jul 01 | Arts
Strike ballot at RSC
28 Mar 01 | Arts
RSC: Shakespeare and beyond
28 Mar 01 | Arts
RSC eyes new home
06 Sep 01 | Arts
Barbican to get listed status
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