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Tuesday, 26 March, 2002, 15:22 GMT
RSC plans get cautious welcome
Royal Shakespeare Company theatre
The RSC theatre would be knocked down and rebuilt
Plans to build a new theatre village at the site of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon have been tentatively backed by politicians.

However there are some doubts that the 100m project may be too much of a financial risk.


We believe that the RSC has arguably the most important performing arts institution in the country

Commons committee
The Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee said the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) had made a good argument for the demolition of the current 1930s-built theatre.

The proposal is part of the raft of plans designed to create a "waterfront village theatre" in Stratford.

A statement from the Commons committee gave its backing to the demolition.

It said: "We believe that the RSC has arguably the most important performing arts institution in the country, deserves and requires the optimum building and facilities.

"The devil, however, will be in the details and no final judgement is possible until these are available."

RSC production of A Russian in the Woods
The Arts Council has earmarked 50m for the theatre

The theatre auditorium has long been criticised by actors for its lack of intimacy with the audience - the balcony is further from the stage than in any other theatre in the country.

After consulting on a feasibility study, the RSC concluded the 70-year-old theatre should be bulldozed.

The plans include:

  • Construction of a completely new 1,050 seat Royal Shakespeare Theatre
  • Creation of new backstage facilities for the Swan Theatre
  • Construction of a new auditorium as an extension to the existing The Other Place theatre
  • Creation of teaching and support facilities for the new RSC Academy

The Arts Council has already earmarked 50m for modernising the theatre and the RSC has been busy raising money in the US.

The Commons committee is also keen for National Lottery money to be used.

Earlier Adrian Noble, artistic director of the RSC, hit back at critics of his record at the theatre company.

The company has endured a barrage of criticisms over a series of decisions in the last year, including moves to leave its Barbican home in London and its demolition plans in Stratford.


Critics of the changes at the RSC would like, preserved in aspic, Stratford in the 1950s

Adrian Noble
But in an interview with the Independent on Tuesday Noble was unrepentant.

"Only by changing do we have any hope of passing on a vibrant theatre tradition to the next generation," he said.

He described his task as "trying to rebuild the RSC" and commented that "change was never going to be easy".

Poor reviews

Last week the company was forced to deny that it was gagging employees after the introduction of a confidentiality clause in the contracts of all permanent and contract employees, forbidding them from disclosing any details of future productions.

RSC production of A Russian in the Woods
The Arts Council has earmarked 50m for the theatre
And the latest production of A Midsummer Night's Dream in Stratford opened to poor reviews.

A number of senior figures have left, including senior associate director Terry Hands and Edward Hall, son of RSC founder Sir Peter Hall, after disagreements over his production of Edward III.

In the interview Noble admitted that the RSC had turned "from the darlings of British culture into one of its pariahs".

But Noble argued that he was managing a "continuous revolution" and said: "It sometimes feels like critics of the changes at the RSC would like, preserved in aspic, an idea of Stratford in the 1950s."

He vigorously defended his coming season at the Roundhouse in London, where the RSC will be presenting a "promenade season" of three late Shakespeare plays: The Winter's Tale, The Tempest and Pericles.

But, as if in anticipation of a continuing bumpy ride from the critics, Noble added: "What a shame to damned by so many before an actor has set foot on stage."

See also:

28 Mar 01 | Arts
RSC eyes new home
28 Mar 01 | Arts
RSC: Shakespeare and beyond
24 May 01 | Arts
RSC announces shake-up
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