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Wednesday, 24 April, 2002, 16:29 GMT 17:29 UK
RSC chief to quit
Adrian Noble
Noble has been with the company since 1980
Controversial Royal Shakespeare Company artistic director Adrian Noble is stepping down "to seek new artistic challenges".

Noble, who has been in his post for more than a decade and is also chief executive, has suffered criticism recently.

Many disliked radical plans to redevelop the company's home in Stratford-upon-Avon.

It is now time for me to seek new artistic challenges

Adrian Noble
Noble, who is currently directing the West End hit Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, will leave the RSC in March next year when his contract expires.

He joined the company as assistant director in 1980.

Some of the fiercest criticism has been attracted by plans to demolish the RSC's theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and develop a 100m theatre village.

'Enormous privilege

He also planned to allow big name stars to do shorter runs rather than sign up for full seasons.

Tensions at the company led to Edward Hall, son of the RSC's founder Sir Peter, leaving a production of Edward III which he had been due to direct just as rehearsals were about to begin.

Noble said: "It has been an enormous privilege for me to lead this wonderful organisation since 1991.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Noble is directing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
"After 22 years with the company it is now time for me to seek new artistic challenges."

He said the foundations of the new organisation were now in place, and added: "I have been blessed with superb colleagues throughout the RSC, as well as highly supportive governing bodies.

"I look forward to continuing to deliver our ambitious programme - both on the stage and off it - during my remaining year with the company."

Lord Alexander, chairman of the RSC's board of governors, said: "Adrian Noble has made an outstanding contribution to the RSC over the last 22 years.

Pericles production

"He is a most accomplished director of classical drama and his artistic leadership has brought new artists and audiences to our work.

The next few months will see Noble take the helm of a production of Pericles for an RSC residency at the Roundhouse in Camden, north London.

At Stratford he will revive his own production of children's classic The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe and direct Ralph Fiennes in Ibsen's Brand.

Arts Council of England chairman Gerry Robinson praised Noble's "substantial and impressive" contribution.

But Gerry Morrissey, assistant general secretary of the technicians' union Bectu, said Noble had done "a lot of damage to the Royal Shakespeare brand and to our members' jobs".

"We will be urging the government to review the current policy adopted by the company in relation to reducing the number of productions in Stratford and also the move from the Barbican."

The BBC's Rosie Millard
"It's been a bit of a drama"
See also:

28 Mar 01 | Arts
RSC: Shakespeare and beyond
24 Apr 02 | Arts
Drama on and off stage at RSC
26 Mar 02 | Arts
RSC plans get cautious welcome
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