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Thursday, 25 July, 2002, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Radical times at the RSC
Adrian Noble
Adrian Noble wanted to modernise the RSC
As Michael Boyd is announced as the new artistic director for the Royal Shakespeare Company, taking over from Adrian Noble in March 2003, BBC News Online charts the recent turbulent history of the prestigious company.

The Royal Shakespeare Company does not seem like an establishment that would usually be associated with controversy.

But in recent years the company has been going through radical changes under the stewardship of incumbent artistic director Adrian Noble, who has been at the helm for 11 years.

His decision to quit his post in March 2003 comes amid a time of rapid metamorphosis for the RSC.

Michael Boyd
Michael Boyd has a big task ahead of him
It has recently quit its London home at the Barbican amid much controversy after 20 years residence at the arts centre.

Although its headquarters are still at Stratford-upon-Avon, the RSC plans to take more productions on tour.

But there was fury from unions when 100 staff were made redundant because of the move while others were put on temporary contracts.


The theatre world will now probably have to wait until Boyd is installed in his new position to learn what his plans for the RSC in London will be and whether it will once again have a permanent presence in the capital.

The decision to quit the Barbican came at a time when plans were afoot to demolish the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, to make way for a 100m Shakespeare village.

Noble said the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, built in 1932, was "unwelcoming" and should be demolished and replaced with a new 1,050-seat venue.

But since he announced his departure there have been doubts raised about whether the ambitious project will go ahead.

The plan submitted to the Arts Council was to flatten the building but now the RSC says that was only one of a number of options and no final decision has been reached.

Because the RSC is steeped in centuries of history the radical restructuring of the company has been met with vociferous opposition.

When Noble took the decision to give the company a major restructuring, one of his aims was to attract star name actors such as Kenneth Branagh and Ralph Fiennes, with the flexibility of working around their other commitments.

Noble described this as "breaking the mould" but critics saw it as a way of reducing costs by offering less job security for actors and backstage staff.


Dame Judi Dench recently added her voice to the opposition, saying she was deeply worried about the company's future.

Royal Shakespeare Theatre
There is still no definite plans for the Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Herself an honorary associate artist, she expressed her sense of foreboding at the impact the new proposals could have on the acting profession.

There has also been criticism about the quality of productions put on in recent seasons, much of which has been blamed on Noble taking on work outside of the RSC.

He has recently been credited with the success of the stage musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

It is not yet know what direction the incoming artistic director Michael Boyd will take the RSC in, with some calling him a traditionalist while others describe him as having a contemporary outlook.

But Noble believes there should be exciting times ahead for the theatre.

"My advice to a successor would be to start from scratch and completely reinvent the place," he said.

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