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Thursday, 18 October, 2001, 12:05 GMT 13:05 UK
RSC to demolish Stratford theatre
Royal Shakespeare Company theatre
The RSC theatre would be knocked down and rebuilt
The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) plans to knock down its landmark main theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon in a 100m redevelopment.

The company's director Adrian Noble said the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, built in 1932, is "unwelcoming" and should be demolished and replaced with a new 1,050 seater venue.

The proposal is part of the raft of plans designed to create a "waterfront village theatre" in Stratford-upon-Avon which is being submitted to the Arts Council.

But the plans have been fiercely criticised by conservationists.

Poor venue

The RSC had previously said it would only modify the existing Grade II* listed building.

But the 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 has 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.

Mr Noble said: "We know the current Royal Shakespeare Theatre is extremely problematic, both for our audiences and our artists.

RSC production of A Russian in the Woods
Actors say the RST lacks intimacy
"Over a quarter of our audience are under 25 and we have a real responsibility to give them an experience of theatre that encourages them to come back.

"At the moment many young people sit a long way from the stage and can feel like second class citizens.

"Three million people visit Stratford every year and many don't come near our theatres."

He said the redevelopment plans would mean visitors to Stratford could take part in an all-round theatre experience.

More inclusive

"If we are serious about turning a new generation of people onto theatre and Shakespeare, then we need to create new 'ways in' to the experience.

"Making our theatres more accessible, more welcoming and more lively throughout the day is a crucial part of the mix.

"The idea that people will be able to engage with the RSC throughout the day is incredibly exciting.

"I love the idea that people could arrive in the morning, take part in an education programme, have lunch in a fantastic restaurant, visit a costume exhibition, join a fight or voice workshop, and then in the evening see a show."

Actor backing

The plans were welcomed by Sir Antony Sher, an associate artist of the RSC.

"At last, I will be able to see the faces of the children in the balcony," he said.

"This is the aspect that excites me most. For and actor the most important thing is that sense of interaction between their performance and the audience.

"You need that intimacy to make the theatre work."

Architectural value

But the Chairman of the 20th Century Society, Gavin Stamp, said it will oppose any plans to demolish the listed building.

"The building has a great deal of architectural value," he said.

"It's part of the whole story of Shakespeare and Stratford.

"It's very concerning to hear they now wish to destroy it."

The plans will be submitted to the Arts Council later this week.

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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