"RSC" to create a thrust stage within the existing 1932 Royal Shakespeare Theatre

"RSC" to create a thrust stage within the existing 1932 Royal Shakespeare Theatre

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has announced today that it intends to create a thrust stage within the existing 1932 Royal Shakespeare Theatre, in Stratford-Upon-Avon (originally there were plans to demolish the theatre), retaining the key art deco elements of the building.

The new auditorium for the RSC’s core Shakespeare repertoire, seating around 1,000 people, will be a ‘one room’ theatre where the stage thrusts into the audience with theatregoers seated around. The aim is to improve the relationship between the audience and the actor by bringing them closer together in a theatre space where the distance from the furthest seat will be reduced from the current 27 metres to between 14 and 16 metres.

As well as replacing the existing auditorium, the £100 million plan includes expansion of the front of house facilities with improved provision for disabled access, bars, restaurants, toilets and exhibition space. Backstage facilities will be expanded, with improved dressing rooms and a greater separation between the main house and Swan theatres – addressing the current cramped technical and support facilities. The Swan and The Other Place theatres will be retained, and a new dedicated space for the Company’s educational activity will be created.

RSC Artistic Director, Michael Boyd, said: “Most major new theatres of the last century have moved away from the ‘us and them’ of the 19th Century proscenium ‘picture frame’ in search of spaces which celebrate the interaction cinema can’t achieve. “Our commitment to bring an immediacy and clarity to Shakespeare means we need to bring the audience to a more engaged relationship with our actors. The best way we can achieve this is in a bold, thrust, one-room auditorium – a modern take on the courtyard theatres of Shakespeare’s day. Actors, directors and audiences alike want a more intimate experience than the current RST can offer.”

The Company will shortly launch the search for an architect for the project. It expects that work on the site will start in 2007 after the Complete Works of Shakespeare Festival. The RSC will continue to perform in Stratford throughout the build, expanding when required into a temporary theatre.

Commenting on the plans, RSC Honorary Associate Artist, Dame Judi Dench said: “As someone who has played all the RSC theatres, it seems to me that what the Company has now found is a brilliant way of retaining the original building while constructing a new theatre inside it which will work wonderfully for actors and audiences alike. “It's a spectacular idea which has my full support.”

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