Royal Shakespeare Company Unveils Transformed Home in Stratford-upon-Avon
Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres reopen on time and on budget following a three and a half year £112.8m transformation.
November 24, 2010 to April 3, 2011 - preview period, inviting people in to explore and help test the building with events, exhibitions and activities, leading to full performances by long ensemble from current repertoire (already announced).
April 14 to November 5, 2011 - RSC celebrates 50th birthday season with two companies of actors playing across both theatres.
From April 2011, the RSC will celebrate the 50 years since Peter Hall first founded a permanent company on the banks of the Avon, with an opening season which is a combustible mix of Shakespeare, classical plays, new work and revivals from its extraordinary back catalogue of commissions by some of the greatest names in British theatre.
A supporting events and exhibitions programme invites people to explore behind the scenes, gain new insights into Shakespeare and the history of the Company, and take an active part in creating our work - even helping create a giant birthday cake in the Swan Room by covering the walls of the gallery with handmade sugar tiles, as part of Shane Waltener's Sweet Celebrations installation.
In the meantime, the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres are open every day from 24 November (except 24-26 December) with a whole programme of preview events, exhibitions and drop-in activities animating the building and exploring the work of the company. People can find 50 miniature artworks hidden in boxes in the walls, created by people from all over the UK as part of artist Luke Jerram's My RSC Gallery. They can try out the special audio-enhanced insult chair and be insulted Shakespearean- style by over 50 RSC actors or try out a Treasure Trail to lift the lid on the Company's history.
Visitors can also enjoy the viewing Tower and riverside walk and eat and drink in the new Rooftop Restaurant, the Riverside Cafe and four theatre bars. On-stage live events run through the period, featuring artists as diverse as Roger Rees, Peter Brook, Chris Addison, Camille O'Sullivan and MC Polarbear as well as work from Stratford's amateur companies. The preview period culminates in the first full productions on stage. These revivals from the current repertoire are performed by the RSC's ensemble on their return from London and play from 23 February to 2 April (productions already announced, but include Romeo and Juliet and King Lear).
The RSC was founded on principles of collaboration and it still connects people with Shakespeare, engages with the world and makes bold, progressive work. The Transformation project for the Company's Stratford home was designed to embody these principles.
At its heart is the transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST), with a new thrust stage and a 1040+ seat auditorium which brings actors and audiences closer together, halving the distance of the furthest seat from the stage from 27m to 15m.
New spaces include the Rooftop Restaurant with a double height ceiling and views over the River Avon, a Riverside Cafe and Terrace, a Colonnade linking the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres for the first time, the PACCAR Room exhibition space, a 36m high Tower which provides much needed circulation and outstanding views from its viewing platform, a new public outdoor space, Weston Square, to connect the theatre with the old medieval town to the west, and a riverside walk which stretches from the Bancroft Gardens, past the theatres, to Holy Trinity. The building retains the best of its original Art Deco and Victorian features, which have been sensitively refurbished and restored, while introducing bold new architectural themes.
Michael Boyd, RSC Artistic Director, said:
"Today we are opening the doors of our new home with an invitation for all to come in and explore. Our transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre auditorium offers the promise of a changed relationship between actor and audience as its thrust stage steps out from the old proscenium arch and brings the furthest seats twice as close to the action.
"Our rejuvenated public spaces give a warm welcome to visitors and allow us an opportunity to demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit in creating a seven day a week building which has something for everyone. We've designed the events and exhibitions in our reopening programme to open up the work of the company and animate our theatres throughout the day. People can enjoy our ‘Ghosts in the Walls' installation celebrating our past, take a turn in our insult chair or help create a digital sculpture by texting in their thoughts on ‘Why Shakespeare?' And we've invited other theatre companies, schools, artists and amateur groups to join us for our extended Housewarming.
"We will celebrate our 50th birthday next year and formally reopen the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Swan Theatre in April 2011 with two new ensembles of actors and a repertoire which celebrates Shakespeare, new work and some of our greatest hits from the last half century. When Peter Hall first founded the company in 1961, he made a commitment to collaborative, Contemporary Theatre making. The company has helped shape British theatre ever since and that commitment remains at the heart of what we do today.
"Our new season includes plays from our powerful and provocative back-catalogue with Peter Weiss's Marat/Sade directed by Anthony Neilson and Harold Pinter's The Homecoming directed by David Farr. Rupert Goold directs Merchant of Venice and I will open with a new production of Macbeth. The reopening of the Swan allows us to return to the wider classical repertoire and present Massinger's biting comedy The City Madam, directed by Dominic Hill. Gregory Doran directs a fascinating reimagining of Shakespeare's ‘lost play' Cardenio and we present the ever popular A Midsummer Night's Dream directed by Nancy Meckler, who recently gave us our best Comedy of Errors for decades. Stratford audiences have a chance to enjoy a revival of this year's hit Dunsinane, written by David Greig, directed again by Roxana Silbert and presented by National Theatre of Scotland in association with the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh. Following the success of our recent Young People's Shakespeare series of work for school and family audiences, we've asked Tim Crouch to direct a new version of The Taming of the Shrew. Alongside all this is an effervescent mix of 50th birthday special events and exhibitions - so rich you can even eat it if you take part in Shane Waltener's giant sugar birthday cake installation.
"In the coming year, we will be asking people to help shape our plans for the future. It's impossible, of course, to predict what theatre might look like fifty years from now, but I do believe that our art form will increasingly be prized for its unique ability to bring people out of their houses and offices to share the biggest ideas and greatest emotions in the same space, in real time, together. The new Royal Shakespeare Theatre has been built to celebrate this gift of community."
Vikki Heywood, RSC Executive Director, said:
"We have reopened our new home on time and on budget - a result of an extraordinarily collaborative project which I believe has delivered a shared vision for a playhouse which brings actors and audiences closer together and opens up our theatres to be able to invite the world to share the work of Shakespeare and a wider repertoire.
"We could not have achieved this without the vision of our architects, Bennetts Associates, the imagination of our theatre consultants, Charcoalblue, the creativity of our engineers, Buro Happold, the professional effectiveness of Mace, our construction managers who are also supporting ‘Ghosts in the Walls', the super-effective project management of Drivers Jonas and the talent, dedication of the many, many RSC Staff and individuals who worked so hard to contribute to the overall programme of work. Our Chairman, Sir Christopher Bland, and our Board have had faith in us from the very beginning and the entire project has been led by our fantastic Transformation Project Committee and delivered by our excellent Project Team, led by Peter Wilson OBE.
"I am especially grateful to our Deputy Chairman, Lady Sainsbury of Turville CBE, who has so ably chaired the Project Committee, and who, with her husband David Sainsbury, through their Gatsby Charitable Foundation, has given over £16m to support the capital costs of the Transformation - the largest single donation in the RSC's history. Susie epitomises everything one could want in an active philanthropist - without her vision and tireless work on our behalf we could never have delivered this project.
"It has been a long journey from late night cups of coffee over a cardboard model years ago to opening our doors to the public tomorrow. But we have shared that journey with many thousands of people - Stratford residents and businesses who have patiently endured our building works, artists who have added their creativity into the very fabric of the building, our audiences who've given us hugely valuable feedback from The Courtyard Theatre, our prototype for the RST, and the 18,000 people from 60 countries who have contributed to our Transforming our Theatres campaign.
"We are hugely grateful to our major public funders, with Lottery funding from Arts Council England and regeneration monies from Advantage West Midlands - who between them have provided £73m. We also owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Accenture and all our major private donors who are recognised throughout the new theatres, including the Garfield Weston Foundation and the Allan and Nesta Ferguson Charitable Trust in the UK, the PACCAR Foundation in Europe and the Kresge Foundation based in the USA who contributed such exceptional lead gifts to the campaign. We only have £3.5m to go to realise our fundraising goal by April 2011. Despite the tough economic climate, we remain confident that we will get there."
Sir Peter Hall said: "As the RSC celebrates its 50th birthday, there's one person from those early days in Stratford who must be remembered. He's not one of the artistic team - those who dreamed of a permanent ensemble of actors, performing Shakespeare alongside contemporary work - but the man who encouraged those dreams to become a reality: Fordham Flower, the Chairman of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre.
"When I first told him, at some length and with considerable feeling, of my plans for what would become the RSC, he listened carefully and then said words that any artistic director longs to hear from their Chairman: "I think you're absolutely mad, but it's very exciting. Let's talk to the Governors and get it moving. I'll back you to the hilt." And so he did; and continued to do so, often through difficult times, until his death eight years later. I believe without Fordie, the RSC - which has so joyously existed for the last fifty years - might never have happened. He made the future possible. How proud he would have been to join us now in celebration."
Royal Shakespeare Theatre:
Macbeth, directed by Michael Boyd, RSC Artistic Director
The Merchant of Venice, directed by Rupert Goold, RSC Associate Director
A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Nancy Meckler
Marat/Sade The Persecution and Assassination of Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade by Peter Weiss, English version by Geoffrey Skelton, verse adaptation by Adrian Mitchell, directed by Anthony Neilson, RSC Literary Associate
Cardenio, Shakespeare's ‘lost play' re-imagined, directed by Gregory Doran, RSC Chief Associate Director
The City Madam, by Philip Massinger, directed by Dominic Hill
Dunsinane, by David Greig, directed by Roxana Silbert, RSC Associate Director, presented by the National Theatre of Scotland in association with the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
The Homecoming, by Harold Pinter, directed by David Farr, RSC Associate Director
Young People's Shakespeare production of The Taming of the Shrew, edited and directed by Tim CrouchEvents and exhibitions:
1961 - 2011 Fifty years of great play-making - highlights include script-in-hand performances of key plays commissioned by the RSC over the last 50 years, debates and open rehearsals on landmark productions of the past, a celebration of the musicals the RSC has developed and produced, and a timely exploration of the way theatre spaces influence the work we experience within them, right up to and including the transformation of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
Folio, Royal College of Art - print-making exhibition, supported by Jaguar, celebrates 50 years of the RSC with work from acclaimed artists and current students created in response to Shakespeare
History of the RSC in 50 Objects - online and in the theatres, each object tells a piece of the RSC's history
Sweet Celebrations - Shane Waltener invites people to help him transform the Swan Room into a giant birthday cake, covering the walls with handmade sugar tiles. RSC 50 - 14 April to 5 November 2011PRODUCTIONSMacbeth - directed by RSC Artistic Director, Michael Boyd - Royal Shakespeare Theatre
A warlord unrivalled on the battlefield, Macbeth is rewarded with rank and favour by a grateful king. But with each enemy butchered in his master's defence, Macbeth's own desire for the throne grows, until, driven to distraction by greed, he ferociously seizes power. However, violence breeds violence and a reign born in blood quickly spirals out of control as Macbeth's actions return to haunt him. RSC Artistic Director, Michael Boyd, directs the first new production in the transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre.Cardenio - Shakespeare's ‘lost play' re-imagined, directed by Chief Associate Director, Gregory Doran - Swan Theatre
To celebrate the reopening of the Swan Theatre, Gregory Doran completes a piece of literary archaeology with this production, which attempts to re-imagine the extraordinary story of Cardenio, the subject of Shakespeare's ‘lost play'. In 1986, the Swan Theatre opened with his production of Shakespeare and Fletcher's The Two Noble Kinsmen. 25 years later, Gregory Doran once again directs a rediscovered play on which these two playwrights collaborated. Inspired by Cervantes' Don Quixote, translated by Thomas Shelton and published in English in 1612, it tells the story of the lunatic lover and a heroine who dresses as a shepherd boy to follow her love into the mountains - familiar terrain in the tragic-comedies of Shakespeare's late plays. There is evidence of the play's performances at Court in 1613, but the play was not included in the first folio of Shakespeare's Complete Works, published in 1623 after his death. It resurfaced when a manuscript was given to the Shakespeare editor, Lewis Theobald, in the early 18th Century by John Downes, a bookkeeper and prompter for the Drury Lane theatre. It is probable that the manuscripts were lost in a theatre fire in the early 19th Century, but Theobald's adaptation survives, and of course, the original source of Thomas Shelton's 1612 translation. Gregory Doran's blog at www.rsc.org.uk/explore/blogs/cardenio , first published today, tells the beginnings of this remarkable story and will track the journey of the production. The City Madam, Philip Massinger - directed by Dominic Hill - Swan Theatre
Written in 1632, this biting comedy from the repertoire of one of Shakespeare's contemporaries is directed by Dominic Hill, Artistic Director of the Traverse Theatre, in his first production for the RSC, having last been with the Company as Assistant Director in 1997. The play, which has not been seen in a major production since 1964, is a raucous satire on greed and misplaced pride as it tells the story of a wealthy merchant who takes pity on his dissolute brother and invites him to live under his roof, with his haughty wife and conceited daughters. The feckless brother plots to steal from the family and the merchant's daughters spurn worthy suitors. The merchant plans to teach them all a lesson and on the pretence of retiring to a monastic life, leaves his brother in charge of the household, before returning in disguise to watch havoc unfold.The Merchant of Venice - directed by RSC Associate Director, Rupert Goold - Royal Shakespeare Theatre
Following his acclaimed production of Romeo and Juliet (currently playing in the RSC's Roundhouse season), Rupert Goold directs Shakespeare's most controversial play. Set in a city built on business, where merchants and traders gamble on deals that can make them a fortune or lose them everything, the production explores the moment when cultures clash, a business deal turns sour and a wronged father seeks a deadly retribution. Dunsinane - by David Greig - directed by RSC Associate Director, Roxana Silbert - Swan Theatre
The National Theatre of Scotland presents the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Dunsinane in association with the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh. This acclaimed production is back by popular demand. David Greig's play is the exhilarating vision of one man's attempt to restore peace in a country ravaged by war. It was commissioned by the RSC and premiered at Hampstead Theatre in 2010. It is directed by Roxana Silbert and plays a straight three week run in the Swan in June as part of a tour (www.nationaltheatrescotland.com). The Homecoming - by Harold Pinter, directed by RSC Associate Director, David Farr - Swan Theatre
Back where it first began in 1965, The Homecoming is considered by many to be Pinter's masterpiece and was his favourite play. RSC Associate Director David Farr will direct this revival as part of the RSC's 50th birthday celebrations. The Homecoming is an unsettling and psychologically savage tale of familial rivalry full of the dark humour that is Pinter's signature. Recent productions by David Farr include The Winter's Tale and King Lear in 2010 and his collaboration with Filter on Silence at Hampstead Theatre in May 2011.
A Midsummer Night's Dream - directed by Nancy Meckler - Royal Shakespeare Theatre
A new production of this beguiling tale of enchantment, where young lovers find themselves entangled in a bewildering tale of lust and longing, a powerful fairy king and queen reign war with one another in a magical forest and mischievous spirits run riot. Nancy Meckler's previous productions for the RSC include: a new adaptation of Sor Juana de La Cruz's House of Desires in 2004 (part of the Spanish Golden Age season in the Swan Theatre), The Comedy of Errors in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford in 2005 and on tour in 2007. She also directed Romeo and Juliet in the RST in 2006.
First performed in 1964, Marat/Sade was a seminal moment in the history of the RSC and remains one of the company's most important and acclaimed productions. Adrian Mitchell's verse adaptation, combined with Geoffrey Skelton's English version is a beautiful piece of work which seeks to present an unflinching and very human commentary on society and revolution. RSC Literary Associate Anthony Neilson directs a newly-conceived production as part of the RSC's 50th birthday celebrations.RSC Young People's Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew - edited and directed by Tim Crouch - Swan Theatre
The RSC's Young People's Shakespeare production this year will be the controversial comedy The Taming of the Shrew, directed by Tim Crouch in his RSC directorial debut. He is writer/director of My Arm, The Author, An Oak Tree, England. Tim Crouch's unique, collaborative theatre making techniques will bring a fresh and bold take on Shakespeare's battle of wits. RSC 50
1961 - 2011 Fifty years of great play-makingSince first opening its doors in 1961, the RSC has invited Britain's most influential theatre artists to do their best work with the company. Next year the RSC celebrates William Shakespeare's role as the catalyst and provocateur of British theatre by opening up its back catalogue of landmark plays. Full details of a new programme of birthday events supporting work on stage will be announced in early 2011. Highlights include:· Rehearsed readings of a selection of key plays commissioned by the RSC over the last 50 years including Bond, Barker, Pinter and more.
· Provocative debates and open rehearsals throughout the year on all strands of contemporary work, including a look at landmark seasons
· A celebration of the musicals the RSC has developed and produced
· An exploration of the influence of theatre spaces on the RSC's work up to and including the transformation of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
· Celebrating and sharing an in-depth look at the RSC as the company where actors, writers and directors gain their classical training, with a look at the influences of John Barton, Cis Berry and Michel Saint-Denis.
EVENTS AND EXHIBITIONS
Folio Royal College of Art - 15 April - 1 October
Folio is an exhibition of print-making by artists from the Royal College of Art, created in response to Shakespeare and in celebration of 50 years of the RSC. In 1964 the Royal College of Art created a series of lithograph prints to mark the Shakespeare quarto-centenary. Now almost five decades later, this work will be exhibited in the new PACCAR Room at the RSC, alongside new work created especially for this exhibition by printmaking students, staff and invited artists from the RCA. Folio includes work by acclaimed artists and printmakers including Elizabeth Frink, Joe Tilson and Norman Ackroyd and also showcases new work by a generation of emerging artists. By bringing together old and new, it explores how artistic responses to Shakespeare and the medium of print making have changed and evolved over the past five decades. The exhibition is supported by Jaguar.
A History of the RSC in 50 Objects - 4 April - 31 December
Items from the 50 year history of the RSC demonstrate the development of the company we know today. Visit them all online at www.rsc.org.uk/exhibitions from 4 April or look out for opportunities to see the real thing in the theatre buildings.
Sweet Celebrations, Shane Waltener - 9 April - 24 July
To commemorate the 50th birthday, Shane will be transforming the Swan Room into a large birthday cake, by covering the walls of the upstairs gallery with sugar. Using traditional cake decorating techniques and sugar paste, royal icing and sweets as his materials, sugar tiles with piped and modelled decorations will be fixed to the walls to create a large scale installation. Known for his craft-inspired mixed media projects which often involve public participation, the artist will take up residency in the galleries and engage visitors in designing and making the piece.
Outdoor Events - Spilling out from the building over the summer will be a variety of theatre, performance and special events, including performance artists Curious who explore the idea of love in a site-specific piece projected onto the RST and along the river and Freedom Studios' specially made ice cream carts, which will cycle among the picnickers and entertain them on hot days. There will also be a programme of outdoor theatre and activity from 30 April to 31 August 2011 in The Dell and in the newly created Weston Square, including the return of the RSC's hugely popular Open Day on 12 June 2011 when the company opens its doors to the public to give unique insights into how its productions are made.
Other events and activities - There will also be a wide ranging programme of events, workshops and activities for children and young people, families and amateur groups as well as a series of talks and debates involving RSC directors, members of The Acting Company and creative teams who are creating this season's productions.
For more details visit www.rsc.org.uk/events
Jacqui O'Hanlon, RSC Director of Education, said: "We want children and young people to enjoy the challenge of Shakespeare and achieve more as a result of connecting with his work. We hope to extend our reach even more widely during this special 50th year in the RSC's life and build on our commitment to give children and young people the opportunity to Do Shakespeare on their feet, See it live and Start it Earlier. With our new Shakespeare Challenge Arts Award programme; a unique collaboration with the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust enabling students to experience ‘A day in the life of the rehearsal room'; an expanded programme of workshops, events and conferences and collaborations with both Little Angel Theatre and Tim Crouch, we hope we have created a rich programme of work for teachers and students of all ages to enjoy."
For more details, visit www.rsc.org.uk/education
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