Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum submitted by the Royal Shakespeare Company


  1.  The RSC puts on about 2000 performances a year to audiences in excess of 1 million people in the UK 25 per cent of audience is under 25 years old. The Company does more UK touring than any of the national companies—over 75 per cent of UK population can access RSC productions in the course of a year. Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's birthplace, is a magnet for audiences from all over the world with 3 million visitors a year. 82 per cent of the RSC's subsidy is directly returned to Government—with a £32 million contribution to West Midlands economy. The RSC is committed to nurturing the next generation of world-class classical artists. RSC alumni include Dame Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes, Kenneth Branagh, Joseph Fiennes and Emily Watson.


  2.  The RSC should be an international theatre company—defined by our performances, and not the buildings we perform in.

    —  A new artistic model and restructured organisation and governance make the RSC more agile, more flexible and less institutional—led by ideas and performance and partnerships

    —  Caravan approach to venues—theatre designed to move around

  The Company has a commitment to developing RSC artists and audiences of the future.

    —  An international conservatoire for theatre—the RSC Academy provides a new opportunity for the next generation of classical artists and practitioners to work with the best world-class talent

    —  Commitment to new writing and bold commissions

    —  Stratford redeveloped as an international magnet for theatre practitioners and audiences

    —  National responsibilities—North East residency and UK touring

  3.  Partnerships across the world that enrich our work:

    —  Higher profile presence in London and key US locations

    —  Creative collaborations with businesses and other educational and cultural organisations

    —  Truly global reach—cultural ambassadors for the UK in Asia and Africa, as well as Europe and the US

  Building creative learning opportunities:

    —  Maximise the potential of new technologies to explore new collaborations and partnerships for audiences of the future

    —  A culture of learning extends beyond performance-related programs through the new RSC Academy

  A renewed Stratford-upon-Avon home:

    —  A world-class `theatre village' fit for purpose that extends the value and potency of the site


  4.  The core objectives of the RSC's redevelopment proposals are:

    —  Three inspiring and adaptable theatre spaces with appropriate support facilities and the widest accessibility

    —  Accommodating the RSC Academy

    —  Economic growth for RSC, West Midlands and UK

    —  Maintaining continuity of performances.


The Royal Shakespeare Theatre

  5.  The RST has a number of deficiencies:

  • a poorly designed theatre

  • flawed sightlines and acoustics

  • lack of appeal for actors

  • fixed proscenium format

  • segregation of Balcony audience

  • physical and technical obsolescence

  • inadequacy of working spaces

  • compliance with licensing and legislation

  • cannot support day-long use

  • impact on image and accessibility.

Swan Theatre

  6.  The Swan Theatre suffers from some non-auditorium problems:

  • lack of backstage and technical space

  • delivery access

  • dual activities in front of house space.

The Other Place

  7.  The Other Place, as the RSC's third Stratford venue is known, also has drawbacks:

  • artistically constrained

  • financially inefficient.


  8.  The key questions facing the RSC are:

    —  How can the RSC best meet the needs of audiences, visitors, theatre practitioners and its host communities?

    —  How to reconcile future RSC needs and Conservation priorities?

    —  What forms and scales of theatres does the RSC require?

    —  Where should they be located?

    —  How to afford capital and revenue cost?

    —  What opportunities to enhance the public realm?

    —  How do we manage continuity during transition?


  9.  Building a new RST on another site has been reconsidered. Fifteen alternative sites have been investigated in Stratford. Two large buildings would be easier for transition, but would be uneconomic in the longer term. There is no viable alternative use for existing RST.

  10.  Adapting or substantially reconfiguring the RST has been considered. The space cannot accommodate proscenium and thrust stage formats. The site cannot accommodate the required front of house and backstage space and access. Trimmed requirements would produce a compromised solution. This has not proved to be a cost-efficient option.

  11.  Replacing the existing RST seems to be the only option. There is a need to satisfy a PPG 15 Assessment. A new building has the potential to be able to:

    —  accommodate both thrust and proscenium stages;

    —  provide appropriate operational and public spaces; and

    —  be a more cost-effective investment of funds.


  12.  The goals of the RSC's current approach to redevelopment are therefore:

    —  A modern Shakespearean playhouse capable of adaptable formats the RST

    —  The creation of satisfactory backstage facilities for the Swan Theatre within existing shell

    —  A highly adaptable third auditorium at The Other Place

    —  A home for the RSC Academy at the Union Club.

Transitional Arrangements
RST and Swan Theatre continue to mid 2004
[1,855 seats]
Swan Theatre + new auditorium at TOP mid 2004—late 2007
[1,082 seats]
Three theatres from 2008
[2,132 higher quality seats and day-long use]


  13.  The key elements of the redevelopment project going forward are:

    —  Arts Lottery project—£50 million

    —  Partnership Funding—£50 million

    —  Theatres Area Feasibility Study with Stratford District Council/Advantage West Midlands/Warwickshire County Council:
  • Public Realm enhancements

  • Traffic Strategy

  • Economic Regeneration

    —  Waterfront Task Force : Stratford District Council, Warwickshire County Council, Stratford Town Council, Advantage West Midlands, British Waterways, Coventry & Warwickshire Chamber, CBI West Midlands, The Stratford Society, Town Centre Partnership, South Warwickshire Tourism, Disability Access.

    —  Consultation: Statutory Conservation Bodies, Planning Authority, Artists and Public.


  14.  The next steps in the redevelopment programme are:

    —  PPG 15 Assessment

    —  Scheme development and detailed design during 2002

    —  Continuing public consultation and joint work with statutory bodies

    —  Planning applications

8 January 2002

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Prepared 26 March 2002