My hometown is Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, England. Even now as an ex-pat living in the suburbs of Washington D.C. I still follow the local news, and consider myself a Warwickshire lad. So I read with interest that the Royal Shakespeare Company had unveiled the “transformation” plans for the Grade II listed building The Royal Shakespeare Theatre. (You can read the BBC news report here and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s official ‘transformation’ website here.)
Key elements of the scheme include: (and my thoughts in italics)
- A new 1,000 seat thrust stage for the Royal Shakespeare Theatre – That is less seats that the current theatre, and a stage of similar design to The Swan Theatre, rather than a different style of performance space
- Restoration of the valued heritage elements of the building – Sounds like a good idea, the building is a listed property and also the first “civic” building designed by a woman architect in the UK (see details here). However, the some of the other “key elements” might impact a sensible restoration.
- An accessible riverside walkway running alongside the RSC’s theatres enhancing access to the river and gardens – There is already a walkway alongside the river. Yes, it should be made more “user friendly” but any local could have told you this needed doing.
- Dramatically expanded and fully accessible public areas with improved facilities for audiences, including a rooftop café/restaurant and two new café/bars, foyers linking the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres, and more and better toilets – Not sure how this will work with the restoration mentioned above, as I expect they will need to seriously structurally change the guts of the building to manage the space they are describing here.
- A theatre tower marking the new entrance, providing circulation to all parts of the building and unrivalled views across Stratford – What??? Which bright spark decided we need a 108ft tower glued to the side of the building??? Okay, I’ve enjoyed the view from the theatre roof on backstage tours, and if they are adding a rooftop cafe I expect the view would still be there… do we really need a rediculous tower? Look at the artists impressions on the RSC and BBC websites and ask youself “is this Stratford?”
- A public square, providing a meeting place and outdoor stage for music and performance that connects the theatres and their surrounding environment – There goes the theatre carpark then! I thought there already was a public meeting space outside the theatre, it is called Bancroft Gardens, and every five years or so the council spends a fortune “transforming” it with fresh plantings or new signs… Again, I hear the echo of a highly paid consultant stating the blindingly obvious.
- Improved and accessible backstage conditions for artists and stage crew, including new dressing rooms as well as training, study and rehearsal spaces for actors – Wow, this far down the list and we reach a sensible requirement. Again though, how much more space can they find by knocking down interior walls, or will ‘the jam factory’ become an extended structure?
- A centre for the RSC’s workshop, learning and administrative facilities immediately opposite the theatre, providing opportunities for tours revealing the backstage life of the Company. – Now wasn’t the new “The Other Place” branded in this way when it was decided the stage didn’t work as well as the old “tin hut”. Rumour has it that “The Other Place” may eventually return as a performance space… again another blindingly obvious move.
So a lot of fancy marketting moves, and a bit of sensible reorganisation. Will it work? Who knows? All we can do is wait and see… In the same way that we wait and see to see if the Warwickshire County Council carry out their threat to build a hidious and unwanted bridge across the Avon into the Theatre Gardens.
Okay, now back to my more normal topics of cool stuff on the web and idiotic drivers!