The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.2091 Monday, 2 September 2001
Date: Saturday, 1 Sep 2001 13:53:02 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: More RSC Woes
Those planning autumn/winter theatre jaunts to London may wish to keep a
watch for updates on the situation described below:
Strike action vote threatens RSC productions
Maev Kennedy, Arts and heritage correspondent
Friday August 31, 2001
The Royal Shakespeare Company's most prestigious productions of the
winter season are under threat, after technician members of the Bectu
union voted overwhelmingly yesterday for strike action in a dispute over
The threatened job losses follow the restructuring of the company
announced by the artistic director, Adrian Noble, which will see the RSC
concentrating its energies on touring, and its original base at
Stratford-upon-Avon and pulling out of its London base in the Barbican
Current productions, including Julius Caesar and Twelfth Night at
Stratford, could be hit but the RSC is more worried about its new shows
- Alice, and the Merchant of Venice, which are about to go into
rehearsals. Both are due to open in London in October, and transfer to
Stratford in November.
The union workers, who include stage hands, electricians, and wardrobe
staff, could stop both shows in their tracks.
Alice is essential to the company's finances. It is the third of a
phenomenally successful series of family musicals, following on from The
Secret Garden, still running in a West End transfer, and The Lion, the
Witch and the Wardrobe.
Alice, adapted by poet and playwright Adrian Mitchell from the Alice in
Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass books, will be directed by an
RSC newcomer, Rachel Kavanaugh. The other production under threat, The
Mercant of Venice, is also an RSC first for a woman director, Loveday
Up to 60 jobs, almost 10% of the workforce, will go at Stratford.
Complex negotiations are continuing over the 130 staff at the Barbican,
some of whom may be kept on when the Barbican management takes over the
So far only staff at Stratford-upon-Avon have been balloted, but given
their 90% vote in favour of strike. Technicians based at the Barbican
are likely to follow their lead when asked to vote in the next few
The union is due to announce dates for potential industrial action next
Assistant general secretary Gerry Morrissey described the ballot as "an
overwhelming vote of no confidence in the management.
"We have consistently told the management that their proposals are
unacceptable to the staff," he said, adding that they had invited the
company to take part in conciliation talks at Acas.
The RSC managing director, Chris Foy, said "Bectu have told us they want
a negotiated settlement, and not protracted industrial action".
Guardian Unlimited (c) Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001
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