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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: July ::
Re: Michael Boyd and the Future of the RSC
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1728  Wednesday, 31 July 2002

[1]     From:   Jay Johnson <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Jul 2002 13:44:09 -0600
        Subj:   SHK 13.1723 Re: Michael Boyd and the Future of the RSC

[2]     From:   Brian Willis <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Jul 2002 22:39:45 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   SHK 13.1723 Re: Michael Boyd and the Future of the RSC

[3]     From:   Stanley Wells <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 31 Jul 2002 09:44:14 +0100
        Subj:   SHK 13.1723 Re: Michael Boyd and the Future of the RSC


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jay Johnson <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Jul 2002 13:44:09 -0600
Subject: 13.1723 Re: Michael Boyd and the Future of the RSC
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1723 Re: Michael Boyd and the Future of the RSC

Re: The destruction or preservation of the RST

During a backstage tour in June, we were told that regardless of
anything else, the RST would not be used past 2004 because it could not
meet a new code for disabled access that would be going into effect at
that time.

Cheers,
Jay Johnson

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Brian Willis <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Jul 2002 22:39:45 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 13.1723 Re: Michael Boyd and the Future of the RSC
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.1723 Re: Michael Boyd and the Future of the RSC

> Why so keen to destroy the RST?

I have seen some productions that I enjoyed there. But ever since its
very beginnings, actors have hated the space. It's a huge cave that is
nearly impossible to play. Actors have had critical success there, but
not according to their own opinions. The RSC has tried to adapt it, to
very limited success. It was just very poorly designed as far as
acoustics and the audience-actor relationship is concerned. Having stood
on the stage during a tour, I can see their point.  Very difficult to
see anyone beyond a few rows, and the voice required to reach the back
row is strenuous even for the very best. One of the best things that
Boyd can do to indicate a new direction for the company is to build a
space that suits the actors', and the audience's, needs. The RST really
is only good for the large sounds of a musical.

I'm not gung-ho or too keen to demolish it, but with reluctance, I know
it is the necessary step.

The plan originally was to build a new theatre adjacent to it, and
utilize the RST until the new theatre was built. The idea was to build a
theatre with a few less seats, but far greater design. Perhaps plans
have changed. But I hope that the RSC gets a space they deserve.

I also sincerely hope that Boyd realizes the folly of closing The Other
Place. Any way to petition him to reconsider that foolish decision?

Brian Willis

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Stanley Wells <
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 >
Date:           Wednesday, 31 Jul 2002 09:44:14 +0100
Subject: 13.1723 Re: Michael Boyd and the Future of the RSC
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.1723 Re: Michael Boyd and the Future of the RSC

Several contributors write as if the RSC has decided to 'destroy' the
RST.  This is not so. No decision has finally been made. There are
however more reasons than most of the contributors appear to know about
for either replacing or restructuring it. It is seventy years old. Ever
since it opened its acoustics have been acknowledged to be flawed. Stage
facilities are badly out of date. The back stage area is primitive. The
structure is deteriorating. Performances have had to be interrupted
because the roof leaked.  Over many years efforts have been made to
remedy artistic limitations caused by the proscenium arch design by
reconfiguring both stage and auditorium; all have been abandoned as
unsatisfactory after a season or two. Facilities for the disabled are
not merely poor but, with the introduction of new legislation in 2004,
will render use of the present building illegal. Lifts from the ground
to upper floors are needed but the configuration of the building renders
installation of them impossible without major change. Toilet facilities,
especially (as usual) for women, are lamentably inadequate. Members of
the audience sitting in the balcony have to enter and leave by a side
door. Not only are the back rows of the balcony high up, they are also
set further back than the back rows of the circle and stalls; actors'
expressions scarcely register at this distance and angle.

Aesthetically, the theatre has some highly valued features but even from
the start it has been subject to adverse criticism. The merits of the
facade and of the riverside elevation are counterbalanced by the
ugliness of the roadside frontage. Over the years its external
appearance has undergone adaptations that detract from its original
integrity. It is a hybrid. Though the main building dates from 1932, and
is characteristic of its period, at its rear but attached to the main
building stand the remains of the earlier structure of 1879, typical too
of its period, now adapted to form the Swan. The conjunction is not
entirely happy.

For years, efforts have been made to find solutions to the problems. The
operation is enormously complex. Many of the possible ways of tackling
it have been reported as decisions whereas in fact they were merely
steps along the way. Thought has centred on the main house, which for
obvious economic reasons must be the powerhouse of the Company's work,
but which in many people's eyes has been losing ground to the Swan.
Combining some of the best features of past and present, the Swan has
become an extremely popular playing space with both artists and
audiences. Some of the best of the Company's recent work has been done
here, and this has had the not entirely welcome result of making the
main house seem even more badly out of date than it already did. No one
wants to lose the Swan, but it is joined at the hip to the main house.

Total demolition of the main house (in so far as this is possible
without destroying the Swan) had to be investigated, vigorously though
this would be opposed by many interested parties. The Company is also
looking into the possibility of reconfiguring the current interior while
preserving, or modifying, its parameters. Cost is an ever-present
factor. We hope to receive 

 

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