Supplementary memorandum submitted by
the Royal Shakespeare Company
RSC STRATFORD REDEVELOPMENT FEASIBILITY REPORT
The plans for redevelopment of the Royal Shakespeare
Company's14-acre waterfront estate in Stratford-upon-Avon propose
major physical renewal of the RSC's theatres, workshops and other
properties. Radical change is required to meet artistic, operational
and financial challenges, and provide the optimum conditions for
audiences and artists.
The guiding principles of the Redevelopment
Plan have been determined after evaluating all possible options.
Its central idea is to create a theatre village on the waterfront
as the heartland of the RSC's creative operations making Stratford
a magnet for artists and audiences. Renewal is now essential to
sustaining its contribution to classical theatre across the world,
as well as to the economic future of Stratford-upon-Avon.
The principal proposed projects are :
Construction of a completely new
1,050-seat theatre, as the RSC's principal playhouse for Shakespeare
and the classical repertoire, on the site of the existing Royal
Shakespeare Theatre. This landmark building will feature an adaptable
auditorium allowing large-scale thrust stage, proscenium stage
and other configurations of performance. The stage and auditorium
will be supported by modern backstage, rehearsal and administration
accommodation, and by attractive, improved audience facilities
Creation of new backstage facilities
and technical delivery access for the Swan Theatre, together with
refurbishment and improvement of its audience spaces, including
the Library and Gallery.
Construction of a new and highly
adaptable auditorium as an extension to the existing Other Place
theatre on its current car park. This space will provide the RSC's
permanent new third auditorium, capable of accommodating variable
forms of theatre staging and open space for film, recording, and
work with new technologies. The existing TOP buildings will be
converted to provide audience, backstage and rehearsal facilities
for this new auditorium. This project will be completed first
and, while the principal playhouse is under construction on the
RST site, it will become the RSC's primary Stratford theatre with
a capacity of at least 650 seats. Options to further increase
seating capacity during the transition are still being considered.
Creation of teaching and support
facilities for the new RSC Academy, using the present building
on the Union Club site. The RSC Academy will also use the rehearsal
and performance spaces of the RSC theatres as appropriate.
These principal elements of the Redevelopment
Plan are supported by a number of other complementary changes,
some incorporated into these buildings, some elsewhere, which
together complete the full scope of the theatre village.
Provision of high quality indoor
and outdoor public spaces within the theatre village area
Improved catering, bars, cloakroom,
and toilet provision
Additional space to allow for ancillary
activity outside of performance times
Improved Box Office and information
Easier routes for backstage tours
and visitor circulation
Exhibition and learning space
Larger and better retail spaces
Hospitality and meeting spaces for
public and private use
Improved recreational and social
facilities for RSC artists and staff
Improved RSC workshop accommodation
at Waterside and Timothy's Bridge Road (the latter being a revenue
Accommodation for the RSC Nursery
Better display for the RSC Collection
Additional RSC residential accommodation
on and off site.
Enhancement of the Arden Hotel in
The current theatres in Stratford are but the
latest manifestations of a dynamic tradition of performance in
Stratford dating back to Shakespeare's day. In the period since
Garrick's rain-sodden Jubilee of 1769, at least 17 buildings have
either been built or converted into theatres to house performances
of Shakespeare. Several of these have made radical architectural
interventions into the largely domestic townscape of Stratford-upon-Avon,
not least the extraordinarily progressive designs of the 1879
and 1932 theatres in their own day.
Notwithstanding their listed status, the buildings
that we are so familiar with today are just the latest transient
manifestations in a long tradition of theatres coming and going
in Stratford. The interests of conserving listed buildings and
maintaining the vitality and viability of theatrical performance
cannot be fully reconciled in the case of the Stratford theatres.
Some hard choices therefore arise.
The RSC owes a deep debt to the vision and generosity
of Charles Flower, Archie Flower, Fordham Flower, John D. Rockefeller,
Buzz Goodbody, Trevor Nunn, Frederick Koch and Michael Reardon
who between them contributed most to creating the Stratford theatres
as we know them. The Stratford Redevelopment thus builds on honourable
traditions and we must have the courage and vision in our own
time to create new buildings to sustain their success.
The Swan Theatre was created inside the shell
of the original Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, destroyed by fire
in 1926. This intimate thrust theatre, a modern re-interpretation
of the staging principles of Elizabethan and Jacobean theatres,
instantly became one of the finest theatrical instruments in the
world, and has been closely copied in theatre developments elsewhere.
This theatre will be retained after the Redevelopment and its
qualities enhanced by a number of practical improvements.
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre, currently housing
a much-altered 1,284-seat proscenium stage and auditorium, was
widely recognised from the first to be fundamentally flawed as
a theatre. Its architecture immediately divided opinion between
praise for its progressive design, and popular criticism of its
appearance, variously described as "a jam factory",
"a crematorium" and "the new Soviet barracks alongside
the Avon". Whatever its merits as a building, its inadequacies
and defects as a theatre have been widely debated down the years.
The Theatres Trust has assessed the situation
as follows : "The 1932 Royal Shakespeare Theatre is listed,
and has a good facade and interesting front-of-house spaces, but
the auditorium has been widely recognised as a disaster ever since
it opened. The best way of getting a proper theatre on that site
now would probably be to demolish the whole of the old one."
[Peter Longman, Director of the Theatres' Trust writing in its
Newsletter June 2001]
Leading theatre historian John Earl has evaluated
it as : "to all appearances, a cinema, but less visually
exciting, less alive, than any contemporary picture house by almost
any contemporary hack designer. Almost everything about the design,
not least the design of the stage itself, tended to distance the
audience from the players."
As a result of exhaustive exploration during
the Feasibility Study, the RSC is convinced that demolition of
the 1932 elements of the RST/Swan Theatre complex is an unavoidable
prerequisite to creating the new principal playhouse urgently
needed to sustain its work in Stratford. This position, however,
is currently at odds with the view of the Government's principal
statutory advisor, English Heritage, which understandably considers
retention of the 1932 RST foyers, fountain staircase, and front
facade to be important. Other advisory bodies such as the Twentieth
Century Society, the Theatres Trust, and the Stratford Society
have also been consulted and involved during the Feasibility Study.
This very constructive and close consultation initiated through
the Feasibility Study will continue during scheme development
and design in order to find a mutual satisfactory solution.
The Other Place, built in 1989 with the maximum
available funds from RSC property transactions, has served the
RSC extremely well, but it is no longer easy to sustain the level
of subsidy required for such a small seating capacity, and its
artistic and technical constraints must be resolved. Despite initial
speculation to the contrary, the proposed plans greatly reinforce
the RSC's commitment to this theatre and to the innovative performances
it houses. The Other Place will play a central role, both during
the transitional period of the Redevelopment, and in the long-term.
A WIDER VISION
: THE WATERFRONT
The physical focus of the RSC Redevelopment
is Waterside, Southern Lane and the Bancroft Gardens area, but
its positive effects have the potential to reach across the whole
District and far beyond. A number of opportunities have been jointly
identified with the local authorities and other landowners to
renew their own assets. The waterfront area on both sides of the
River Avon has immense potential for sensitive and imaginative
improvement, to retain and further enhance the value of what is
good, and to re-design what is not. Partnership between public
and private organisations is the key to unlocking this potential.
Consequently, the proposed plans include the creation of a new
strategic task force, comprising senior local authority representatives
and other contributing partners, to define and implement a coherent
development plan for the waterfront area.
The Redevelopment also signals the opportunity
for Stratford to address, at long last, its critical problems
of traffic congestion. Irrespective of the Redevelopment, Stratford
needs to take radical steps to ameliorate conditions for over
3 million motorists and pedestrians, whose travel is in conflict
within the medieval street system established in 1196. The problems
are highly complex and any solutions are unavoidably contentious.
Town Transport Strategy
The close collaboration between the RSC, local
authorities and Advantage West Midlands developed during the Feasibility
Study and Theatres Area Study should continue and the following
proposals should be considered :
Waterside, Southern Lane, Bancroft
Gardens, and the central streets of the historic core, should
be designated a pedestrian and cyclist priority zone.
a landmark design for a new pedestrian
and cyclist bridge, downstream of the Tramway Bridge, should be
commissioned jointly by the three local authorities and British
the 943 existing surface car parking
bays on the Recreation Ground should be retained for public and
theatre parking, with its landscaping and lighting re-designed
to provide a more attractive and safe environment, especially
at night. The existing public and theatre use of the 197 bays
at the Church Street car park should be retained for public and
theatre use long-term. The existing 716 bays at the Bridgefoot
and Unicorn Meadow car parks should be retained for public and
New measures, including new orbital
road capacity, Park and Ride, and Park and Boat, should be deployed
to substantially reduce volumes of traffic through this highly
An integrated system for intermediate
travel, including the proposed Mini-Tram, use of river taxis,
and rent-and-return cycles, should be considered.
Improvements to River use and access
Detailed consideration should be given to improving
river use and access during scheme development and detailed design.
Key themes that should inform the discussion are:
the opportunities for better viewing
areas and public circulation on the riverside elevation of the
improvement and expansion of serviced
mooring areas along both river banks
the scope to reinstate a level and
fully accessible river terrace alongside the theatres
the scope for a new footbridge to
create easier access between both river banks and to the Recreation
Ground car parking, and to provide an easier circular route
how best to preserve the popular
amenity of the chain link ferry
the scope to improve the river edges,
protecting them from erosion while meeting the needs of people
the potential for introducing the
proposed floating walkway between the theatres, Bancroft Gardens
and the Clopton Bridge boat-yard
the scope for design improvements
to retain the quality of environment and the sanctuary for river
birds, while mitigating the nuisance of fouling of the gardens
The Feasibility Study has been undertaken by
the RSC in consultation with a Design Team of leading international
experts in numerous disciplines, led by Project Architects Erick
van Egeraat and Michael Rushe. Consultation with a wide constituency
of interested organisations and individuals, including many Stratford
residents, has also been an important part of the process and
the recommendations in this Report have been partly shaped by
The sole purpose of the Feasibility Study has
been to identify a feasible and achievable solution. It has not
been to produce scheme or detailed designs for buildings. These
will be created later. However preliminary consideration has had
to be given to the form of the theatre auditoria and stage arrangements,
in order to determine the appropriate volume and location of buildings.
The central thrust of the Feasibility Study
has been to answer five primary questions:
What forms and scales of theatres
does the RSC require now and long-term?
Where should they be located?
What complementary changes would
benefit the public realm?
How can they be afforded in both
capital and revenue terms?
How much continuity of RSC performance
can be maintained throughout the Redevelopment?
In answering these questions, detailed study
on a wide range of topics has been undertaken by the RSC and its
consultants. These have included:
|Auditorium and Acoustics Studies
||Masterplan Options Development|
|Architectural Appraisal||Conservation Assessment
|Accommodation Schedule Reviews||Massing and Volumetric Analyses
|Archaeological Appraisal||Historic Theatres Appraisal
|Initial Disability Audit||Structural Engineering Report
|Geo-technical Survey||Floodplain consultation
|Urban Planning Analysis||Site Location Appraisal
|Initial Environmental Impact Assessment
||Planning and Listed Building Process Audit
|Construction Cost Analyses||Cost in Use Analyses
|Business Plan and Staffing Review||Economic Impact Assessment
|Traffic and Parking Study||Market Research
|Consultation Plan and Public Talks||Visitor Attraction Appraisal
|Submission to Local Plan Review||Legal Audit of RSC and other Properties
|Comparative theatre studies||Comparative Studies of other Attractions
|Historic Landscaping Study||Analysis of Procurement Routes
The Feasibility Study has been pursued in as open and transparent
a manner as possible. Numerous briefings and public talks have
been given in Stratford and beyond, and many individuals and organisations
have been consulted.
The principal organisations involved include: DCMS; the Government
Office West Midlands; Advantage West Midlands; Life (the Regional
Cultural Consortium); Stratford District Council; Warwickshire
County Council; Stratford Town Council; Birmingham City Council;
the Stratford Society; the Stratford Business Partnership; English
Heritage; the Twentieth Century Society; the Theatres Trust; West
Midlands Arts Board; the Environment Agency; the CBI West Midlands;
the Heart of England Tourist Board; South Warwickshire Tourism;
the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; the Stratford Hoteliers and
Caterers Association; the RSC Disability Access User Group; British
Waterways; Stratford Canal Society; the Upper Avon Navigation;
and the Inland Waterways Association. The RSC greatly appreciates
the widespread interest and contribution made by all these groups
and individuals. The final recommendations of the Feasibility
Study reflect, as far as possible, the advice and feedback received.
Alongside consultation with key organisations, the RSC commissioned
a programme of public consultation with residents and visitors.
In summary the public consultation process revealed that :
there is widespread and virtually unanimous goodwill
for the RSC and recognition of the need for the Redevelopment.
The current site is perceived to have a number of problems which
need to be addressed urgently
the clear priorities for action which have emerged
are shared by all key interest groups. These reinforce the need
artistic excellence to be the principal driver
mixed use of the new RSC premises
diversity of performance spaces
state of the art facilities for artists and
integration with the town, especially in respect
of traffic and pedestrian issues
On the basis of the financial appraisal carried out during
the Feasibility Study, the principal elements of the Redevelopment
are feasible within the proposed budget of £100 million,
subject to further clarification of precise areas, materials and
construction techniques during scheme development and detailed
Of the £100 million, half the total amount has been
earmarked by the Arts Lottery Fund (Capital) of the Arts Council
for England. The matching £50 million will need to be raised
by the RSC.