Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Ms Lucy Newsam

  I was interested to read in the Guardian today that the Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport had met members of the RSC board yesterday.

  Many of us, long-time supporters of the RSC, are extremely concerned at some of the changes advocated by Adrian Noble: not by the proposal to demolish the RST and build a more audience-friendly auditorium with modern facilities and easier access, but by the closure of the Other Place theatre and the loss of a true ensemble company.

  The ensemble company is what makes the RSC unique. This summer, there will be three separate acting companies in Stratford, instead of a true ensemble with actors appearing in different productions and different spaces during the season. This change will have a huge effect on the town. Courses and study days at the Institute and the Shakespeare Centre will be affected. Audiences who enjoy hearing actors talk about their craft will hear them no longer: actors who are performing for six nights and two matinees a week will have no time for talks. Last summer, members of the company found time to write, rehearse and perform an exciting variety of work in the annual Fringe Festival. Not only did this give audiences a great deal of pleasure but actors with small parts during the season had the opportunity to tackle, and excel in, a range of roles. I fear the Fringe will be much curtailed in future, if it happens at all.

  The details that have been announced about this summer's programme do not inspire confidence. One of Adrian Noble's stated aims is for each production to be performed in a space suited to it, rather than having to be tailored to fit the building. But because he wished to direct a promenade performance of Pericles at the Roundhouse, we shall now have Shakespeare's three late plays, all promenade productions, performed in an adapted RST where audiences will either stand on the boarded-over stalls, (the necessary work ensuring that the theatre will be dark for two weeks in July, the height of the tourist season), or be forced to sit in the circle and balcony, where visibility is poor, and as Sinead Cusack is reported as saying, "where the poor devils at the back can hardly hear".

  Announcing his plans for this summer, Adrian Noble said, "My excitement about the future is that we can take the ensemble one step further, working with a company of actors exploring an idea in the kind of detail that pays artistic dividends". The Swan company this summer is to perform five little-known Jacobethan plays. I understand that the actors have little experience of classical drama, and three of the directors are also inexperienced. Each play is to have a rehearsal period of just three weeks. Mr Noble also said, "What made last year's Henry VI/Richard III company so special was the fact that they had such an intense and extended period working . . . as one intimate artistic team". I fear a critical and box office disaster.

  The move to open productions in London and then move to Stratford, the home of the RSC—perhaps even, as with Tantalus, fail to bring the play here at all, seems at odds with the expensive plans for the theatre village and the redevelopment of the theatres here. I hope Stratford remains at the heart of the RSC.

  I apologise for such a long letter, but I do fear for the future of the RSC. I understand that the members of your committee are to visit Stratford to see a production. If you would like to meet a small group of RSC long-time supporters and discuss our concerns, we would be happy to arrange it.

9 January 2002

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