Supplementary Memorandum submitted by
Hands Off Our Theatre "HOOT"
ROYAL SHAKESPEARE THEATRE
We at HOOT understand that you will reach a
decision shortly and publish a report on 26 March. The decision
will have a material effect not only as far at the RST is concerned
but also on the immediate conservation area and the town of Stratford
on Avon as well. The outlook for us all, if the Arts Council funding
is confirmed and the Royal Shakespeare Company ["RSC"]
proceeds with its plans, is too awful to contemplate.
The problem with the RSC plans, as with so many
other pivotal issues, is that the public was the last to learn
about them. In this particular instance there was no general awareness
until October 2001 and, despite RSC's claims to the contrary,
public consultation has been minuscule. Even so, HOOT already
has the signatures of 800 objectors and the number is increasing
by the week.
We made our first written submission to you,
by letter in January and we would like to draw your attention,
please, to the memorandum prepared by HOOT member Donald James,
a retired architect, setting out, in brief, as to how the extant
1932 Grade II* listed building could be saved by remodelling the
interior and at significantly lower cost than is implicit in demolition
and reconstruction. This document was forwarded in mid February.
It is a matter of record that some of the Committee
seem to favour demolition. Can we point out that an emotional
response, namely whether one likes or dislikes the Elizabeth Scott
design, should not overshadow your decision. It is one of the
few remaining public buildings of the inter war years have a Grade
II* listing and it calls into question, if demolition went ahead,
as to the value of affording protection at all.
However, the main purpose of this letter is
to draw your attention to the lack of credibility of the RSC,
its leadership and, it follows, the RSC plans.
What we say is this:
1. That the shortcomings of the 1932 Theatre
have been overstated.
In this context we submit a photocopy of an
article by Michael Pennington that appeared in a December 2001
issue of the Guardian (not printed). Michael Pennington's
acting reputation dwarfs that of Sinead Cusack who gave evidence
to you in January. A synopsis of what he has to say is that ALL
theatres have limitations, what really counts is the quality of
the production and acting skills. The corollary of this is that
sooner, or later, problems would emerge in any new theatre.
In late February, Dame Judi Dench, who spent
many successful years at the RST, came out against the RSC plans
[see extract from the Stratford Herald (not printed)].
Clearly, there is a marked difference of opinion between thespians
who need to ingratiate themselves with RSC management and those
who do not.
2. That the RSC is a failing organisation
Theatre critics, notably John Peter of the Sunday
Times have long been circumspect as to the RSC management style
and the recently constituted Fleet Project [Sunday Times articles
by John Peter (not printed)]. The extent of the failure
is in the public domain.
3. That key directors have quite the RSC
Terry Hands, once a leading artistic director
at the RST and Adrian Noble's predecessor, resigned from the Board
of Governors at the RSC because he did not agree with Noble's
plans. Even more recently Michael Attenborough departed, only
to be followed last week by Edward Hall, son of Sir Peter Hall,
founder of the RSC. A new director has to be found now for the
scheduled production of "Edward III". These and other
resignations were reported in the Evening Standard issue of 5
March 2002 (not printed). What does this say about the
stability of the RSC?
In the meantime, RSC's artistic director at
the RST, Adrian Noble has leave of absence to stage "Chitty
Chitty Bang Bang" a non RSC production in which he has a
pecuniary interest. This is a matter record and non speculation,
the Sunday Times has already published the details and it must
surely beg the question as to Adrian Noble's commitment to the
4. That the RSC's reputation for theatre
value is crashing
Recent notices about the current quality of
productions is illustrated by the failure of, in particular, "A
Midsummer Night's Dream" (articles not printed). Very
few theatregoers will be unaware of this criticism which strikes
at the core ability of the RSC to fulfil what must be fundamental
to its purposes, to stage quality productions. If the RSC fails
in this regard what confidence can there be in the capability
to deliver the far reaching plans before you?
In summary, all this evidence must call into
question the underlying validity of the RSC plans and the RSC's
inherent ability to deliver what is promised, within the cost
parameters and on time.
As recently as yesterday, 8 March, at a specially
convened meeting, Jonathan Pope RSC Redevelopment Director alleged
that the RSC plans have still to be finalised. Yet he went on
to say that the RST, given current and anticipated legislation,
cannot continue, as it is, beyond 2004. How can such a postulation
stand alongside the facts that the plans, on his own admission,
are not in final form and the legal consents to development have
yet to be addressed? What if there were a public inquiry? All
of this spells the same sort of disaster as the Dome and Wembley
Stadium to name only two. Will the RST be the next catastrophe?
Finally, and perhaps this best illustrates the
overwhelming arrogance exhibited by the RSC, Jonathan Pope, in
response to a question, asked at the Stratford Forum, said that
the £50 million of Arts Council funding is "OURS"
and the CMS report on 26 is purely a rubber stamp!
9 March 2002