News earlier this week about redundancies at the Royal Shakespeare Company is now followed by reports of further financial losses as well as plans to cancel a tour and cut budgets in order to stem the tide.
The RSC, which last year suffered a deficit of £1.6 million, is expected to lose an additional £400,000 by April of this year. Although it maintains an average 64 percent audience occupancy at its Stratford venues, it admitted that some recent productions there had dipped well below that. Ordinarily popular performances for Merchant of Venice had sunk as low as 23% and Twelfth Night to an even more abysmal 12 percent of audience capacity.
In order to save money, the RSC has decided to cancel a 12-week regional tour scheduled for this autumn. Such tours, to towns which seldom see Shakespeare staged, has been considered an important element of the RSC's remit, particularly since it has limited its year-round London season at the Barbican Centre to six months.
An internal report, leaked to The Stage newspaper, highlights the scale of the current crisis: "It is no longer possible to balance our budget without reducing the scale of our work. Base operations in Stratford and London will have to be secured. Ways have been looked at to restructure the budgets - some will be frozen, some will be cut."
It continues: "Unfortunately, there will be no mid-scale tour in 1998, despite the huge success of Cyrano (a highly acclaimed production starring Antony Sher which transferred to the West End). We are hoping that we can convince funding bodies to correct our funding position to enable us to re-instate this tour in 1999." The company's troubles stem from a six-year standstill on Government funding which has left the RSC struggling to contain costs on an £8.4m annual budget.