At a press conference in London on July 25, Michael Boyd was announced as the new artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Two members of the RSC Board, Lord Alexander of Weedon and Lady Sainsbury of Turville, introduced the new artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) at a press conference held in the old Magistrate's Court (now a restaurant) in St. Martin's Lane, Central London at lunch time on July 25.
Boyd has been an associate director with the RSC since 1996, and his most recent productions for the RSC include The Tempest and the Olivier Award-winning Henry VI trilogy and Richard III. He was the founding director of the Tron Theatre in Glasgow between 1985 and 1989. Born in Belfast in 1955, Michael Boyd trained at the Malaya Bronnaya Theatre in Moscow.
Boyd made a number of points in relation to questions from the press about various aspects of the job that he takes over in March 2003 and which he will be planning and getting involved in with immediate effect. What is your approach to the ensemble aspect of RSC work? "The ensemble is absolutely central to the identity of the RSC, and although I'm not sentimental about it I want to involve the wider RSC community — past members of the company whom I would like to tempt back — as well as actors currently with the RSC.
"We should use this wider community where possible — it's one of our strengths. Vanessa Redgrave was overheard talking to an usher at Stratford the other day, saying she'd love to be asked back. I'd love to have her back! And if you look, for example, at the recent, remarkable, production of Private Lives you see people — Howard Davies, Lindsay Duncan, Alan Rickman, Emma Fielding — who still have a huge affection for, and interest in, the RSC."
Have you made any decision about the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford? "No. My main concern in the stage that has led up to this announcement has been regarding the company rather than the buildings it operates in, important though they are. I hope to be very flexible when it comes to buildings!"
What is your main aim for the company? What is the RSC for? "I want the RSC to be a place that offers the opportunity for breakthrough in their careers for young actors, a place where they can learn and develop their art. To that end, theatre rehearsals, time spent on script, on connecting their minds and their voices is essential, and I promise that there will be a space, a heart at the center of the RSC where that will be possible. There will be no excuses for us not to be able to provide strong — great — art."
How will you deal with the issue of a London home or showcase for the RSC? "I think it would be insane to consider a move away from London, a retreat to Stratford. The various plans that have been so controversial recently were not mine, but regarding leaving the Barbican, which has been such a high-profile event, I would remind people that 'barbican' is a word for a fortress, and I think it's much healthier that we are now in offices in the West End where we can be seen moving around, drinking coffee, enjoying ourselves — acting like real people and seen to be such by other theatre professionals rather than safely locked away in our fortress.
"Leaving the Barbican has certainly been a painful divorce, but we now have the opportunity to move on and explore other ways of performing in London. The season at the Roundhouse has been disappointing, but not the disaster some people have suggested, and it has had the effect of attracting a considerably younger audience than we have normally attracted at Stratford or at the Barbican. Having said that, I don't believe in the cult of youth, and if you try to catch up with some sort of perceived teenage spirit of the age, then teenagers will just think you're sad, and deservedly so.
"What I have to do is appeal to theatregoers in general, but above all to create the conditions for great work — new as well as old, I intend to direct several new plays as artistic director — in a company that will be an enjoyable place to work, where actors can develop their skills, and have the time and resources to do so. It's in the rehearsal period, if it's long enough, where people bring so much to a work of art and strike ideas off each other, than great art, whether reinterpreting Shakespeare's renaissance plays or new writing, can be born."
—By Paul Webb Theatrenow