Although the 1932 Royal Shakespeare Theatre won’t be pulled down, as had been rumored, the art deco building will house a new auditorium with a thrust stage, designed for the core Shakespeare repertoire. A press release describes the concept as "a one-room theatre where the stage thrusts into the audience with theatregoers seated around. The aim is to improve the relationship between the audience and the actor by bringing them closer together in a theatre space where the distance from the furthest seat will be reduced from the current 27 meters to between 14 and 16 meters."
The scheme will also expand the front-of-house facilities with improved provision for disabled access, bars, restaurants, toilets and exhibition space. Backstage facilities will be expanded, with better dressing rooms and more of a separation between the main house and the adjacent Swan Theatre.
The Swan will stay, as will the third Stratford auditorium, The Other Place. Meanwhile, there will be a new dedicated space for the RSC’s educational programs. In the release, RSC artistic director Michael Boyd said, "Most major new theatres of the last century have moved away from the 'us and them' of the 19th century proscenium 'picture frame' in search of spaces which celebrate the interaction cinema can't achieve. Our commitment to bring an immediacy and clarity to Shakespeare means we need to bring the audience to a more engaged relationship with our actors. The best way we can achieve this is in a bold, thrust, one-room auditorium — a modern take on the courtyard theatres of Shakespeare's day."
A search for an architect for the project will be launched shortly. Work is expected to start on the Stratford site in 2007, after the town has hosted the 2006 Complete Works of Shakespeare Festival.