December 2005 will see four Shakespeare comedies make the journey from Stratford-Upon-Avon to the Novello, a run that will play until March 2006. Those plays are Michael Boyd’s production of Twelfth Night, Nancy Meckler’s staging of The Comedy of Errors, As You Like It directed by Dominic Cooke and Gregory Doran’s take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Mackintosh has a long-standing history of collaboration with the RSC. Their joint production of Les Misérables is in its twentieth year, now running at the Queen’s Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue.
Mackintosh commented in a release, “I could not be more delighted that the Royal Shakespeare Company has decided to make a five-year commitment to do their London seasons in one of my theatres. Now that Delfont Mackintosh Theatres are operating several playhouses it has always been my ambition to have an ongoing relationship with an internationally acclaimed subsidized company as part of our programming. I can only echo Stephen Sondheim’s sentiments, ‘Tragedy tomorrow — comedies tonight.’”
RSC executive director Vikki Heywood added, “This is a good deal for our audiences and guarantees an RSC London Season in one of three fantastic West End playhouses. We proved at the Albery that we can bring a distinctive RSC personality to the West End, with discounted tickets and a full education program, and still play a Shakespearean season with ‘full house’ notices consistently outside the theatre. The deal secures the company’s future in London while we continue our search for a long-term home for the RSC in the capital . . . The challenge on the horizon is to find a complementary theatre in London that matches our ambitions for [the planned new auditorium] for Stratford.”
The 2004-2005 West End season to which Heywood refers was the transplanting of the company’s quartet of Shakespeare tragedies to the city. According to RSC figures, Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, King Lear and Macbeth together played to over 75,000 people, or 87 percent of capacity at the Albery. Box office targets were exceeded by more than 30 percent, with the productions grossing over £1.6 million.