The mainhouse Royal Shakespeare Theatre has been reconceived as a brand-new 1,000 seater thrust stage auditorium, and now shares a common entrance and foyer spaces with the Swan Theatre to which it was previously unconnected. There are also new restaurants, including the Rooftop Restaurant and Riverside Cafe and terrace.
The inaugural season will include a series of preview events and activities that are designed to help test the spaces, before the current RSC ensemble will perform the first productions on the new RST stage, bringing their current productions of King Lear and Romeo and Juliet, respectively directed by David Farr and Rupert Goold, to the theatre after their winter seasons at London's Round House. The company will also perform Antony and Cleopatra in the Swan Theatre, as well as both Young People's Shakespeare productions of Hamlet and The Comedy of Errors in the Swan, before returning to London to present the premieres of three new plays in a season at Hampstead Theatre, running April to June 2011.
The building's opening activities will unfold over a four-month period from November to February, with a program of events directed and devised by the RSC's Chief Associate director Gregory Doran and Director of Events and Exhibitions Geraldine Collinge. According to press materials, these will include tours, exhibitions and activities designed to encourage people to explore the transformed building and participate in the RSC's work. Amongst the offerings are an auditory and sensory tour entitled "Ghosts in the Walls," which will evoke people's memories of the old theatre and celebrate this new chapter in the company's life. In addition, RSC alumnus Peter Brook will return to Stratford to direct Love is My Sin, his own adaptation of Shakespeare's sonnets, to be performed by his actress wife Natasha Parry and Michael Pennington in the Swan Theatre on Jan. 7 and 8, 2011. One-time RSC leading actor Roger Rees (who originated the title role of Nicholas Nickleby in the company's celebrated stage adaptation of Dickens' novel, and also played Hamlet for the company) will return to Stratford to present a one-man show called What You Will in the Swan Theatre on Dec. 14 and 15.
King Lear will begin performances in the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre Feb. 23, to be joined in rep by Romeo and Juliet from March 3, before both opening officially with a press day March 10. They will both run through April 2. Meanwhile in the Swan Theatre, Antony and Cleopatra will begin performances March 3 for a run through March 23. It will be presented alongside an abbreviated new production of The Tempest being presented in collaboration with the Little Angel Theatre, an Islington-based puppet company, that is intended to provide an introduction to Shakespeare for audiences aged seven and above, that will run March 11-26. International cabaret performer Camille O'Sullivan will perform Shakespeare's narrative poem The Rape of Lucrece, set to original music by Feargal Murray, running March 30 to April 2.
In a press statement, artistic director Michael Boyd comments, "Our new home isn't just about brilliant brick work, inviting public spaces, and nearly trebling the number of ladies loos, though it has those. It's a miraculous marriage of the epic and the intimate, a shared space which celebrates the three dimensions that Hollywood aspires to and live performances has for free, and which enables the direct engagement between actor and audience demanded by Shakespeare's plays." The RSC will celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2011, with a new ensemble of actors joining the company to launch a new season of work from April. Details of the "RSC at 50" season will be announced in November.
The box office for the new Statford season opens to the public on Oct. 11. To book tickets, contact the box office on 0844 800 1110, or visit www.rsc.org.uk for more details.