The company had been expected by some to announce the central London venue as their new permanent home in the city. Instead, a six-month season is promised, which will run from Nov. 18, 2004, to May 7, 2005. “We couldn’t negotiate beyond this season at the Albery, as the theatre is soon due to transfer to different owners,” said an RSC spokesperson. “But, although the venues may change, we are determined to present an annual six-month season in the West End.”
On show at the Albery will be the quartet of Shakespeare tragedies currently playing in the RSC’s Stratford base - Hamlet with Toby Stephens; Romeo And Juliet directed by Peter Gill; King Lear with Corin Redgrave; and Macbeth with Greg Hicks and Sian Thomas. Those productions will be followed by the new staging of Euripides’s Hecuba, to star Vanessa Redgrave.
A new cheap-tickets initiative makes seats available for all Albery shows at £5, to theatre-goers aged between 16 and 25. Best seats are promised at this price with half sold in advance and half on the day of performance. There will also be £15 tickets available (for matinees and Monday evenings) to key public sector workers such as teachers and nurses, and £10 seats for school and college groups. Family concessions will also be available.
Following the RSC’s withdrawal from the Barbican Theatre, the Albery curtain-up represents the first time the company has played an extended London season since April 2002. Officially, that is, since they’ve been represented at various venues on an ad hoc basis, such as Bill Kenwright and Thelma Holt’s transferral of The Taming of the Shrew, The Tamer Tamed, All’s Well That Ends Well and the Jacobean season to Shaftesbury Avenue.
As well as the Albery season, the company has announced plans for a three-week new writing festival at the Soho Theatre in March 2005. It will include Tynan by Richard Nelson and Colin Chambers, Midwinter by Zinnie Harris, Poor Beck by Joanna Laurens and The Pilate Workshop devised by Michael Boyd with the acting company. In a press release, RSC artistic director Boyd said, “It’s been my ambition wince I took over at the RSC, for London audiences to enjoy a season of our work and not just those productions that commercial producers are willing to take a risk on. The Albery’s a favourite theatre…but the important thing about this season is that we’re bringing productions to London under our own control…this is a six-month RSC season in the West End that proves we’re serious again about a regular and sustained presence in the capital.”
That "control" has been made possible thanks to the fact that Boyd’s RSC has cut its deficit from £2.8 million to under £0.5 million.
RSC Associate producer Holt said, “It’s been no secret that in spite of proudly bringing with Bill Kenwright so many RSC productions to London…we have been merely marking time until the RSC could return to London, present their own work and not be in bed with commercial producers – including me.”