- Date: 5 February 2015
- Area: Midlands
The Courtyard Theatre. Credit: Photograph by Stewart Hemley courtesy of The Royal Shakespeare Company
The Royal Shakespeare Company will open a new festival theatre, featuring research, development and rehearsal spaces, which will play a central role in its ground-breaking new collaboration with the University of Birmingham.
Work begins this month to reinstate the Royal Shakespeare Company’s (RSC) iconic studio theatre, The Other Place in Stratford-upon-Avon, with the support of public and private investment, including donations from The Gatsby Charitable Foundation, The Backstage Trust, and a £3m Lottery grant from Arts Council England.
Originally built in 1973, The Other Place was home to the RSC’s developmental and new work, housing many landmark productions with RSC alumni such as Judi Dench, Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren. In 2006, The Other Place closed to make way for the temporary Courtyard Theatre, where the RSC performed during the transformation of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
When it opens in 2016 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the new Other Place will include a 200-seat flexible studio theatre, built within the external steel structure of The Courtyard Theatre, two new rehearsal rooms, and a new home for the RSC’s 30,000 piece costume store, giving people access for the first time via theatre tours.
Under the leadership of Erica Whyman, RSC Deputy Artistic Director, the theatre will be a festival venue for RSC productions, with new work festivals taking place twice a year.
Local amateur groups will be able to use the theatre for rehearsals and performances, and the venue will provide additional performance space for the Company’s work with young people and the local community. The Other Place will also be available for commercial hires, raising valuable income to support the RSC’s artistic programme.
“I am hugely excited about re-imagining The Other Place as a vibrant, creative space, embodying the challenging and alternative spirit of the original,” said Erica Whyman. “It will be an exemplary home for theatre artists, and a space where students, our actors, visiting theatre makers and our audiences can really feel part of the “engine room” of the RSC.
"Our award-winning Midsummer Mischief festival in summer 2014 gave a flavour of what’s to come in The Other Place. In 2016, the theatre will be back as a new resource for the 21st century for the RSC, our partners and our audiences. We are very grateful to all our funders who have made this possible – including a major Lottery grant from Arts Council England, The Gatsby Charitable Foundation and The Backstage Trust.’
The RSC is also setting an exciting five year collaboration with the University of Birmingham and its Stratford-based Shakespeare Institute in motion, rooted in the vision of The Other Place as a centre for creative and academic exchange.
At its heart are three practice-led research projects taking place each year, where students, academics and artists develop, critique and respond to provocations. Students will also have access to creative and teaching spaces at The Other Place, with RSC artists and practitioners providing input to undergraduate and postgraduate courses.
‘This is a hugely exciting collaboration that builds on our existing relationship with the RSC and promises to have enormous benefits for both parties – not least the opportunity to combine our world-leading arts research with the RSC’s cutting-edge artistic practice," said Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham. "Our students will undoubtedly benefit from the numerous teaching and creative opportunities afforded by this innovative project, and I am very much looking forward to seeing how it progresses.’
Arts Council England in also investing £2.1m from the National Lottery in the renovation of the RSC’s Costume Workshop, one of the largest in-house departments in the UK, situated opposite the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres. Planning for the redevelopment of the buildings is currently underway and work will begin in 2017, following the completion of The Other Place and the Swan Wing, and when the remaining funds have been raised.
‘We’re really pleased to be able to invest in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s ambition to restore The Other Place into a thriving hub for theatre-making and learning, as well as support plans to renovate its historic costume workshops,” said Peter Knott, Area Director, Arts Council England.
“Part of the Arts Council’s role is to invest in the equipment and facilities cultural organisations need to produce great art. This significant investment from our National Lottery-funded Capital programme will see the RSC create a dedicated space for artists, young people, students and the local community, while also improving the company’s facilities for research and production that are essential to the creation of world-class work.”
The Royal Shakespeare Company is one of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations. Its work begins its life in Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford and is enjoyed by audiences across the world. Follow the company on Twitter @TheRSC.
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