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Stratford's Royal Shakespeare Theatre marks its 10th anniversary

RSC ten years since reopening. (44799731)
RSC ten years since reopening. (44799731)

TEN years ago last Thursday (11th March) the Queen officially reopened the Royal Shakespeare Company’s main theatre after its extensive rebuild and refurbishment.

The three-year project cost £112million and was funded by the RSC with help from the Arts Council and Lottery money.

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Swan were closed during the work, and productions – including the blockbusting Matilda – went on at the Courtyard Theatre (now called The Other Place).

The RST, aka the main house, got a new auditorium with more than 1,000 seats and a colonnade linking it with the Swan Theatre. A new gallery space, restaurant, café, four bars and a new riverside walk were also created.

A new 36m (118ft) high tower meant visitors could appreciate the fine view which takes in four counties on a clear day.

The Queen was accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh and the pair enjoyed a short performance of the balcony scene from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

The official opening coincided with the company’s 50th birthday season, which saw productions of King Lear and Romeo and Juliet – the first to grace the new stage. The season also included productions of The Merchant of Venice, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming was also staged.

The then RSC artistic director Michael Boyd said: “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.”

RSC in Stratford timeline

  • 1875 Charles Flower donates the building site and came up with was the idea that the town should have a permanent subsidised company of actors
  • 1879 Shakespeare Memorial Theatre opens.
  • 1926 Auditorium and stage destroyed by fire.
  • 1932 New Shakespeare Memorial Theatre opens, designed by Elisabeth Scott
  • 1961 Chartered name of the corporation and the Stratford theatre become the Royal Shakespeare Theatre
  • 1974 The Other Place created from a former store/rehearsal room in Stratford
  • 1986 Swan Theatre created from shell of the 1879 theatre
  • 2006 The Courtyard Theatre opens as a temporary 1,000-seat theatre.
  • 2007 Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Swan Theatre are closed for construction work to begin
  • 2011 The Queen officially opens the transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre
  • 2016 The Other Place opens with a new studio theatre

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