NO ROOM AT THE INN FOR THE RSC ? Oct 8, 2003 6:53:37 GMT -5
Post by rabagas on Oct 8, 2003 6:53:37 GMT -5
Homeless RSC faces winter of discontent
Fiachra Gibbons, arts correspondent
Wednesday October 8, 2003
London will have to endure its first winter in more than 40 years without the Royal Shakespeare Company if it fails to find a West End home by the end of the week.
If, as seems likely, that deadline passes without a result, it will be the first time in the RSC's history that its Stratford season has failed to transfer to the capital. As so often happens with the Bard, tragedy has followed farce: the RSC's disastrous decision to quit its long-standing London home at the Barbican is blamed for its embarrassing predicament.
Critics of the controversial and unpopular reforms made by the former artistic director Adrian Noble - which led to his departure and that of Chris Foy, his chief executive - predicted burned fingers if the company threw itself upon the kindness of West End producers, and yesterday it appeared they were right.
Having watched Bill Kenwright and Thelma Holt lose a reported £1m on the RSC season of "Jacobethan" revivals at the Gielgud last Christmas, and the transfer of Coriolanus and The Merry Wives of Windsor close three weeks early, no commercial co-producers have been willing to take any of the acclaimed summer season at Stratford into London.
Without a backer to share the risk, the RSC - already £2.5m in the red after losing a small fortune on an experimental season at the Roundhouse - cannot go it alone.
Instead, the plays from the "holding season" which began just as the RSC's new director, Michael Boyd, took over from Noble in April, will have a last, short run in Newcastle.
This means that Gregory Doran's much-lauded pairing of The Taming of the Shrew and John Fletcher's little-known sequel The Tamer Tamed will not be seen again in Britain, although they will have a run in Washington DC.
Boyd said last week that it was crucial the RSC find a London home, and vowed to find a theatre for the four tragedies planned for Stratford next year, his first full season in charge. Appropriately, All's Well That Ends Well, starring Dame Judi Dench, will transfer to the Gielgud in spring after opening in Stratford.
The deadline for keeping the Stratford casts under contract was extended to this weekend to give the RSC a final chance to save its London season.
Last night, cast members complained to the theatre website Whatsonstage.com that this wasn't good enough. "How nice for Michael that his inaugural season will have a London home, but who exactly is the artistic director for our season then? Saving it all up for next year isn't going to help anyone in the company at the moment, most of whom face unemployment in five weeks' time," one said.
The debacle means that when Pericles closes at the Lyric Hammersmith later this month, Shakespeare lovers in London must make do with an Icelandic Romeo and Juliet at the Young Vic or an American show called Shakespeare's R and J at the Arts, which the Guardian's critic Michael Billington dismissed as a "great night out for ageing pederasts".
Billington said the RSC's difficulties were the inevitable consequence of Adrian Noble's decision to quit the Barbican.
"It is a regrettable but pragmatic decision. It is very sad that London audiences won't have a chance to see Gregory Doran's two Shrews or the Cymbeline, but this was very much a holding season, so it is not a cosmic tragedy."
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003