The Royal Shakespeare Company will focus its programming in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre Stratford-upon-Avon over the coming year, with the Swan Theatre and The Other Place remaining closed until 2022.
The company’s extensive education, digital and streaming activity will continue throughout the autumn and winter to allow people to experience the RSC in their homes and schools. This winter, small-scale socially distanced performances will take place in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and be streamed into homes. Free outdoor activity will also be staged and there are plans to reopen the RSC’s West End hit Matilda The Musical as soon as it is financially viable.
The announcement comes as formal consultation begins with the RSC’s permanent workforce and the company recognised trade unions and staff representatives. The consultation process is a result of the ongoing impact of Covid-19 and covers a range of proposals from redundancies to changes in terms and conditions of employment. Although the final number of redundancies will not be known until the end of the formal consultation process, 158 people are currently in roles at risk.
Through redeployment into existing and newly created roles, together with voluntary redundancy, the RSC hopes to reduce the number of people leaving the company due to compulsory redundancy to below 90, at most a 17% reduction in the workforce. The consultation is expected to conclude in early December.
With the end of the company’s free, outdoor summer performances, the RSC will stage a programme of live performances in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in December 2020 and January 2021. The events will see the return of socially distanced, reduced capacity audiences to the RST for the first time since March, with events being streamed to enable people further afield to take part. Full details will be announced at the beginning of November.
Planning also continues for the full reopening of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in spring 2021 with full-scale productions of The Winter’s Tale and The Comedy of Errors, when it is hoped that social distancing restrictions will be eased.
The production of The Magician’s Elephant, due to open in November 2021, is planned to go ahead as announced in the RST. The new family musical, based on Kate DiCamillo’s novel, is directed by Sarah Tipple with music and lyrics by Nancy Harris and Marc Teitler.
The ongoing closure of the Swan Theatre means that The Wars of the Roses Parts 1 & 2, which had already been rescheduled from this autumn until autumn 2021, will now be delayed, hopefully to open in 2022. The staging of the three parts of Shakespeare’s Henry VI will be performed as a landmark event alongside Richard III journeying headlong through one of the most turbulent times of English history.
Talking about the ongoing impact of the pandemic and the future of the RSC, artistic director Gregory Doran said: “We want to welcome our audiences back, to reopen again and to help our regional and wider economy rebuild itself, bringing people back into our towns and cities.
“Our financial position and uncertainty around future restrictions means that our immediate focus will be on our largest theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon – the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. We’re planning for a winter programme of events which will see a small number of socially distanced audiences back in our buildings, an exciting prospect with audiences also joining us online from their homes.
“We look ahead with optimism to 2021 when we plan for our postponed productions of The Winter’s Tale and The Comedy of Errors to finally make it to the stage, and for our glorious Matilda The Musical to reopen at the Cambridge Theatre alongside other shows to reignite the vital West End economy. We want our brilliant workforce, permanent and freelance, to be back doing what they do best, making live theatre.
“We continue to face the challenges of the ongoing pandemic and today was a difficult day as we began formal consultation about potential redundancies with our fantastic staff. We will continue to respond creatively to the ongoing crisis and look forward to the moment when we can reopen our doors with full-scale productions to celebrate all that is brilliant about live theatre.”