The Royal Shakespeare Theatre is owned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and is dedicated to the works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries as well as contributing with some of today’s writers. It is located on the banks of the river Avon in Stratford-upon-Avon and is the tallest landmark in the town.
The theatre opened in 1932 and is built next to the original Shakespeare Memorial Theatre which opened on April 19th 1879 and had been destroyed by a fire on March 6th 1926. The Architect for this new building was Elisabeth Scott and this meant that the theatre became the first important work to be built in Britain from the designs of a woman architect. The theatre became the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in 1961 after the formation of the Royal Shakespeare Company in the previous year.
In the building designed by Elizabeth Scott, the theatre had a proscenium-arch stage, and a seating capacity of about 1,400 people with three tiers.
In 2007 the theatre was closed and demolished as part of a £112.8m project to transform it into the theatre you see today called the Transformation Project and later reopened in 2010. The project which included the creation of a new 1040+ seat thrust stage auditorium which brings actors and audiences closer together as distance of the furthest seat from the stage was reduced from 27 metres to 15 metres. The project also included changes to the Swan Theatre (which is situated in the same building), the creation of new public spaces which include a new riverside café and Rooftop Restaurant and a 36 metre observation tower. There were also improvements made for backstage condition for the actors and crew as well as more accessibility for people with disabilities which offers a more comfortable theatre experience.
The new theatre is designed as a one room theatre and this allows the actors and the audience to share the same space in which they did when Shakespeare’s plays were first produced. The theatres stage reaches out into the audience who are seated on the three sides of it. This allows a more traditional Shakespearean performance and allows the audience to draw closer to the actors therefore creating a more personal theatre experience.
The new theatre opened in November 2010, with preview events and activities, in advance of the first full Shakespeare performances from February 2011. The first new productions designed specifically for the Royal Shakespeare Theatre’s stage began from April 2011, with Michael Boyd’s Macbeth, part of the RSC’s 50th Birthday Season celebrations, which ran from April to December 2011.
The Royal Shakespeare Theatre was officially opened on 4 March 2011 by Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, who were given a performance of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet.