Sunday, 19 July 2009

Open house

A Bard time was had by all today at the splendid RSC Open Day jamboree at Stratford-upon-Avon.

Visitors not in the know may have needed shock treatment, given the on-street prevalence of so many men, women and children suffering from hideous facial scarring - and all of them smiling contentedly. Casualties (bottom right) were all, of course, courtesy of the RSC makeup department.

In past years, the town has been awash with thespian Sirs and Dames participating in the Open Day's dizzying array of activities - everything from scholarly text sessions to revelatory exposures of the intimate ministrations of the Company's small army of backstage dressers.

But this time, canny RSC executive director Vikki Heywood (top left) managed to pull off a truly star-trumping coup de theatre.

She welcomed visitors, for the very first time, to a privileged glimpse of what's going on within the Royal Shakespeare Theatre itself, currently undergoing a massive three-year transformation project.

So today I was able to stand on what will be the Company's main stage (top right) and view the auditorium that has replaced the vast 1930s theatre where I've seen dozens of performances since my first RSC show in, ahem, 1967.

And it looks to me as if Ms Heywood and her team are well on their way to making good their promise of creating a major 'theatre space' that will be simultaneously epic and intimate. The acting area is vast, but it is encompassed on three sides by a three-level 'audience space' in which everyone is remarkably close to the action.

I'm excited.

It'll be a while before the players are able to tread the renewed boards: the contractors are due to hand over the building to the Company in July 2010.

Middle row shows friendly architect Alasdair McKenzie (right) and Tim Court (project manager) on site to answer questions.

Bottom left: Open Day ended with the company director Greg Doran ruffing up the partcipants in the annual Great Shakespeare Quiz.

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