The Royal Shakespeare Company is to revive its Studio – the research and development centre which was pioneered by Michel Saint-Denis and Peter Brook in the sixties.
Associate artists David Farr and Deborah Shaw will oversee the project, with a pilot of the new RSC Studio launching in February or March of next year. The venture will not have a single base, but will use rehearsal space in both Stratford-upon-Avon and the company’s London facilities in Clapham. It will focus on three strands of work – Shakespeare and classics, new writing, and developed work – and will aim to mirror the development process which has been used on recent successful productions such as Enron and Black Watch.
Farr said: “It builds on what the RSC is already doing. The RSC has, for years, developed lots and lots of work – whether it be Matilda [the new musical version of Roald Dahl's book] or the Filter show I’m working on. Sometimes those kinds of projects need two or three years to come to fruition. More and more, writers – like Lucy Prebble on Enron – are using that same process, working very closely with a director or producer. The idea of the Studio is to harness all the energy that’s already there and to open up the doors of the RSC.”
Artistic director Michael Boyd explained that the Studio would help develop work by “established theatre artists”.
He added: “Ever since Michel Saint-Denis created the original RSC Studio, we have always given actors, playwrights and directors time and resources to explore ideas, but this will be a more substantial programme of experimentation. The Studio will allow us to embrace the future of theatre, collaborating with other artists and exploring ever new ways of engaging audiences.”
Meanwhile, Boyd revealed that the £113 million rebuild of the RSC’s Stratford home is “on time and on budget”, but a permanent London base is still some way off for the company. Boyd said building work on the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre was going to plan and that an events programme would begin around the building from late 2010, with the repertoire transferring into the RST from the Courtyard in 2011.
He said: “I hate hyperbole, but I’m almost prepared to say that it’s going to be the best theatre in the world, especially for Shakespeare.”
But he added that the RSC would not begin the search for a London home until 2011 at the earliest, despite being “frustrated” by the company’s current situation.
“Of course, we are frustrated. We would have like to have played the Histories open-ended in London and we can’t because we don’t have a home,” he explained. “And, of course, we would like more of a home.
“But we would be insane if we, while building two theatres in Stratford, embarked on converting another one in London. Even a conversion would take an enormous amount of energy and capital fundraising.”
Boyd said the “most likely” outcome for a new RSC home would be a found space with something like the Roundyard – the portable theatre conversion the RSC has used at the Roundhouse – dropped into it. A new build theatre would be the least likely option, he added.