Anthony Sher: So many famous ghosts, but this place has never been any good for performances

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The Independent Culture

At last, I will be able to see the faces of the children in the balcony. I can't when I act at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at the moment, because I am too far away. That is the aspect of this that excites me most. For an actor, the most important thing is that sense of interaction between their performance and the audience. You need that intimacy to make theatre work.

I'm always excited about going to Stratford because of the famous ghosts that live in the theatre, although the auditorium is not, and never has been, very good for performance. It's too long and narrow, so the restructuring will be a wonderful thing.

The experiments with the stage that the company has made in the last few years have helped to bring the audience into "the same room".

This year I was pleased to see the stage built out from the Proscenium arch for the summer season. But such experiments have not been enough help. So I'm looking forward to seeing a new stage which will bring younger members of the audience closer to the actors.

Backstage facilities have always been a problem; and they have been exacerbated since the Swan Theatre was built, as we have have had to share those facilities between two companies because the Swan and the RST share a back wall, leaving the Swan with little more than a broom cupboard for a backstage area. I have seen actors from shows at the Swan and the RST literally falling over each other backstage.

Of course, the history of the theatre is important; and of course anyone would have mixed feelings about losing a stage that has seen some incredible performances. Some of the most memorable productions of the last century have been staged on those boards. In my own career, I have vivid memories of my own Winter's Tale and Richard III at Stratford. They are indelible memories for me. But if we build an exciting new space which encourages new audiences, then it's something I support.

Sir Anthony Sher is an Associate Artist of the Royal Shakespeare Company.

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