Late acting great given a lasting home in row A

Sir Ian Richardson's ashes buried in the RSC's £112m new theatre

When the new £112 million Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon opens its doors to the public for the first time this week, there will be a familiar presence in Row A. The ashes of one of its most famous founder members – actor Sir Ian Richardson – have been buried in the foundations, just in front of the new stage, in row A, at the bottom of the central aisle.

Sir Ian's son Miles, 47, who appeared with his father on the old Stratford stage, now demolished to make way for the new theatre, said proudly: "In perpetuity, my father will be on the front row for every future performance – just where he liked to be, centre stage. And, if you are sitting in Row A, you will not be alone."

Sir Ian found small-screen fame as scheming politician Francis Urquhart in the 1990 TV drama House of Cards, written by Michael Dobbs, who was made a peer last week. His character was famous for the mischievous catchphrase: "You may say that. I couldn't possibly comment." He also starred as spy Bill Haydon in the 1979 BBC adaptation of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, but had earlier spent 15 continuous years on stage in Stratford as a full-time member of the RSC. He died at the age of 72 in February 2007.

Nearly two years ago, while work on the new theatre was underway, Miles Richardson was making a tour with his mother, Maroussia, who, like her late husband, was a founder member of the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1961. He said: "The building was at the foundation stage, the cement mixers were churning, and on an impulse I turned to my mother and said, why don't we put Dad's ashes in one of those? His ashes had been on the mantlepiece of Mum's home while we tried to work out what to do with them.

"We had thought of Scotland, where he was born, but he didn't go back there much in latter years. We also thought of the grounds of the house near Exeter in Devon where my mother and father spent the last 10 years of his life, but, again, it didn't seem quite right. We wanted it to be somewhere where we went often, and could think of him."

After inspecting the new building, Mr Richardson and his mother, now 70, spoke to RSC executive director Vikki Heywood and the theatre's on-site constructors who asked them to come back the following week. When they did so, they found a space had been prepared in the foundations.

"Every theatre should have its ghost," Mr Richardson said. "There are a number in Shakespeare's plays. The old Stratford theatre had one reputed to be of a former stage manager who came to a sticky end. There was definitely a spooky feeling round by the old props store. The builders say they will have cleared away the old spirits when they transformed the theatre but, instead, it will have my father. It will definitely be a benign presence."

Ms Heywood said: "As we look ahead to opening the newly transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre, I am touched that such a wonderful actor, who is also such an integral part of the RSC's history, has become part of the fabric of our new building."

The new RST and the revamped and adjoining Swan Theatre will open on time and on budget, on Wednesday. The RST features a 1,000-seat auditorium and a thrust stage which the audience wraps round on three sides. Facilities include exhibition areas, a new Rooftop Restaurant, Riverside Cafe and terrace, and a new 36-metre tower with viewing platform from which visitors will be able to see all the Shakespeare landmarks in the town.

Many of the Art Deco features of the original 1932 building have been retained. In a carefully choreographed "soft opening", there will be exhibitions, readings and recitals in the new theatres into the New Year. The first production opens in February when Greg Hicks stars in King Lear.

Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
    Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

    Finally, a diet that works

    Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
    Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

    Say it with... lyrics

    The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
    Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

    The joys of 'thinkering'

    Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
    Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

    Monique Roffey interview

    The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

    Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
    DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

    It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
    Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

    How we met

    Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

    Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

    Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
    Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

    Who does your club need in the transfer window?

    Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
    The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015