RSC opens revamped theatre

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) opened the doors to its revamped Stratford-upon-Avon home today.

More than 100 local school pupils got the first look at the building following a three-and-a-half year £112.8 million transformation project.

RSC artistic director Michael Boyd said: "Today we are opening the doors of our new home with an invitation for all to come in and explore."

The company's actors will not tread the boards of the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre until next year, but visitors will be able to see the new auditorium, exhibition spaces and a 36m tower complete with a platform offering a view over the bard's home town.

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre has a new stage with the distance of the furthest seat from the stage being halved to 15m.

Mr Boyd said: "Our transformed Royal Shakespeare Theatre auditorium offers the promise of a changed relationship between actor and audience as its thrust stage steps out from the old proscenium arch and brings the furthest seats twice as close to the action.

"Our rejuvenated public spaces give a warm welcome to visitors and allow us an opportunity to demonstrate an entrepreneurial spirit in creating a seven day a week building which has something for everyone."

Among the series of events and exhibitions is an insult chair where visitors can be insulted in suitably Shakespearean fashion by the RSC's actors and a display telling the history of the organisation in 50 objects.

Among the highlights of its season, marking its 50th anniversary next April, will be performances of Macbeth, The Merchant of Venice and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The RSC still needs to raise £3.5 million in funding towards the cost of the work.

It was given a £50 million grant from the Arts Council and has also been given money by private donors from 55 countries around the world.