RSC’s Swan Theatre gets multi-million pound revamp

RSC Swan Theatre

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s Victorian-fronted Swan Theatre (RSC) is set to undergo major restoration in a project starting at the Stratford-upon-Avon site in the New Year.

The announcement this week, which will see the venue’s productions continue uninterrupted, is coupled with news of a planned exhibition, which will immerse visitors in the RSC’s history and showcase how the company makes its world famous productions.

Work begins in January when scaffolding will be put up around the front of the Swan Theatre for restoration work to begin.

The restored Grade II* listed Swan Wing and the new exhibition will open in 2016, to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.

The 1879 wing forms the entrance of the current Swan Theatre, and was built as part of the original Shakespeare Memorial Theatre.

The façade and interior of the building will be significantly restored, revealing the hidden heritage within the building and enhancing its public spaces.

Alongside the sympathetic cleaning of the brickwork, lead windows, and roof lights, the project will include the restoration of the three exterior bas reliefs by Paul Kummer, which depict stories from Shakespeare of comedy, history and tragedy.

Work will also be carried out on the original stained glass windows, which line the Swan Theatre staircase and illustrate the famous lines of the Seven Ages Of Man from Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

The Swan Wing is the only remaining part of the 1879 Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, which burnt down in 1926.

The Wing originally housed a library, reading room and picture gallery and it currently includes the façade and entrance, hallway, bar area, staircase, current Ferguson exhibition room and the bridge which links it to the Swan Theatre auditorium.

It’s rennovation is made possible thanks to a £2.8 million award from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and generous support from the Garfield Weston Foundation, The Wolfson Foundation and other supporters.

Installed throughout the Swan Wing, a major, new exhibition will celebrate the stories, creativity and moments of innovation in the RSC’s past and present.

Visitors will be transported behind the scenes, to capture the magic of theatre and the rich history behind the company’s performances.

Previously unseen treasures from the RSC’s internationally renowned archive and collection will feature in the exhibition, including costumes, set designs, props, photographs, paintings, drawings, audio and video recordings.

Geraldine Collinge, RSC Director of events and exhibitions, said: “The Swan Wing project will allow us to conserve and restore elements of this beautiful landmark, which has been a feature of the town since the 1870s.

Geraldine Collinge

“Many of the original elements have been hidden over time and we want to bring these back for the local community and visitors to enjoy.

“We know that people of all ages relish the chance to discover how we make our productions.

“Our new exhibition will allow them to do this through the history of the RSC and will showcase our fantastic archive and collection.

“It will be of interest to everybody and will include activities for children and families as well as providing resources for students and schools.

“It will be a fun and exciting way to find out how theatre has been made in Shakespeare’s home town over the centuries.”

The RSC also plans to re-open The Other Place studio theatre in 2016. Designs for the new look venue are currently being finalised.

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