The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has announced the start of a major project which will see the restoration of the oldest part of the Company's theatres in Stratford-upon-Avon, plus the opening of a new exhibition, which will immerse visitors in the RSC's rich history and showcase how the Company makes its world famous productions.
The project is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Work begins in January 2015 when scaffolding will be erected 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. Performances will continue in the Swan Theatre throughout the project.
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 the beautiful public spaces.
Alongside the sympathetic cleaning of the brickwork, lead windows, and roof 'lights', the project will include the restoration and interpretation of the three exterior bas reliefs by Paul Kummer, which depict stories from Shakespeare of comedy, history and tragedy; and 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.
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 aged 8 and upwards 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, and much more.
More information on the exhibition, designed by exhibition architects, Kossmann.dejong and curated by the RSC's Events and Exhibitions team, will be announced in Spring 2015.
Geraldine Collinge, RSC Director of Events and Exhibitions, said:
'The Swan Wing project will allow us to conserve and restore elements of this beautiful Stratford-upon-Avon landmark, which has been a feature of the town since the 1870s. 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 Other Place
The RSC also plans to re-open The Other Place studio theatre in 2016. Designs for the new look The Other Place are currently being finalised. The RSC recently submitted a Stage Two Arts Council Lottery application to secure the final funds for the project, after being awarded Stage One approval in July this year. News about the application is due early next year. Work is planned to begin shortly afterwards, with a planned opening in 2016 in time for the anniversary of Shakespeare's death.
The Other Place and Swan Wing building projects will run in tandem. More information about both projects will be available in Spring 2015, alongside further details about the wider celebrations throughout Stratford-upon-Avon during the anniversary year.