Inside the Royal Shakespeare Company: Creativity and the Institution

Inside the Royal Shakespeare Company: Creativity and the Institution

Inside the Royal Shakespeare Company: Creativity and the Institution

Inside the Royal Shakespeare Company: Creativity and the Institution

Synopsis

This is the inside story of the Royal Shakespeare Company - a running historical critique of a major national institution and its location within British culture, as related by a writer uniquely placed to tell the tale.It describes what happened to a radical theatrical vision and what happened when that vision turned sour.Spanning four decades and four artistic directors, Inside the Royal Shakespeare Company is a multi-layered chronicle that traces the company's history, offers investigation into its working methods, its repertoire, its people and its politics, and considers what the future holds for this bastion of high culture now in crisis. In a Britain that is increasingly appearing to be incapable of sustaining any artistic vision, Inside the Royal Shakespeare Company offers a crucial analysis of the fight for creative expression.It's a must-read for anyone who wishes to explore behind the scenes and consider the changing role of theatre in cultural life today.

Excerpt

My association with the Royal Shakespeare Company began, as is the case for many, when I was taken to see one of its productions while at school. By good luck, that 1963 production at the Aldwych Theatre happened to be King Lear directed by Peter Brook with the mesmeric Paul Scofield appearing in the title role. The RSC caught my imagination and I eagerly followed its fortunes for the rest of the decade. Through the 1970s I saw the company's work in my role as drama critic and in 1979, by one of those curious twists of fate, I came to run its play department, employed on a short-term contract. I graduated in 1981 to the post of literary manager, which I held until I left in 1997. My work there brought me into contact with a vast range of the people who are needed to put RSC productions before the public, from the artistic director and senior management to heads of various artistic, administrative and production departments, actors, stage managers, designers and, naturally, playwrights. Looking back on those years after I had moved on, I realised that much of my time had been spent, as had theirs, in trying to resolve the inevitable tension between creativity and the institution. It is a tension that exists throughout all the processes required to find organisational forms for artistic expression, and it is a tension that persists because the impulse to challenge, to push the boundaries, to refuse the constraints of the institution is endemic in any creative project. It is a problem with which anyone working in a cultural organisation, especially a large one, will be familiar and it lies at the root of this book.

The following chapters trace this dialectic between creativity and the institution as it evolved at the RSC across four decades and four artistic directors. In the opening part of the book, the story unfolds chronologically with an emphasis on the early formative years, which provided a template for much of the remainder of the RSC's life. It is as much a political as an artistic story and begins with Peter Hall's creation of the RSC, Britain's first large-scale, permanent repertoire company, its background in the 1950s and his initial seasons from 1960-62 when the

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