Administrative Management's Leading Role at the Royal Shakespeare Company

By Foy, Chris | Manager, September/October 2001 | Go to article overview

Administrative Management's Leading Role at the Royal Shakespeare Company


Foy, Chris, Manager


The theatre often seems to be an industry that contradicts our ideas about management. Managing creativity, especially of artists, can be a delicate balancing act. The best theatre is not created by a management formula. However, that's not to say that a theatre company like the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has nothing to learn from sound management practice. The world's leading classical theatre company is currently in the middle of a 'once in a generation' process of renewal - re-emphasising the link between actor and audience and between staff and theatre performance - marrying creativity with enterprise.

The RSC feels the dichotomy ofmanagement and creativity acutely. A theatre company with global recognition and responsibilities, the RSC is many things to many people. With bases in Stratford-upon-Avon and London, and regular touring commitments in the UK, the US, Europe and Asia, the RSC is a local theatre to theatre-goers in the West Midlands and the capital, but it also draws huge numbers of visitors to Shakespeare's hometown and acts as an ambassador for UK plc when performing overseas.

National Significance

As a charity (and therefore non-profit) with a 1925 Royal Charter, the RSC has a mandate to conserve and advance the UK's dramatic heritage at home and abroad. With a turnover of more than L32 million, the RSC has become one of the largest performing arts companies in the world. One of four British arts organisations of 'national significance' (the other three being the Royal National Theatre, The Royal Opera House and English National Opera), the RSC receives over L13 million annually in public subsidy from the Arts Council of England. However, over Go% of the RSC's income is self-generated through ticket sales. The Company employs over Goo staff across a number of sites, and contracts over 70 actors annually. The Company's reach is enormous, with 8o% of the British public able to see an RSC production within a 45-minute drive in any given year.

Since 1769, when David Garrick staged the first Shakespeare Festival in Stratford-upon-Avon, the idea of a Shakespearian theatre company based on Stratford has become part ofthe UK's cultural heritage. But although heritage is important to the RSC, remaining fresh and relevant to our audiences is crucial. That is why earlier this year the Company embarked on a programme of change, which it believes will guarantee its longterm future. Putting the emphasis on performance and not buildings; developing more variety in actors' contracts; creating freer, more agile structures; the RSC believes it is putting in place the artistic and management systems which will allow it to flourish.

The Company has recently undergone an important restructuring in order to strengthen, modernise and streamline its corporate governance. Designed to make the Company more efficient and more able to respond effectively to the changing requirements of the RSC's community and its stakeholders, the RSC's Governing Body now encompasses a Board of Governors, and an additional 38 Governors.

Partnerships for the Future

The RSC's Artistic Director, Adrian Noble, is also the Company's Chief Executive, although the dayto-day management of the Company is my responsibility. My role is to make sure that the artistic teams in the organisation have the support they need to create extraordinary theatre on stage, bringing a range of new skills and experience to the Company. One of my other roles is to help the RSC to grow its commercial activities and develop a wider range of enterprise and partnerships in new markets and with new technology.

On the artistic side, Adrian Noble is responsible for the artistic vision ofthe RSC. One ofthe world's foremost classical theatre directors, he has been associated with the RSC for over twenty years, and continues to direct productions for the Company. He is supported by four Associate Directors: Michael Attenborough, Michael Boyd, Gregory Doran and Steven Pimlott; who aid him in the shaping of the Company's artistic policy and programming as well as directing individual productions themselves. …

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