Tuesday, April 03, 2007


On Saturday night we had the last public performance in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. A Grade II* listed building, and the first theatre designed by a woman architect, Elisabeth Scott, it opened in 1932. The RST replaced the 1879 french chateau by Dodgshun and Unsworth that burnt down in 1926, leaving only the shell of what is now The Swan. Although the Scott theatre was never loved by actors or directors [ performing there was memorably described by the actor-manager Baliol Holloway "You can just about see the boiled shirts in the front row; it is like acting to Calais from the cliffs of Dover"], its listed art deco interiors are wonderful, and the mass of the building seen from across the River Avon has an Atlantic liner-like strength. To see the plans for the new theatre that will be created within the Scott shell, go to the RSC website.

There have been some wonderful performances in the 75 years of the theatre's history. Here are some of the great actors and actresses that have trod the Memorial Theatre boards:

Donald Wolfit * Robert Helpmann * Michael Redgrave * Paul Scofield * Claire Bloom * John Gielgud * Anthony Quayle * Richard Burton * Lawrence Olivier * Ralph Richardson * Robert Hardy * Vivien Leigh * Peggy Ashcroft * Charles Laughton * Edith Evans * Paul Robeson * Mary Ure * Albert Finney * Ian Holm * Ian Richardson * Alex McCowen * Diana Rigg * Dorothy Tutin * David Warner * Donald Sinden * Patrick Magee * Glenda Jackson * Patrick Stewart * Janet Suzman * Alan Howard * Judi Dench * Helen Mirren * Ben Kingsley * George Baker * Ian McKellen * Alan Badel *Geraldine McEwan * Patrick Allen * Eric Porter * Patrick Magee * Vivien Merchant * Roy Kinnear * Colin Blakely * Richard Johnson * David Suchet * Derek Jacobi * Sinead Cusack * Vanessa Redgrave * Kenneth Branagh * Michael Pennington * Jeremy Irons * Charles Dance * Robert Stephens * Imogen Stubbs * Corin Redgrave * Antony Sher * Simon Russell Beale * Toby Stephens * Ian McKellen * Rachel Kempson * Claire Luce * Margaret Leighton * Laurence Harvey * Michael Hordern * Peter O'Toole * Max Adrian * John Wood * Francesca Annis *

In Prospero's words,

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.


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