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Definition: RSC from Collins English Dictionary

abbreviation for

1 Royal Shakespeare Company

2 Royal Society of Chemistry

Summary Article: Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC).
From The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Stage Actors and Acting

Effectively one of Britain’s two national theatre companies, the RSC was established much later than similar ventures on the continent. In 1960, at the age of twenty-nine, Peter Hall took over the artistic directorship of the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon and introduced important structural changes. At the time of his arrival, Stratford had only a summer season with actors returning to London during the winter and spring. Hall achieved continuity of work by taking over the Aldwych Theatre in London and running a year-round season there. This allowed for the introduction of an ensemble and an emphasis on modern plays which Hall thought vital for cross-fertilization with the RSC’s Shakespearian work. In contrast to Olivier's National Theatre and previous policy at Stratford, Hall was not really interested in stars but created them himself, as, for example, David Warner in Hamlet (1965). The production that most defined early RSC aesthetics was The Wars of the Roses (1964), directed by Hall, John Barton, and Clifford Williams, comprising the three parts of Henry VI and Richard III, produced in a style that owed much to Brecht's Epic theatre.

When Hall moved on to become artistic director of the National Theatre in 1968, Trevor Nunn, who was then only twenty-eight, took over and directed a remarkable season of Shakespeare’s Roman plays (1972) and a stunning chamber production of Macbeth (1976). An even bigger, worldwide success was Peter Brook's Midsummer Night’s Dream (1970), set in an empty white gymnasium and using elements of circus and magic. Nunn directed the theatre on his own until 1978 and then shared his job with Terry Hands, who had made his name with a series of productions of Shakespeare’s history plays. During their joint tenure, the company moved from the Aldwych to the Barbican Centre in the City of London where it played at a main house with 1,166 seats and a studio, The Pit (200 seats), which complemented The Other Place, a small stage in use from 1974, at Stratford. In Stratford, Nunn and Hands also opened a third theatre, the Swan (seating 430), in 1986. With Nunn increasingly concentrating on freelance work, Hands took over the direction of the RSC from 1986 until 1991.

Hands was succeeded by Adrian Noble, another established RSC director, who took the decision to vacate the Barbican Centre and leave the company without a permanent London home in 2002. His ambitious plans for the redevelopment of Elisabeth Scott’s unloved 1932 Stratford auditorium were criticized, and he quit in an atmosphere of discord in 2003. The new artistic director, Michael Boyd, had to pay off a substantial deficit and to inspire confidence, which he achieved with a season of all the histories. The rebuilt main auditorium at Stratford-upon-Avon was opened in 2011 and was well received by theatre and architecture critics. It has a thrust stage and seats 1,040. The organizational basis has now been re-established for the RSC to compete again with the National Theatre, widely seen as artistically more advanced during the first decade of the twenty-first century. Gregory Doran took over the directorship of the RSC in September 2012.

  • Beauman, S. , The Royal Shakespeare Company: a History of Ten Decades (Oxford and New York, 1982).
  • Chambers, C. , Inside the Royal Shakespeare Company: Creativity and the Institution (London and New York, 2004).
  • Michael Raab
    © Cambridge University Press, 2015

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