Do we need the RSC?

Convener(s): SHELLEY SILAS

Participants: Andy Whyment, Sakuntala Ramanee, Ed Jaspers, Eduard Lewis, Jon Pashley, Laura Macdougal, Jacqueline Coombs, Andrew Piper, Melissa Williams, Anna Coombs, Lauren Cooney, Oliver Townsend, Nicky Salmon,  Martyn Duffy, Mark Trezona, Jonathan Bigwood, Nicola Stanford (?), Emma Adams, Stella Duffy, Mandy F, Kas D, Chris Hallam, Rebecca Atkinson Lord, Lynn Gardner, Jaime Zoob, Rebecca Manson Jones, Shakera Ahad, Sarah Boesen, Mhairi Grealis, Rachel Spence.  Sarah Dickenson.


Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

As reported, ‘A well known artistic director of a famous theatre, once said, off the record, that the RSC is not necessary.  This was said in private, he would never let his feelings be known in public.’


The RSC receives @£18m annual government funding, as well as sponsorship and other funding.  The Globe has no government funding.

Is funding/money/finances the issue?

  • Resources should perhaps be put into smaller companies.  i.e. some smaller companies, producing Shakespeare, are so underfunded, actors receive very little pay. 
  • Spread the funding so that smaller companies have the backing to produce Shakespeare.


Do we feel the same way about Opera?

Is the RSC and therefore Shakespeare part of our national identity?

Is the RSC theatrical royalty?

Do we over rate the RSC?


They employ large casts, there was some discussion about actors’ pay – special agreement with Equity, perhaps actors’ receive below the Equity min.

The RSC can reach those living outside the big cities.

Being an RSC actor – is it a loaded job/responsibility?  Is working for the RSC like working for the Royal family?

No writer to pay (in relation to Shakespeare’s work).


Let’s have a moratorium for two years – NO Shakespeare.


If two of Shakespeare’s productions are being performed in separate venues but at the same time, and one of them is by the RSC, chances are, the public will go to the RSC because it has a NAME.  What chance then, for the other company?


The NT has a travelex season, should the RSC have a similar ticketing scheme?  The following is dreadfully paraphrased.

  • Andrew - ‘travelex is a bad idea.’
  • Shelley – it’s a great idea.
  • Others – ‘yeah, cheaper tickets, more people can see the work, people who normally cannot afford top go to the theatre, what’s wrong with that?’
  • Andrew – ‘No, what I mean is that everyone can get £10 tickets, even the rich.’
  • Others – ‘Ah.’

Should Travelex be means tested so that the rich old codgers pay higher tickets prices?


Things in favour of the RSC – Diverity, inclusion.  Much box ticking.

RAL – How do you improve access to publicly funded theatre?


What does the RSC produce that other theatres do not?

If we take money away from the RSC will it go to other companies, or will the funding disappear?

That the RSC is a rep, is a good thing, bring back the rep, put money into local rep. 

RSC as a national tourist attraction.

LG – the RSC trades on its name.


Susannah Clapp has said something recently about the RSC not producing the best Shakespeare.

LG.  The RSC has an ambassadorial function. A lot of their productions are v, v average.  Look at the great work of Headlong (Romeo and Juliet).  The German production of Hamlet at the Barbican.  Filter’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Lyric.  The RSC tells us what Shakespeare should be.

RAL.  Fund the RSC’s arts education group and basic operations to allow them to solicit private funding, but cut all the funding for pure theatre and divert it to regional rep.

AC.  Reduce subsidy/stop the machine/make redundancies/cut budgets/advertise legally/pay actors minimum wage/engender collaborations/reduce government subsidies to £2m.


The work which the RSC produces is not as exciting as it could be, as it has been. They try to experiment but generally fail.

Organisations which are funded by the government must offer/create workshops, sometimes these workshops don’t work.

LG.  The RSC looks outwards. The company needs to collaborate more. Their new writing is not great.




Be good to see the RSC taking risks and providing the kind of support for theatre makers in the way the NT Studio provides their space for new work, most of which is not produced at the NT, but elsewhere – or never.  It was agreed that the NT Studio is an important, vital space for all theatre makers, the generosity of the NT Studio to allow work created there to be produced elsewhere, is to be encouraged.  Other theatres should perhaps follow the NT Studio model.

State of mind – main stage productions at the RSC v the experimental.  One is not valued as much as the other.


Andrew –Directors at the RSC are predominantly white males.  Should we be seeking out new directors?


Do admin costs far outweigh production costs?

It’s easier to cut artists than administration.

RS.  It’s different working as an actor in house and coming in with your own company/project.

Ticking the ‘right’ boxes = more funding.

Why does the RSC need so much subsidy?

A balance needs to be found between the level of subsidy for the RSC and smaller, lesser funded companies.  Balance of funding suggests that prestige organizations such as the RSC could indirectly support smaller companies.

The RSC needs to realize its responsibilities.


Is the Arts Council best placed to make links with smaller companies?

It was suggested that many people are intimidated by the RSC.


Are we as theatre makers turning in on ourselves?


The Arts Council might want to look at how they fund contracts.

Less paper = more money.  We live in a technological age, bring out the ipads and get rid of the printers and save money.


Why are artistic positions at the RSC mostly never advertised? 

Some of the best works at the RSC are not Shakespeare plays.

The RSC is a major employee of Stratford. 

RMJ.  If you kill Disney you kill Disneyland.

MT. Is funding the RSC still necessary?

MT. The RSC gives workshops in all areas of production – leaning how to speak verse (properly, innit Shelley added innit, not MT), costume skills, set building etc. People trust the name of the RSC. Cutting grants mean skills will be lost.

At the end of the session, when most people had gone, we discussed the huge success of Matilda and Les Mis, not Shakespeare prods but book adaptations.

Excellence can happen anywhere.

RMJ.  Learning verse is like learning ballet for theatre.

The RSC are very good at bringing in expertise.

In brief…the consensus IMO was that the RSC should be maintained with different funding levels, and that surplus money should be diverted to less well paid smaller companies.

However, when I asked the group to raise hands, for those who thought the RSC should stay or go, there was a groan...’You can’t ask that, it’s a completely different question.’