'The Other Place' Theatre re-opens in Stratford to lead research and creative practice following a University of Birmingham and RSC partnership

The iconic studio theatre, The Other Place, in Stratford-upon-Avon has reopened after undergoing a transformation partly funded by the University of Birmingham, in a five-year partnership with the RSC. The doors opened to the public on Monday 21 March with a new theatre tour, From Page to Stage, starting on Thursday 24 March.

The collaboration, which sees the University become a Founding Partner of The Other Place, is rooted in the vision of the theatre as a centre for creative and academic exchange. Benefits for the University will include the opportunity for students to access creative and teaching spaces at The Other Place, with RSC artists and practitioners providing input to undergraduate and postgraduate courses, while the RSC will have the chance to work closely with internationally renowned academics at the Shakespeare Institute.

Originally built in 1973, The Other Place was home to the RSC’s developmental and new work, housing many landmark productions with RSC alumni such as Judi Dench, Ian McKellen and Helen Mirren, as well as the research and development of major productions such as Les Miserables and Matilda, The Musical.  The theatre closed in 2006 to make way for the temporary Courtyard Theatre, where the RSC performed during the transformation of the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres.

After a 12 month building project the new Other Place includes a 200-seat flexible studio theatre, built within the external steel structure of The Courtyard Theatre, two new rehearsal rooms, and a new home for the RSC’s 40,000 piece Costume Store, giving people access to the Store for the first time via a new theatre tour. There will also be a café bar that will be open throughout the year.

The studio theatre will be a festival venue for RSC productions, with the first new work festival taking place in the summer (details to be announced in April).  As a creative hub, it will offer the opportunity for engagement in learning, research and development, and house rehearsals and training for artists throughout the year

 The project is being made possible thanks to a new collaboration with the University of Birmingham, Founding Partner of The Other Place, alongside the support of private and public funders, including very generous donations from The Gatsby Charitable Foundation and The Backstage Trust, a £3m Lottery grant from Arts Council England.

Professor Sir David Eastwood, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, said:

‘This is a hugely exciting collaboration that builds on our existing relationship with the RSC and promises to have enormous benefits for both parties – not least the opportunity to combine our world-leading arts research with the RSC’s cutting-edge artistic practice. Our students will undoubtedly benefit from the numerous teaching and creative opportunities afforded by this innovative project, and I am very much looking forward to seeing how it progresses.’

Professor Michael Dobson, Director of the Shakespeare Institute, said: ‘One reason the University of Birmingham established its Shakespeare Institute in Stratford in 1951 was so that it could both benefit from the presence of a great classical theatre company and contribute to that company’s work. More than 60 years on, we are thrilled that this collaboration, centred on the RSC’s ideas department, The Other Place, is being reborn in a form that will bring renewed creativity to the theatre and to the academy alike.’

Professor Ewan Fernie, Chair of Shakespeare Studies and Fellow at the Shakespeare Institute, said: ‘This collaboration presents a special opportunity to bring cutting-edge academic work and teaching into the RSC’s laboratory for radical experiment, The Other Place. We at the University of Birmingham’s Shakespeare Institute share the RSC’s passion for making The Other Place a driver for alternative ways of doing Shakespeare and contemporary art, and we're passionate about sharing that with our students as well.

‘Everyone involved with this project is keen for The Other Place to be a unique hub for creative and academic exchange that will make a fresh and lasting contribution to cultural life in the UK and beyond.’

Erica Whyman, RSC Deputy Artistic Director, said:

‘What once housed a 1000 seat auditorium is now a brilliant new home for our Studio Theatre, two exceptional rehearsal spaces, and the most wonderful new home for our Costume Store, which includes over 40,000 costumes items created for our productions over the past decades.’ 

 ‘I am hugely excited about this vibrant, creative space, which embodies the challenging and alternative spirit of the original Other Place.  I can already feel the atmosphere around the place and I know that it will be an inspiring place to rehearse, explore and rehearse new ideas, to perform and to experience new writing and other forms of theatre.  Everybody working and visiting the building can feel part of the ‘engine room’ of the RSC.

‘We are very grateful to all our funders who have made this possible – including University of Birmingham, Founding Partner of The Other Place,  Arts Council England, The Gatsby Charitable Foundation and The Backstage Trust.’

 Ends

Media contacts: Rebecca Hume, Communications Manager (Social Sciences and the Arts), tel. +44 (0)121 414 9041 

NOTES TO EDITORS

University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham was named University of the Year for Graduate Employment 2016 and University of the Year 2013/14 in The Times and The Sunday Times. It is ranked among the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and more than 4,000 international students from nearly 150 countries. The University collaborates with partners across the world to produce ground-breaking research, deliver innovative teaching, and to create opportunities for students and staff to gain international experience.

Shakespeare Institute

The Shakespeare Institute at the University of Birmingham is an internationally renowned research institution established in 1951 in Stratford-upon-Avon to push the boundaries of knowledge about Shakespeare studies and Renaissance drama.

The Other Place

The Other Place has been made possible thanks to the support of private and public funders, including very generous donations from Arts Council England, The Gatsby Charitable Foundation, Backstage Trust, J Paul Getty Jr Charitable Trust and a new creative partnership with the University of Birmingham, Founding Partner of The Other Place.

The Other Place was the Royal Shakespeare Company’s original studio theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.  It began life as a tin shed rehearsal room and in 1974, following a series of experimental theatre projects such as Actors Commando and Theatregoround, it was converted into a studio space for adventurous and experimental work by contemporary writers.

The Other Place was the brainchild of Buzz Goodbody, the pioneering visionary at the helm of its artistic direction in its early days, who made it the most productive tin shed in theatre history.  Inspired by the revolutionary spirit of the alternative theatre movements occurring throughout Britain, Buzz created an unconventional auditorium, which aimed to create a sense of community and intimacy between actors and audience. This was a period of great change, altering the face of British theatre forever; with the earliest signs beginning in 1960 when Peter Hall joined the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre as Artistic Director with the objective to ‘to express Shakespeare’s intentions in terms that modern audiences could understand.’

The Other Place was closed in 1989 for two years of rebuilding, and reopened its doors in 1991 with a permanent brick building.  This building later closed and was adapted as a foyer to The Courtyard Theatre which housed RSC productions during the transformation of the RST and Swan theatres.