THE OLDEST part of the RSC’s Stratford theatres has been given a new lease of life.
A £4.8million refurbishment of the Swan Wing and the entrance way to the Swan Theatre was unveiled to the public today.
The grade II-listed building, built in 1879, has undergone a facelift inside and out over the past 15 months.
Inside there is a new café-bar complete with objects from the RSC’s extensive archives offering personal recollections from the life of theatre – from Patrick Stewart remembering his first big break on the Stratford stage, to a toilet flush from the original The Other Place, which was then never to be pulled during performances as it echoed through the auditorium, but which visitors are now welcome to pull.
There is also a severed head which finished up in the lap of an audience member during a performance of Julius Caesar, and a bust of the Bard which may surprise.
The stained glass windows depicting the Seven Ages of Man which line the staircase have also been restored.
Outside the brickwork, lead windows, and roof ‘lights’ have been restored, alongside three exterior bas reliefs by Paul Kummer, which depict Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories and Tragedies.
A highlight is the new Romeo & Juliet-inspired artwork For All Time, by artist and designer Steven Follen, featuring 2,000 stainless steel stars suspended from the ceiling by fine wires to make the shape of a three-metre tall human face. The three-dimensional face – which reflects light and moves gently in the air – is surrounded by further metal stars which loosely reflect the position of the constellations on Shakespeare’s birthday.
Geraldine Collinge, RSC Director of events and exhibitions, said: “Over the last year we have seen the Victorian architecture of the Swan Wing hidden away whilst a team of specialists weaved their magic to restore its beautiful façade and interior.
“It was not until the scaffolding finally started to come down early this year that you could fully appreciate the detailed and sensitive work that had gone on, behind the hoardings, to bring this beautiful building back to life.
“We are very excited to welcome people back into the space and to enjoy the building close up.”
The project – made possible by a £2.8 million award from the Heritage Lottery Fund – is not yet fully complete.
The new-look Swan Wing will also host a new exhibition telling the story of the making of Shakespeare’s plays, The Play’s The Thing, which will open in the autumn.
Visit www.rsc.org.uk for further details.