A £4.8 million restoration of the Swan Wing – the oldest part of the RSC’s Stratford theatres – gets underway next month.
The 1879 wing forms the entrance of the current Swan Theatre, and was built as part of the original Shakespeare Memorial Theatre. It was the only part of the theatre to survive the fire of 1926.
The façade and interior of the building will be significantly restored, revealing the hidden heritage within the building and enhancing the public spaces.
It will include the “sympathetic” cleaning of the brickwork, lead windows, and roof lights, together with the restoration and interpretation of the three exterior bas reliefs by Paul Kummer, which depict stories from Shakespeare of comedy, history and tragedy, and the original stained glass windows which line the Swan Theatre staircase and illustrate the famous lines of the Seven Ages of Man from Shakespeare’s As You Like It.
There will also be a new exhibition documenting the RSC’s history and showcasing how the Company makes its productions.
The restored Grade II listed Swan Wing and exhibition will open in 2016 to coincide with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
Scaffolding will be erected around the front of the Swan in January for restoration work to begin. Performances will continue in the Swan Theatre throughout the project.
Geraldine Collinge, RSC Director of Events and Exhibitions, said: “The Swan Wing project will allow us to conserve and restore elements of this beautiful Stratford-upon-Avon landmark, which has been a feature of the town since the 1870s. Many of the original elements have been hidden over time and we want to bring these back for the local community and visitors to enjoy.
“We know that people of all ages relish the chance to discover how we make our productions. Our new exhibition will allow them to do this through the history of the RSC and will showcase our fantastic Archive and Collection. It will be of interest to everybody and will include activities for children and families as well as providing resources for students and schools. It will be a fun and exciting way to find out how theatre has been made in Shakespeare’s home town over the centuries”
The RSC also plans to re-open The Other Place studio theatre in 2016. Designs for the new look The Other Place are currently being finalised, and a lottery application has been submitted.
The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a £2.8 million grant to the Swan Wing project.