facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11

Exclusive: Roxana Silbert on the RSC’s commitment to new writing

First Published 15 February 2010, Last Updated 20 August 2013

Roxana Silbert, Associate Director at the Royal Shakespeare Company and director of David Greig’s play Dunsinane at the Hampstead theatre, explains the evolution and importance of the RSC’s commitment to new writing.

Michael Boyd, in his inaugural season as Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, included a festival of new plays at the end of the Stratford season. It was the start of a project that would blend contemporary theatre-making and classical theatre technique, combining them into a singular, rigorously evolving practice. Dunsinane and The Gods Weep, the two brilliant new plays making up our current residency at Hampstead, continue to build on his desire to spotlight new plays as an integral part of the RSC experience.

It is well known that Michael Boyd cleared the crippling deficit when he took over the RSC but it is less well known that he has set about restoring the company, fibre by fibre, to its vigour and creative health.

Michael invited me in as an Associate Director last year and I recognised immediately the possibilities of what he was doing. The RSC had always had, from its inception, an experimental heart. At its height it had been a company that blended technique, intelligence and the urgency of the new better than anyone. When Michael put his faith in the development of artists the company once again committed to the rigours of research and development. As my career has primarily involved directing new plays I saw the benefits of doing this kind of research and development in a classical environment.

From 2004 until 2007 the RSC’s New Work Seasons had success with Breakfast With Mugabe, Trade, The American Pilot and Days Of Significance. The commissioning of new plays continued and strengthened, and new work was given full-run productions rather than festival outings. Last autumn two new Russian commissions The Drunks and The Grain Store were the first new plays produced on the main stage in Stratford. 

Last November the re-launch of the RSC Studio was the final piece of the infrastructure to fall into place. The Studio allows writers, directors and designers to create radical new works, experiment with new stagings of Shakespeare, train in classical techniques and find new hybrid ways of making theatre. It allows a singular practice to evolve which is about taking strengths from the classical and the contemporary and making a future that has an unpredictable and limitless dramatic possibility.

Dunsinane resulted from a workshop we tailor-made for David Greig. He assembled a group of actors and musicians and went to the locations in Scotland that are significant to the history of Macbeth. This allowed him to sample the atmosphere and vibrations of that world. He came back with a first draft that was so exciting we programmed it straight away.
David then wrote another draft and we did a few days with actors during last year’s Edinburgh Festival. David’s show Midsummer was playing to rave reviews at the Traverse so it was an interesting switch for him to make between two plays with substantially differing mindsets.

Dunsinane is an ambitious piece of work that delves into history and finds the future. The more David explored the history of Scotland the more he found the resonances of Iraq and Afghanistan. The more he delved into Shakespeare’s dramaturgical tools the more he found humour and lightness and breadth of possibility. Dunsinane feels to me like a very good indicator of what is possible when you combine the best of the classical and the best of the new.

Alongside Dunsinane is a production of The Gods Weep by Dennis Kelly, to be directed by Maria Aberg. Dennis has explored the idea of corporate powers invading our lives. It is frightening in its subject and thrilling in its staging. Maria has worked on Days Of Significance for us and she was Associate Director on The Winter’s Tale and Pericles with [Royal Court Artistic Director] Dominic Cooke.

This is a key moment in the life of the RSC. It feels very invigorating to be such a big part of it. We are developing work – classical and new – to play in our three re-developed spaces in Stratford, all of which will be open very soon. We have over 40 writers under commission. We are having commissioning conversations with leading dramatists across the globe. They can write big plays or small plays; historical plays or plays set in any present or future they can imagine. It is a mission we are committed to. This singular practice is something that is becoming a reality at the RSC and it is testament to Michael Boyd’s faith in artists and his deep, graceful patience.

I am very proud of the two plays in this residency at Hampstead theatre. We have opened up the potential of this wonderful theatre space and made it into a dynamic one-room experience. We have filled it with drama and politics and I can’t think of a better way to start off an election year.

Roxana Silbert

Share

Sign up

Related articles

If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.