Inside the Royal Shakespeare Company: Creativity and the by Colin Chambers

By Colin Chambers

First released in 2004. Routledge is an imprint of Taylor & Francis, an informa corporation.

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In the face of criticism from many critics when the expansion to London was announced, Hall had proved his point at the Aldwych. Once he had opened at the theatre, however, which ran almost the whole year round, the rhythm of life for the company took on its own new momentum, and fresh demands and problems became apparent. Acquiring a London base was the most important systemic change Hall initiated. It was an indispensable element in securing the legitimacy and survival of the company and the later public subsidy required to support it but also the main cause of the historic inadequacy of that subsidy.

This effectively meant there could be no profit for the company, which also had to recoup its costs in refurbishing the theatre. In November 1960 the company struck a deal with Peter Cadbury, the managing director of Keith Prowse Ltd, the country’s biggest ticketing agency, that guaranteed £250,000 worth of ticket income for the first Aldwych season (approximately 25 per cent). It was the largest deal of its kind in Britain and 18 ALL IN A STATE OF FINDING showed the Treasury and the Arts Council as well as the Stratford governors that Hall was arguing from a position if not of prudence then certainly of serious practicality and entrepreneurial creativity.

Hall held his nerve and gambled. He approached a young actor, Peter O’Toole, whom he had seen playing Hamlet at the Bristol Old Vic the year before. He turned out to be the ‘find’ of the first season, but in November that year he announced he was to play the lead in David Lean’s film Lawrence of Arabia and would not be available for London where he had agreed to play Henry II in Becket. The company issued an injunction but lost on the grounds that O’Toole had not been contracted to play that specific role.

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