RSC's dynamic duo say goodbye after record-breaking year

By IH Thursday 20 September 2012 Updated: 25/09 08:44

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Buy photos » Goodbye - Vikki Heywood and Michael Boyd. (s)

THE RSC said goodbye to their dynamic duo at the end of a record-breaking year.

Artistic Director Michael Boyd and Executive Director Vikki Heywood officially stepped down at the company's AGM on Friday (September 14) after overseeing a decade of momentous change, and the most successful year on and off stage in the company's history.

In the RSC's 50th Birthday year, and the first full year in their transformed home, the company posted record results, which included playing to over 700,000 people, almost double the previous year, which in turn saw box office takings more than double to £18.1 million.

Since the re-opening of the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres in November 2010, 1.3 million people have visited the theatres or attended a performance.

During the year the company also served 50,000 diners, saw 43,000 people take a trip up the new Tower and gave theatre tours to 19,000 people – and won VisitEngland’s highest accolade, the Outstanding Contribution to Tourism Award for 2011.

Leading the way on stage was the company's production of Matilda The Musical, which transferred to London's West End last October. It scooped a record seven Olivier awards in April, beating the previous record of six, also held by the RSC for Nicholas Nickleby. Since it opened, Matilda has played to almost 400,000 people, bringing in £24 million.

In Stratford, the company celebrated its half century with successful seasons of work, exploring Shakespeare, the classics and the best of its back catalogue of 300 commissioned new plays.

The company also extended its eductaion programme in schools, continued its tradition of supporting projects with artists, writers and directors, and performed in New York on a thrust stage built in Stratford and shipped across the Atlantic in 46 shipping containers.

RSC Chairman Nigel Hugill said: “Michael and Vikki have led the RSC over the last ten years with real vision, ambition and compassion, balancing the books, transforming our Stratford home and commissioning and staging some of the greatest theatre of the decade."

Mr Boyd admitted it had been a hard decision to leave.

"Why leave the company of all these gifted people who have produced our brilliant opening and 50th Birthday seasons, our unprecedented residency at Lincoln Center Festival in New York, our UK-wide World Shakespeare Festival for the Olympics, which has changed British culture and our understanding of Shakespeare forever, and Matilda The Musical, the most garlanded West End musical in history, while running the most rigorous, successful and influential education programme in the country, all in one year?

“This last year has certainly scuppered the hopes I might have had of having a gentle wind down, but I am glad to be leaving before I really want to and at a time when the company is prolific and successful. I owe all my colleagues and all the brilliant artists who have given us their best work, a huge debt.

Ms Heywood said she was proud to havebeen part of team which had inspired a new generation to love Shakespeare.

“Since arriving at the company, I have focused on making the RSC a great place to work, widening our audience reach, increasing our influence in arts and education policy, transforming our estate and securing a strong financial base.

"With so many of my ambitions accomplished, it feels like the right time to go – but I cannot leave without expressing my gratitude to all our audiences, funders and supporters. We simply couldn’t have achieved what we have without their backing and I thank them all.”

IT has been a special year both on and off stage for the RSC.

Greg Doran takes over as Artistic Director, and Catherine Mallyon as Executive Director.

Mr Doran was looking forward to the challenge ahead.

“Michael and Vikki leave the RSC in great shape for the future and Catherine and I will be building on strong foundations."

Michael has generously programmed through to the end of 2013 to allow me some breathing space. I’m going to take advantage of this over the coming months, and I’ll be announcing my first future artistic plans early in the New Year.”

Ms Mallyon said she was looking forward to building on the company's many achievements.

During the past year the company continued its tradition of experimentation and innovation, supporting projects with artists, writers and directors through the RSC Studio.

Across the UK, the RSC toured with its acclaimed production of The Taming of the Shrew, and extended its education work through new partnerships with five theatres, extending the reach of its Learning and Performance Network of 400 schools.

The specially-commissioned Young People’s Shakespeare production of Hamlet also toured schools and theatres, establishing a new model for touring which reached right the heart of communities and played to almost 10,000 people - nearly half of whom were new to the RSC.

And the RSC launched Teaching Shakespeare, its new online professional development offer for teachers, in partnership with the University of Warwick.

Further afield, the RSC jetted to New York last summer to perform seven Shakespeare plays, in a thrust stage auditorium built in the company’s Stratford workshops and shipped across the Atlantic in 46 containers. For the first time ever audiences in American experienced the RSC’s work just like a Stratford audience.

During the year, the Company also began preparations for the World Shakespeare Festival, which the RSC is producing with more than 70 partners and thousands of artists as part of London 2012 Festival. The World Shakespeare Festival opened on the Bard's birthday on April 23 and runs to November.

Fact File - The RSC's record-breaking year in figures

* Staging 1,082 performances of 26 productions across all locations

* Playing to 708,022 people – almost double the previous year

* Box office takings doubled from £8.3 million to £18.1 million

* Trading income tripled from £1.5 million to £4.4 million

* Sponsorship and donations rose from £2.3 million to £5.1 million

* Overall turnover increased by 54 per cent and topped £50 million for the first time

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