RSC unveils its new Stratford Theatres
The Rivals and why it gave me writer's block

Dressing rooms and where to celeb-spot in Stratford

Right finally got time to sit down and go through my photo's from the preview tour of the RSC's new theatres in Stratford.

First can I say 'wow'. I love the way they've melded the old with the new keeping some stunning features like the gothic Victorian staircase in the Swan Theatre and the art deco ticket booth from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

I also think it's great that they've recycled bits that couldn't stay in situ. For example the wood that graced the stage has been relaid in one of the bars so visitors get to tread the famous boards themselves.

There is some great artwork too. I particularly liked the oil painting of a scene from Richard II in which he gives his last soliloquoy standing under pouring sand - at least that's the performance and production it reminded me of if it isn't (there is a picture in the slide show below). There is also a great explosion of pages from Shakespeare's complete works in one of the bars. It looks like the pupils of Hogwarts have been having a bit of fun with their magic skills (also have a pic).

Of course my favourite bit was nosing around the dressing rooms. Each has a balcony overlooking the River Avon so if there's a matinee on, in warmer weather, a slow stroll along there might yield some good actor-type spots when productions return to the theatre. (The first full productions will be existing shows when they return from the RSC's London season in February and then the first productions-designed specifically for the new space start in the spring.)

But back to the dressing rooms. The actors played a big part in how they turned out with eight different mock ups before final designs were settled on. One of the contractors involved in the redevelopment commented that pretty much every actor who walked through the door had a say in the design and work going into the new theatres and yes that includes the likes of David Tennant and Patrick Stewart.

In fact the RSC wanted all those working on the project to understand and experience the working life of the theatre so they were offered acting classes, costume fittings, voice coaching and tickets to see performances at The Courtyard during the construction, thanks to RSC benefactor Lady Sainsbury. She even paid for drinks receptions after the shows so that contractors could mingle and chat with the actors and production staff.

Of course I asked about the likes of Mr T and Mr S and yes they mingled too and were uniformally described as down to earth and 'normal'. What else would we expect?

Anyway I could waffle for ages about all sort of things like the lift from the basement behind the proscenium arch of the RST being big enough so that a whole army could dramatically appear at the back of the stage, should they want such affect (shame they aren't planning one of the histories in the first season).

But one final thing I must mention is that another good place to hang out to actor spot, should that be your thing, is the front of the theatre as opposite there is a row of cute little cottages, owned by the RSC and in which the actors live. And before you ask no Mr T didn't stay in one when he did his last season, he preferred the privacy of somewhere outside town, and who can blame him, but apparently Ian McKellan did.

There's a great BBC clip of Michael Boyd artistic director at the RSC walking on and talking about the new RST stage here.