Curtain up for new Royal Shakespeare theatre
Two of the Royal Shakespeare Company's theatres in Stratford will reopen on Wednesday following a three-and-a-half year re-development project.
The re-vamped Royal Shakespeare Theatre includes a new auditorium with more than 1,000 seats and a colonnade linking it with the Swan Theatre.
The RSC has spent £112m on the redevelopment.
The low key reopening includes previews and exhibitions. Full performances will not start until February.New season
Invited guests were given a preview of the rebuilt Royal Shakespeare and Swan theatres on Tuesday ahead of the general public, who will be allowed in on Wednesday.
RSC artistic director Michael Boyd said: "Our new home isn't just about brilliant brick work, inviting public spaces, and nearly trebling the number of ladies' loos, thought it has those.
"It's a miraculous marriage of the epic and the intimate."
The theatre space will also include a restaurant, cafe, four bars and a new riverside walk.
Visitors will also be able to go up the new 36m (118ft) high tower, where they will be able to see across four counties on a clear day.
The new Royal Shakespeare theatre retains many of its Art Deco and Victorian features.
Old stage boards, once trodden by stars such as Sir Laurence Olivier, have been relaid in a space between the auditorium and foyer in the new theatre.
It would be embarrassing if a trip to watch the Avatar movie felt more exciting and 'experiential' than live theatre presented by one of the world's most revered companies”
The first full productions open in February and March.
The RSC has chosen familiar productions to help fully test the auditorium and backstage facilities - King Lear and Romeo and Juliet.
The theatres will be formally reopened in April 2011 coinciding with the company's 50th birthday season.
The new season will also include productions of The Merchant of Venice, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Harold Pinter's The Homecoming will also be staged.
The redevelopment has been funded by charitable donations and public funding from bodies such as the Arts Council and the Lottery Commission.