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Learning English - Words in the News
09 August, 2006 - Published 11:20 GMT
Royal Shakespeare Company's new theatre
Courtyard theatre

Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company is officially unveiling a new theatre today in Stratford-upon-Avon, the town where William Shakespeare was born. 'The Courtyard' will be the RSC's main home until its existing theatre reopens in 2010. This report from Vincent Dowd:

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As the critics settle down to a marathon premiere of Shakespeare's three-part Henry the Sixth their eyes may wander occasionally from the stage to the theatre about them - because the play is inaugurating the Royal Shakespeare Company's new home. The Courtyard is a temporary structure but long-term temporary, filling in the big gap while the interior of the 1932 Shakespeare theatre nearby is extensively reconstructed.

The Courtyard isn't at all like what the architect Elisabeth Scott built for Stratford in 1932. It's been said she designed something more like a plain suburban cinema than a landmark theatre and her critics point out she never designed another major project. Yet at the time there was little notion of what a non-commercial theatre should look like.

Now the new Courtyard is a prototype for what's to emerge four years from now in the shell of the old theatre. Gone the proscenium arch, or 'picture frame', concept - to be replaced by a thrust stage - the audience sitting on three sides.

Theatre design has changed as social attitudes have altered. The old division into Stalls, Circle and Gallery reflected class divisions unacceptable in an age when culture depends so much on public subsidy. Proscenium arch theatres are now held to be alienating. So though its roots may lie in the Renaissance, Stratford's new wrap-around design reflects a very contemporary idea of social inclusion.

Vincent Dowd, BBC

Listen to the words

long-running, going on for a long time

starting something new, usually with a ceremony

long-term temporary
even though the building isn't permanent, it's still supposed to serve for a long time


building, structure

proscenium arch
the shape of the stage of an ancient theatre

thrust stage
a stage extending into the audience

public subsidy
money from government funds

unfriendly, making you feel isolated

its roots may lie in the Renaissance
it may originate from a period in European history over 400 years ago

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