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Erosion fears threaten RSC grant

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) must urgently speed up its redevelopment plans or find its £50 million Lottery grant 'completely eroded', it was warned last week.

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee slammed the RSC for stalling over the long-awaited overhaul of its Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.

The committee said: 'It is 10 years since redevelopment of the theatre was first conceived. It is high time the RSC took action, before its Lottery award is completely eroded by inflation.' The committee also criticised Erick van Egeraat's £100 million scheme to transform and upgrade the Grade II*-listed theatre. The project is now being masterminded by Bennetts Associates.

The London-based practice was appointed to redesign the auditorium just two weeks ago - more than nine months after van Egeraat walked out on the scheme.

The select committee continued: 'The new theatre fits within the shell of the existing Elizabeth Scott building, but does not match the ambition and vision of the original proposals.' However, Roger Mortlock, a spokesman for the RSC, said he believed the criticism was unfair. He said: 'This is not an unusual timescale for a cultural project of this size.

'The real reason for the delays is that we have had a complete change in our senior management and this has had a real impact on the brief.

'Comments about the need to get on with the project are well made and well received. We can see where they are coming from - we obviously want the project to happen.

'But since last September we have secured a £50 million Lottery award, employed new architects and secured planning permission for the new temporary theatre, ' he added.

He also felt remarks about a lack of aspiration for the new theatre were off beam. He said: 'It is slightly unfair to say our ambitions have been reduced. That's certainly not true. We want to create the world's best theatre for Shakespeare.

'We are working with the Elizabeth Scott building from 1932, but the architectural challenges are not limited by listed buildings, and there is a chance to make a real statement.'

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