The Royal Shakespeare Company, which had a worldwide smash hit with "Les Miserables," has called it curtains in its hometown in a cost-cutting move highlighting tough times for the British arts.
Following its sellout evening performance of the play "Singer," the company will close its two London theaters at the Barbican Center until March 1991. It will continue its season in two theaters at Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's birth-place.The move is expected to save $2.53 million for the financially strapped state-funded company, now $5.85 million in debt.
The company is the largest of many theater organizations around Britain fighting for survival amid the cost-cutting, recessionary climate of Britain.
Earlier this week, Vanessa Redgrave, Glenda Jackson and Dame Peggy Ashcroft were among the British stars to launch a nationwide campaign at London's Albery Theatre to spotlight the financial woes of the theater industry nationwide.
The Shakespeare company receives annual subsidies of $11.8 million. It says it needs $19.3 million to be in the black.
Artistic director Terry Hands consistently argued that the company's grant has kept pace neither with inflation, running at 10.9 percent, nor with the specific recommendations of an independent report saying the company was underfunded.
Annual revenue from the musical "Les Miserables," which opened at the Barbican in October 1984, brings the company about $2 million a year, but Hands points out that the show won't run forever.
Amid widespread sadness at the company's closure in London - depriving the city up to six plays - is some speculation that the company has, in part, been its own worst enemy.
Its case "is not helped by espousing the palpably second rate," David Lister wrote in The Independent of "Moscow Gold," the company's new play about Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev. Howard Brenton and Tariq Ali's play, a satire with a cast of 33, opened Sept. 26 to bad reviews and has performed poorly at the box offices.
"Moscow Gold" was one of three new company plays to receive blistering reviews in London this year. Only Peter Flannery's "Singer," starring Antony Sher as a concentration camp survivor turned London slumlord, won acclaim from critics and audiences, playing to 99 percent capacity in the 1,162-seat main auditorium.