Britain's Royal Shakespeare Company will reopen in London in March for a busy 1991 season, following a year marked by mixed reviews, changes in leadership and financial problems that forced a temporary closing.

The Barbican theater will reopen March 21 with Shakespeare's "Love's Labours Lost," directed by Terry Hands.Since November, the company has received a 30 percent increase in government subsidy, from $11.5 million to $14.95 million.

However, $2.6 million of that grant from the Arts Council comes from its Enhancement Fund, which requires the company to secure a matching contribution from other sources.

The hope is that the City of London Corp., which owns the Barbican Center, will provide the matching funds. The authority is expected to announce a decision by March 31.

Artistic director-elect Adrian Noble was confident about the company's success and said it was entering a "golden age" in which "all winds are blowing in our direction."

On March 1, Noble formally succeeds Terry Hands as artistic director. Noble said he sought to "reaffirm the position of the RSC as the greatest classical company in the world . . . That's the aim, that's the policy - to be popular, and challenging as well."

"Love's Labours Lost" will be the first show in the company's main London auditorium since Nov. 3, when the company ceased production in London for 41/2 months to save $2.47 million.

Last year's London season received mixed reviews at best, with new plays including "Moscow Gold" and "A Dream of People" receiving especially harsh criticism.

The company continued uninterrupted in Stratford-upon-Avon, Shakespeare's birthplace, where the season ended on Jan. 26.

Noble announced 21 productions for 1991 - 11 in Stratford and 10 in London. Seven other productions will open late in the London season, and have yet to be announced.

The Stratford season opens April 16 with Noble's own production of Shakespeare's "Henry IV, Part I" to be joined May 30 in repertory by "Henry IV, Part II." Veteran actor Robert Stephens ("The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie," "Henry V") makes his company debut playing the portly Falstaff.

The Stratford season continues on the main stage with "Twelfth Night," "Romeo and Juliet" and "Julius Caesar," starring Stephens as Caesar.

The midsize Swan Theater there starts the season with Thomas Shadwell's rarely performed "The Virtuoso," written in 1676.

Other plays to follow are John Ford's 1633 "Tis a Pity She's a Whore"; Ben Jonson's "The Alchemist"; Shakespeare's "Two Gentlemen of Verona"; and Noble's own production of Sophocles' "The Theban Plays" in a new translation by playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker ("Our Country's Good").

Stratford's small studio theater, "the other place," will reopen after being closed for a year with three productions, two to be announced. The third is Thomas Heywood's "Woman Killed With Kindness."

Moving to London are acclaimed Stratford stagings of "Much Ado About Nothing," "King Lear," "Troilus and Cressida" and Anton Chekhov's "The Seagull."

Noble has done away with the company's associated directors, preferring to hire directors on a free-lance basis.

The Royal Shakespeare Company is best known in the United States for originating the international hit musical "Les Miserables." The company last toured to Broadway in 1984 with two productions: "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Cyrano de Bergerac."