Barbican: the critics' verdict

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  • Architecture | Art | Classical | Dance | Film | Theatre

    Features_Barbican 4.jpg
    Theatre seating at the Barbican

    Theatre

    By Jane Edwardes

    In 1982 the RSC moved into the new brutalist Barbican Centre, and a bunch of critics were late for the first performance because they couldn’t get out of the car park. Irving Wardle, then the critic for the Times, crippled himself trying to kick a metal door down. The RSC never got used to the place. ‘All’s Well That Ends Well’, ‘Richard III’ and ‘The Seagull’ were all major productions, but gradually the theatre began to feel restrictive as companies found unconventional new spaces in which to stage Shakespeare. The relationship between the RSC and the Barbican, including the managing director, Detta O’Cathain, grew increasingly fraught until artistic director Adrian Noble announced in 2001 that he was withdrawing the RSC altogether.

    Features_Barbican 3.jpg

    The Barbican quickly recovered – it’s the RSC that has found life in the outside world more challenging than it expected. It expanded Bite, the adventurous seasons of international theatre that have featured world-famous names like Robert Wilson, Pina Bausch, Laurie Anderson, Lev Dodin and Robert Lepage. These are expensive companies and, truth to say, their often painterly images have proved more suited to the space than Shakespeare’s more intimate, rougher work. The building will never be warm and welcoming, but at least the company now feels at one with itself, rather than trying to control a rebellious tenant.

    Triumph

    ‘The Far Side of the Moon’ by Robert Lepage (2003).

    Disaster

    ‘The Merchant of Venice’ directed by Peter Sellars (1994).Architecture | Art | Classical | Dance | Film | Theatre


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The Barbican quickly recovered – it’s the RSC that has found life in the outside world more challenging than it expected. It expanded Bite, the adventurous seasons of international theatre that have featured world-famous names like Robert Wilson, Pina Bausch, Laurie Anderson, Lev Dodin and Robert Lepage. These are expensive companies and, truth to say, their often painterly images have proved more suited to the space than Shakespeare’s more intimate, rougher work. The building will never be warm and welcoming, but at least the company now feels at one with itself, rather than trying to control a rebellious tenant. ‘The Far Side of the Moon’ by Robert Lepage (2003). ‘The Merchant of Venice’ directed by Peter Sellars (1994).Architecture | Art | Classical | Dance | Film | Theatre

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