The day after the Bard celebrated his 438th birthday, word has come out of Stratford-upon-Avon that the Royal Shakespeare Company will be making a big change next spring: Adrian Noble, artistic director and chief executive of the RSC for more than ten years, will not be renewing his contract after its expiration in March 2003.
"It has been an enormous privilege for me to lead this wonderful organization since 1991," said Noble. "After 22 years with the company it is now time for me to seek new artistic challenges."
News of Noble's decision to step down wasn't entirely a shock; the announcement comes after months of sturm und drang surrounding the RSC. Noble's plans to tear down the longstanding (and outmoded) Royal Shakespeare Theatre in favor of a new "theatre village" aimed at attracting tourists, as well as changes to the RSC touring schedule and the company's increased involvement with commercial theater, have not been well received by the RSC staff or by the theatrical community in general. Indeed, critics have been calling for Noble's resignation for months.
It's a sour end to a largely fruitful relationship. Noble has been with the RSC as a director for over 20 years and has built an impressive reputation with his productions of such classics as King Lear and Hamlet. He has also had successes with children's theater (The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe) and on the West End (The Secret Garden). His latest project, a stage adaptation of the film musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, recently opened to glowing reviews and is proving to be a box office triumph.
Noble concluded today's statement with the following: "I have been blessed with superb colleagues throughout the RSC, as well as highly supportive governing bodies. I look forward to continuing to deliver our ambitious program--both on the stage and off it--during my remaining year with the Company." That program will include Pericles at Stratford, a revival of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and a new production of Ibsen's Brand starring Ralph Fiennes. Noble's replacement has not yet been named.