UK CULTURE
11/07/2012 04:54 BST | Updated 11/07/2012 05:00 BST

Royal Shakespeare Company's Michael Boyd Laments Art Cuts And Says Theatre Is A 'Sexist World'

The Royal Shakespeare Company's outgoing artistic director has warned against deeper cuts to the arts and lamented the unequal footing for women in British theatre.

Michael Boyd said slashing budgets further would result in a "drought" in the arts world.

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has been enjoying phenomenal success with its West End production Matilda The Musical, which has been showered with a record-breaking haul of Olivier Awards.

michael boyd

Michael Boyd, the outgoing RSC director

Today it announced a new production of Hamlet and a play by controversial writer in residence Mark Ravenhill, who is known for his controversial plays such as Shopping And F***ing and Mother Clap's Molly House.

Other new plays will include The Empress, by Tanika Gupta, centring on Queen Victoria and her growing attachment to one of her Indian manservants in the royal household.

RSC executive director Vikki Heywood warned there were rumours that the arts could be subject to more cuts.

"The truth is that the effect of the cuts take a long time to start appearing," she said. "I don't think that we have really felt it yet. We will start to feel it next year."

Mr Boyd said there was a "direct relationship" between the "very strong settlement" that the arts received "in the noughties" and "the very strong health of British theatre now".

"I have seen British talent being watered and fed and doing well ... the fruits are there to see. The fruits of a drought will also be there to see in eight or 10 years time."

Mr Boyd said women were still not securing enough of the top roles in theatre or as writers and directors.

"There has been a lot of discussion about roles for women in British theatre and how inadequate it is, and I agree it is," he said.

"I'm glad that this year we're doing something about it by taking on board a raft of the most talented women directors in British theatre."

He added: "It's still a very sexist world, including in the theatre. We're part of the culture."

Mr Boyd said the RSC was "able to breathe" thanks to the success of Matilda The Musical, based on the Roald Dahl story, which has recouped the money spent on it and is now in profit.

The musical will go on stage in New York with a cast of US child actors singing with British accents before possibly travelling again.

Mr Boyd hailed a new RSC production of Shakespeare's political thriller Julius Caesar, set in Africa, as "the best Julius Caesar I have seen in my time".

He said it will travel to Moscow, adding: "It will be a sit-up moment for the Moscow theatre scene to see British African theatre so celebrated and to see a play about authoritarianism that's so eloquent."

Mr Boyd said he hoped the RSC, which is based in Stratford-upon-Avon but has links with the Roundhouse in north London, would soon have a permanent, purpose-built London base.

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