Royal Shakespeare Company artistic director Michael Boyd writes that “live theatre is in rude health” in the company’s annual report. Going to meet him in his Stratford office, a chorus of hammering coming from inside the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre, now rapidly taking shape beside the Avon, added vigorous confirmation to the statement.

As building work continues, the RSC has confirmed details of productions next year in its temporary Stratford home, the Courtyard Theatre. Central will be productions of King Lear, Romeo and Juliet, Antony and Cleopatra, and Malory’s Morte D’Arthur, performed by a ‘long ensemble’ company of actors, directors, and designers who began working together last January.

“The really important point about next year is that those four new pieces will be joined by the revisiting of this year’s repertoire,” Michael explained. “I’m rehearsing As You Like It from the current repertoire this afternoon, and I will go on rehearsing it throughout the two-and-a-half years that it runs. I know from experience that the growth given by that continuing process is genuinely transformative. It’s the thing that excites me most about working at the RSC.

“There is a danger with a long-term ensemble that it becomes inward looking, and self-obsessed — a bit insular. As we concentrate on the ensemble way of working — and we believe that the investment of the amount of time involved is worth it — we give lots of in-house training, of course. But I think it’s also important that we expose our companies to best practice elsewhere: the actors will be working with performers from Russia, for instance.”

Last year the RSC hit the headlines — and had a smash hit at the box office — with David Tennant playing Hamlet.

Tonight, Richard Wilson (alias Victor Meldrew in BBC TV’s One Foot in the Grave) opens as Malvolio in Twelfth Night. Does Michael import guest stars to boost the box office, or to help the ensemble company become less “insular”?

“They’re two very different cases. David had worked with the RSC for three years before he played Hamlet. It was a sort of gorgeous coincidence that at the time it made sense for him, and us, to do Hamlet, he had become more famous than The Queen! Richard is making his debut with the RSC: he’s run scared from Shakespeare for a long time. I’m very interested in kidnapping him to direct — he’s a very fine director, particularly of new work.”

The RSC is heavily reliant on grants to fund its work. Does that mean that, like the BBC, it must be wary of paying massive fees to star performers?

“It doesn’t happen. There’s a top whack, and that’s it. People like David Tennant, Richard Wilson, Patrick Stewart, Judi Dench, are effectively subsidising the company, because their market rate is much, much higher than our top whack.”

The annual report makes it plain that the RSC is bursting out in all directions. Oxford is seeing two RSC touring productions this year — and there will “inevitably” be more touring, Michael promised, once the new Stratford theatre is up and running.

Then there’s new technology —a new Facebook site boasts 5,993 fans. But one thing is missing: there have been no relays to cinemas.

“We’ve flirted with it. Our production of Hamlet, with David Tennant, will be on television on Christmas Day. We were some way down the road with doing Hamlet as a live broadcast earlier this year, and I don’t think it’ll be long before we’re involved. It’s slightly more interesting and challenging for us, because we work on a thrust stage: a production set behind a proscenium arch lends itself easily to a flat screen.”

Talking to Michael Boyd, you discover that he has wide interests. His previous career has included directing both panto and musicals, and he enthused over plans to stage a musical version of Roald Dahl’s Matilda at Stratford — a decision loudly applauded, he told me, by his youngest daughter.

Meanwhile, he confirmed that he gets a thrill as he passes the new Royal Shakespeare Theatre every day on the way to work. “Now I can safely admit that it’s more beautiful than I thought it would be. But my real excitement is going around inside it. I realise that I am the most ludicrously privileged artistic director, to have had the opportunity to road test so many ideas for the new auditorium in the present Courtyard Theatre.”

lFull details of the RSC’s forthcoming season are on