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Ken Dodd Foundation to invest £700,000 in Shakespeare North Playhouse

A charity set up by the late Sir Ken Dodd is set to increase its investment in the new Shakespeare North Playhouse by almost half-a-million pounds.

The Ken Dodd Charitable Foundation, controlled by his widow Anne, Lady Dodd, had initially pledged £250,000 to the ambitious new theatre scheme in Prescot, with money going towards the creation of a Performance Garden at the site.

Now it has been revealed that investment has been increased to closer to £700,000.

Lady Dodd appeared on The One Show last night to talk about the Playhouse scheme and also its new playwriting competition for young people, As You Write It, which was launched by Shakespeare North Playhouse in conjunction the primetime BBC One show.

The closing date for the competition is August 31.

Lady Dodd explains: “Ken’s real love was the theatre and Liverpool. He set up the Ken Dodd Charitable Foundation some years ago and I’m now able to use the money in that foundation - and his legacy - to fund a lot of different and wonderful projects, one of which is this Shakespeare North Playhouse theatre.

Anne, Lady Dodd unveiling a mural to Doddy at Liverpool's Royal Court

“Ken was approached a couple of years before he passed, and he was absolutely delighted to be able to help with this project.”

The Performance Garden at the new £24m theatre complex is an outdoor multi-use space that can be used for performance and teaching.

Lady Dodd says: “The Performance Garden is like a mini amphitheatre, people will sit on the steps, and Ken loved amphitheatres when we used to travel around Europe.

“One of the ideas I had was that famous phrases from Shakespeare should appear on the steps as you go up, interspersed with ‘how tickled I am’, ‘tattyfilarious’, ‘plumptious’ – a few of Ken’s well-known phrases.”

Dodd himself played Malvolio to acclaim in a production of Twelfth Night at the Liverpool Playhouse in 1971, and appeared in Ken Branagh’s Hamlet on screen in 1996.

Meanwhile the As You Write It competition gives children and young people across the UK aged seven to 16 the opportunity to see their ideas come to life on stage and inspire the next generation of playwrights - as well as encouraging a love of theatre and the arts.

When finished, the winning plays will be performed at The Shakespeare North Playhouse, which is due to open its doors in 2022.

The Playhouse, due to open in 2022, will complete the UK’s Shakespearean triangle with London and Stratford-upon-Avon.

Prescot is believed to be the only place outside London to have a purpose-built theatre in Elizabethan times and at the centre of the new building will be a flexible theatre with capacity for between 320 and 472 seats, based on the early 17th Century ‘cockpit-in-court’ design.

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