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Shakespeare North Playhouse reveals opening date and programme

Shakespeare North Playhouse will open its doors in July with a weekend of celebrations.

The new £30m venue, at Prescot, will be heralded on Friday, July 15 with an outdoor ‘summoning of the muses’ co-created by celebrated Yorkshire-based theatre company Slung Low and involving a procession made up of people who built the Playhouse and members of the wider community.

The event, titled All The Joy you Could Wish, will be followed on July 16 and 17 with Open Up performances curated by Prescot-born playwright and actor Ashleigh Nugent – including drama, dance, music, DJs, crafts and tours of the building.

Slung Low’s Alan Lane says: “What Prescot has achieved in the building of this new theatre is extraordinary and we wanted to make sure that moment was properly recognised - it demands a fabulous ceremony, a ceremony that looks to the past of course but also shows the brilliance of Prescot now.”

Among the inaugural programme revealed are ‘an evening with’ events with Jimmy McGovern and Johnny Vegas, premieres of plays by the three young winners of Shakespeare North Playhouse’s As You Write It competition, and a seasonal production of Dickens’ favourite A Christmas Carol, adapted by Nick Lake and with a distinct Knowsley feel.

The first Shakespearean production will be A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Matthew Dunster and which will be staged from September 22 to October 22.

Above: Jimmy McGovern and Johnny Vegas (left) and A Midsummer Night's Dream (right). Top: An artists' impression of the new Shakespeare North Playhouse. Credit: Austin Smith Lord.

And the venue will also see visiting companies and shows including the Handlebards with Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet, productions of The Liver Bird and Kitty Queen of the Washhouse, Slapstick Picnic’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Rubbish Shakespeare’s Rubbish Romeo and Juliet, Wing It Impro & Stories’ The Incomplete Works of Shakespeare, One Hour Theatre Company’s Half Measures, and Imaginarium’s Strange Tale – exploring Shakespeare’s links to Prescot.

The heart of the new Shakespeare North Playhouse is a historic timber-framed auditorium based on an early 17th Century design by celebrated architect Inigo Jones which he built within Henry VIII’s original 1530s cockpit at court.

It completes a Shakespeare ‘triangle’ with the Globe in London and Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford.

The venue also boasts a performance garden, exhibition gallery, 60-seat studio theatre, learning centre, exhibition and event spaces and a café and bar.

Funding has come from Knowsley Borough Council, Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Arts Council England, the Culture Recovery Fund, the Sir Ken Dodd Charitable Foundation and a number of other trusts and foundations.

Above: The interior of the theatre space during construction

Creative director Laura Collier says: “Our team has curated a wonderfully vibrant and enchanting mix of modern interpretations to bring alive both the venue and the written word, with performances to enthuse audiences of all ages whether they are new to Shakespeare, or seasoned theatregoers.

“Construction of the venue is nearing completion and it is looking absolutely wonderful. The unique architecture of the space provides the perfect environment for contemporary, dynamic theatre-making. We’re excited to start sharing transformational experiences with people from across the north west and beyond.

“Everyone is invited to come along and join in the opening celebrations, and dive into a weekend of joyful moments, this place is yours - so please turn up and own it!”

Tickets go on sale for all shows at the end of April, with ticket prices from £3 to £35 with discounts for families, schools, groups, and other concessions throughout the season.

In support of the Playhouse’s commitment to the local community and access to the arts, a proportion of tickets will be available on a ‘Pay What You Decide’ basis, with some reserved for Knowsley residents.

For more details on the full programme and the venue visit the website HERE


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