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Shakespeare North reveals Ken Dodd Performance Garden programme

Shakespeare North Playhouse has unveiled a busy 2023 programme in its Sir Ken Dodd Performance Garden.

Returning performers and new companies will stage shows in the 130-seat outdoor space at the Prescot venue.

And many of the shows are part of the theatre’s celebrations for the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s First Folio – the first collected edition of the Bard’s plays which was published in 1623, seven years after his death.

The programme opens over the Coronation Bank Holiday weekend with a new musical comedy, Twice Nightly, starring Maria Lovelady, Michael Alan-Bailey and with the voice of Joe Pasquale. The show, set in 1931 and centred around a song and dance double act, comes from Bill Elms Productions.

Prescot’s own Imaginarium Theatre presents the swashbuckling pirate show Treasure Island and the Last Lighthouse Keeper on June 2-3, while Rubbish Shakespeare returns to the playhouse from June 9-11 with the magical, family-friendly fun which is A Rubbish Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Halton-based A Place for Us Theatre CIC visits for the first time, with Murder, Mayhem and Magic – set in the court of Elizabeth 1 and featuring Shakespeare’s best-loved excerpts - from June 15-18.

And Rubbish Shakespeare returns from July 21-23, accompanied by Wing It Improv, with The Incomplete Works in which a merry band of players try to stage one of the Bard’s plays...without a script.

Cycling theatre troupe The Handlebards pedals into Prescot on July 27-28 with its hilarious take on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and then following its popular shows last year, ArtsGroupie is back – this time with A Portrait of William Roscoe (August 26-27) which brings the famous Liverpool polymath to life through puppetry, physicality and traditional storytelling.

Meanwhile on June 24, Shakespeare North Playhouse creative director Laura Collier and chief executive Melanie Lewis will take part in an ‘in conversation with’ as part of the 19th Annual Prescot Festival of Music and the Arts.

More shows are yet to be announced.

Above: The Performance Garden is named after the late Sir Ken Dodd. Top: Anne, Lady Dodd with Shakespeare North Playhouse senior producer Siobhan Noble.

Shakespeare North Playhouse senior producer Siobhan Noble says since the Performance Garden opened last summer, the response from audiences has exceeded expectations.

She said: “People really got into the spirit of it as an outdoor space where we play on, whatever the weather. The garden opened with Kitty Queen of the Washhouse in bouncing rain, and the audience remained captivated.

“A lot of people were first-time theatregoers, and then came back to see shows with family. They then get to know our front of house staff and really feel at home.”

And she says the venue’s ‘pay what you decide’ scheme – which runs across the main Cockpit theatre, performance garden and studio space - has “taken the risk out of trying something new” as well as being important during these difficult financial times.

Noble adds that performers and companies are also keen to play the space: “It’s quite overwhelming in a way that we need to find space to accommodate all these artists. It says a lot about how our opening programme was received.”

The Sir Ken Dodd Performance Garden was named in memory of the late Liverpool comedy giant who died five years ago, and acts as a memorial to his life and contribution to the arts.

Despite being best-known as one of Britain’s greatest ever comedians, in 1971 the Liverpool-born comic was also acclaimed for his performance as Malvolio in Twelfth Night at Liverpool Playhouse. He went on to play Yorick in Sir Kenneth Branagh’s 1996 film version of Hamlet.

Anne, Lady Dodd reveals whenever the pair were on foreign trips Sir Ken would always seek out historic amphitheatres and persuade her to climb the terraces to hear him “declaim something” from the stage.

“I’m thrilled to bits that we have a mini amphitheatre here,” she adds of the performance space, whose terraces are covered in well-known expressions from both the Bard and from Doddy. “It has a lovely atmosphere, even in the rain!"

Full details on all the shows and booking HERE


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