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Shakespeare North Playhouse announce Spring programme of events for Sir Ken Dodd Performance Garden

1 year ago

Shakespeare North Playhouse announce Spring programme of events for Sir Ken Dodd Performance Garden
Credit: Shakespeare North

Shakespeare North Playhouse announce the highly anticipated programme of events for The Sir Ken Dodd Performance Garden this Spring, with an exciting line-up of productions, music, and comedy for 2023. 

The Sir Ken Dodd Performance Garden, named in honour of the late comedian and much-loved performer, serves as a memorial to his life and contributions to the arts. The outdoor space provides a platform for future voices to develop their talents, offering a unique and inspiring environment for creative expression and artistic exploration. 

This coming weekend marks the fifth anniversary of Sir Ken Dodd’s death on the 11th of March, and Shakespeare North pay tribute to his enduring legacy, which continues to inspire generations of artists. As a testament to his popularity and influence, the garden has quickly become a hub for comedy programming and creativity.


This season kicks off with a brand-new musical comedy from Bill Elms Productions, “Twice Nightly,” (6th-7th May) starring Maria Lovelady, Michael Alan-Bailey and featuring the voice of Joe Pasquale. This hilarious production features original songs and a cast of colourful characters that will leave you wanting more. Rubbish Shakespeare are set to return with their production of ‘A Rubbish Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (9th-11th June) described as ‘like Horrible Histories but funnier’ this production puts the laughs back into Shakespearean Comedy. A Place For Us Theatre will stage their “Murder, Mayhem & Magic,” (15th-18thJune) set in the Court of Queen Elizabeth I and featuring Shakespeare’s most iconic excerpts.

As part of the 19th Annual Prescot Festival of Music & the Arts, The Sir Ken Dodd performance garden will host ‘In conversation with Shakespeare North Playhouse’ (24th June) where Creative Director Laura Collier and Chief Executive Melanie Lewis will sit down to discuss the festival and what attendees can expect. 

Imaginarium Theatre return to Shakespeare North with a swashbuckling half-term pirate show for all the family ‘Treasure Island and the Last Lighthouse Keeper’ (14th-16th July). Rubbish Shakespeare Company and Wing it Improv present ‘The Incomplete Works’ (21st-23rd July) a totally improvised play in honour of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s First Folio. Handlebard’s return to Shakespeare North with their hilarious, high-octane production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ (27th-28th July) Rounding off the Performance Garden season, Artsgroupie bring to life William Roscoe, one of England’s first abolitionists and social activists, in ‘A Portrait of William Roscoe’ (26th-27th August) which uses puppetry, physicality, and traditional storytelling to bring the poet, social activist and patron of the arts to life. 

Shakespeare North Playhouse have also announced further programming across the venue:


‘Barley Visible’ (14th April) uses elements of physical theatre, pole and contemporary dance to explore identity, objectification and what it is to be gay through a powerful and bold solo performance. 

Action To The Word present ‘Chopped Logic’ (21st June) a powerful play built in direct conversation with Mind, The Limbless Association and various NHS trusts, weaving together verbatim stories from patients, medical professionals, and relatives. This production provides a poignant and intimate look into the experiences of those most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the pressures placed on the NHS. 

Shakespeare North Playhouse
Credit: Shakespeare North Playhouse

BriteTheatre’s ground-breaking one-person show, ‘Richard II’ (29th June-1st July), challenges the limits of Shakespearean performance by transforming Richard III into a captivating and daring solo show. Audiences are invited to participate in the production by taking on the roles of all the other characters at Richard’s party, breaking down the fourth wall for an intimate and thrilling experience.

Fetch Theatre present ‘Caliban’s Codex’ (7th-9th September), a thought-provoking monologue set twelve years after Prospero’s departure, Caliban’s Codex follows Caliban’s quest to save the island from mankind’s abuse. In this new language, inspired by Shakespearean iambic pentameter, Caliban reveals his world view, exploring themes of loss, abuse, and magic in a powerful performance.


Shakespeare North Playhouse have designed a series of workshops and events for the Spring season, designed to be fun, educational, and engaging for people of all ages. 

‘Drawing in the Cockpit’ (24th March) kicks off these events, guided by the theatre’s team, Shakespeare North invites attendees to create their own sketches of the traditional 470 seat timber Shakespearean theatre. Jesters Workshop’ (25th March) is a fun family session of jokes, jigs, and clowning where attendees will learn more about Shakespeare’s silliest characters and colour their own jester to bring them to life. ‘Shakspeare’s Carnival of Animals Workshop’ (5th April) is a creative family session that explores the brilliant birds and beasts of Shakespeare’s plays, through music, drama and games.

Shakespeare North Playhouse
Image credit – Andrew Brooks

In honour of Earth Day and Shakespeare’s birthday ‘Shakespeare: Environmental Activist Workshop’(22nd April) is a creative family session exploring the wonders of nature in Shakespeare’s world. Also celebrating Shakespeare’s Birthday is the ‘Shakespearean Insult Workshop’ (23rd April) where attendees can learn how to insult each other, Shakespearean style. Led by associate artist Ben Crystal, ‘Lights on Lights Off’ (22nd– 23rd April) is an opportunity to watch an ensemble successfully ‘quick-raise’ Shakespeare. 

In celebration of the Eurovision song contest, ‘Shakespeare’s Eurovision’ (13th May) is a fun family session where attendees can explore a map of Shakespeare’s world and discover the locations of his plays, then create their own flag bunting for the party. 

‘Shakespeare North Tours’ continue, visitors will have the chance to be led on a deep dive tour through Shakespeare North Playhouse, giving an exciting glimpse into all there is to see in the beautiful new venue and learning about the history of Prescot and its links to Shakespeare. For families and younger visitors, ‘Theatre Explorer Tours’ will also continue featuring an exciting behind-the-scenes look at Shakespeare North, including hunts and trails, multimedia activities, and even the chance to meet a performer along the way.  


‘Barefaced Comedy’ returns to The Cockpit Theatre (25th Apr, 2nd May, 26th May) featuring some of the very best comedians in the UK, with top circuit headliners playing alongside TV names

Full listings for this announcement can be found below:




(6th-7th May)

Twice Nightly is a brand-new musical comedy brought to you by Bill Elms Productions (2Gorgeous4U/Judy & Liza) and Frame This Presents, written by and starring Maria Lovelady and Michael Alan-Bailey, also featuring the voice of Joe Pasquale as The Beak.  

Shakespeare North
Nadine Shah (Credit: Patch-Dolan)

It’s 1931 and variety is the spice of life. Liverpool’s theatres are sizzling with the hottest star turns of the day and there’s something for every taste! Don and Madge, a song and dance double act, are living the sweet life… until things turn sour. A night they can’t remember finds them in hot water and if they want to be back on stage for their second show, they must act fast! Tales of a bolshy parrot, a Strong Man and The Great Wally all add to the flavour, but the imposing pandemic of cinema makes the duo stew over what life in the theatre means to them. 

Featuring original songs and celebrating theatre’s golden years, this homemade comedy will leave you wanting second helpings!

A Rubbish Midsummer Night’s Dream 

Rubbish Shakespeare

(9th– 11th June) 

Fairies. Goblins. Donkeys… Super soakers!? 

After last year’s smash-hit Romeo and Juliet, the Rubbish Shakespeare Company return to Shakespeare North Playhouse with more magical family-friendly fun. 

Four idiots, wearing bed sheets as togas, attempt to stage Shakespeare’s mischievous masterpiece in under an hour, using only a box of pound-shop props, a camel onesie, a pair of lightsabers and a ladder they found by the bins. They fail miserably, but with hilarious results!

Shakespeare North
Credit: Patch-Dolan

Described as ‘like Horrible Histories but funnier’ (Primary Times), this interpretation of the ‘Dream’ puts the laughs back into Shakespeare’s comedy. Featuring clowning, physical comedy, plenty of wince-inducing slapstick and interactive storytelling, this high energy production is a ridiculously joyous, participatory event. And it’s far from rubbish! 

Rubbish Shakespeare Company are a family friendly theatre company that specialise in making Shakespeare fun, relevant and accessible to young people and families. Critically acclaimed, they have toured theatres and schools for over a decade. This enchanting all-ages play is a true family show, and the perfect introduction to Shakespeare (or even theatre itself!) 

Family friendly. Suitable for ages 5-105!

Murder Mayhem & Magic

A Place For Us Theatre CIC 

(15th-18th June) 

Shakespeare arrives at Queen Elizabeth’s court to put on his latest play, only to realise that the actors haven’t been booked, the script has been left behind and the only people able to help are two women (who at the time were banned from performing on the stage!).

Over the next 60 minutes the audience is taken on a crazy family friendly romp of Shakespeare’s most iconic excerpts from his plays as the trio try to create a performance for Queenie Lizzie from what they can remember – anything so that they don’t lose their heads

In conversation with Shakespeare North Playhouse 

Prescot Music Festival 

(24th June) 

In conversation with Creative Director of the Shakespeare North Playhouse, Laura Collier, and Chief Executive, Melanie Lewis. This event is part of the 19th

Shakespeare North Playhouse
Credit: Meg Terzza

Annual Prescot Festival of Music & the Arts which runs from Friday 16th to Sunday 25th June 2023. To find out more about the Festival please see

Treasure Island and the Last Lighthouse Keeper 

Imaginarium Theatre 

(14th-16th July) 

Comic eco-adventures abound on the high seas in the race to find treasure and save the planet! Imaginarium Youth Theatre present this swashbuckling half-term pirate show for all the family. Adapted by Julie Ashurst, Peter Lukey & Shakespeare North Artist-in-Residence Charlie Staunton

The Incomplete Works – Improvised Rubbish Shakespeare 

Wing It Improv & Rubbish Shakespeare Company

(21st– 23rd July) 

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of the First Folio, Rubbish Shakespeare Company and Wing It Improv have teamed up to present The Incomplete Works, a totally improvised Shakespeare play!

Shakespeare North
Credit: Patch-Dolan

The year is 1603. King James has just taken the throne and he isn’t a fan of theatre, especially the works of that ‘upstart crow’, William Shakespeare. Thankfully, Will has been granted one last chance to prove himself before the King. Unfortunately, he’s ‘unwell’ and has deserted his cast of merry players. Without a script, it’s up to them to make it up… on the spot! Taking suggestions from the audience, this wacky troupe will finish the Bard’s latest masterpiece, one way or the other – or it’s off with their heads! Talk about pressure. Utilising clown, physical comedy, storytelling and live music, this spontaneous piece of family-friendly theatre is a ridiculously joyous, participatory event.

Suitable for all ages. Even those new to the bard (or even theatre itself). 6+ Family Friendly.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream 


(27th-28th July)

Shakespeare North

Join the HandleBards for a hilarious, high-octane production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Four young lovers find themselves lost in a magical forest, where the Fairy King and Queen are fighting for the possession of a changeling boy. A group of amateur actors head to the same forest to rehearse for a play. Humans and fairies collide and hilarity ensues. 

A Portrait of William Roscoe 


(26th-27th August) 

Celebrating a renowned writer and one of England’s first abolitionists, ‘A Portrait of William Roscoe’ will see the man come magically alive and out of his portrait to talk about his life and times. Using puppetry, physicality and traditional storytelling.

A poet, historian, and patron of the arts, he was responsible for helping to establish the first botanical garden in Liverpool in 1802. In that same year, he wrote a children’s poem, The Butterfly’s Ball and The Grasshopper’s Feast for his son, Robert, which won him international fame. Roscoe was a social activist throughout his life and an advocate for the environment and racial justice. He became an MP in Liverpool to vote against slavery and this led to the abolition of slavery in 1807. Journey with us back to see Liverpool through the eyes of this distinguished gentleman.


Barefaced Comedy 

(25th Apr, 2nd May, 26th May)

Featuring some of the very best comedians in the UK, with top circuit headliners playing alongside TV names


Drawing in the Cockpit

(24th March)

Join us in our beautiful Cockpit Theatre for a morning/afternoon drawing session. With guidance from our team, attendees will create their own sketches of our traditional 470 seat timber Shakespearean theatre. Instruction and materials will be provided for those who need it, but you are welcome to just bring your own sketchbook. Dry materials only such as pencils, pastels and fine liners. Charcoal can only be used in pencil form.

Shakespeare North Playhouse
Credit: Meg Terzza

Jesters Workshop

(25th March)

Join us for a funny family session of jokes, jigs and clowning in honour of our hilarious production of ‘The Comedy of The Errors’. Find out more about Shakespeare’s silliest characters and colour your own jester to bring them to life!

Shakespeare’s Carnival of Animals Workshop

(5th April)

Celebrate Spring with a fun family session exploring the brilliant birds and beasts of Shakespeare’s plays. Join us for music and drama games and create your own animal mask!

Lights On Lights Off

(Sat 22nd – Sun 23rd April)

An opportunity to watch an ensemble, led by Shakespeare North Playhouse’s associate artist Ben Crystal, live in our Cockpit Theatre. The company will successfully ‘quick-raise’ Shakespeare. Each show will have 9 different scenes, none will be repeated, so if you want to see a scene from every play you have to come to all 4 shows! This performance is the culmination of 5-days working together and promises to be electric!

Shakespeare: Environmental Activist Workshop

(22nd April)

Shakespeare North Playhouse
Credit: Meg Terzza

In honour of Earth Day and Shakespeare’s birthday, join us for a creative family session exploring the wonders of nature in Shakespeare’s world and make your own mono-print celebrating our amazing planet.

Shakespeare’s Eurovision

(13th May)

“If music be the food of love, play on” (Twelfth Night, Act 1, Scene 1) Join the Eurovision Song Contest celebrations with a fun family session exploring a map of Shakespeare’s world and discovering the locations of his plays, then create your own flag bunting for the party

Shakespearean Insult Workshop

(23rd April)

Come all thou impertinent fool-born gudgeons and celebrate the Bard’s birthday by learning how to insult each other in true Shakespearean style. Learn some of the best insults from Shakespeare’s plays and characters and learn how to quickly create your own modern versions!


Barley Visible 

14th April 

Lesbians are dirty, aren’t they?

With incredible strength, a pole and a lot of humour, this powerful solo performance explores identity, objectification and what it is to be a gay, ‘barely visible’ woman in a raw and physical journey of empowerment.

Credit: Meg Terzza

With elements of physical theatre, pole and contemporary dance, Rowena Gander, and acclaimed physical theatre director, Elinor Randle, bring playfulness, authenticity, and boldness to this mesmerising work

Chopped Logic 

Action To The Word 

21st June 

Centred around the true-life story of one family’s journey through the pandemic, this shocking and poignant tale weaves together verbatim stories from the perspectives of patients, medical health care professionals and relatives. Exploring and unpacking the experiences of those most desperately affected by the pressures placed on the NHS, this play is told through the lens of those who have lived it and is created by Liverpudlian theatre maker Alexandra Spencer-Jones, who herself experienced the thousand natural shocks of losing those closest to her in the Pandemic.

Incorporating original music written in response to real life events, this important project is being built indirect conversation with Mind, The Limbless Association and various NHS trusts.

Richard III (a one person show) 

Brite Theatre 

29th June- 1st July

Pushing the boundaries of Shakespearean performance, Brite Theater have re[1]imagined Richard III as a bold and engaging solo show. The fourth wall has been utterly obliterated, as the audience take on the roles of all the other characters at Richard’s party in this intimate, exciting, and moving production. Let Richard entertain you…but will you survive?

Shakespeare North
Credit: Patch-Dolan

Richard III (A One Person Show) was created by director Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir and performer Emily Carding during a theatre residency in Reykjavik, Iceland in November 2014, and premiered at Prague Fringe in May 2015, winning every single award – unprecedented in the history of Prague Fringe. It then went on to win the coveted ‘Bobby’ award at Edinburgh Fringe.

Since then Richard III (A One Person Show) has toured throughout the UK and internationally, including Rome, Verona, Iceland, Slovakia, Romania, Pakistan, St Petersburg Kansas City and New York, all to high praise.

*Audience participation is gentle, consensual and non verbal (unless you choose to speak, which is also welcomed!)

Caliban’s Codex

Fetch Theatre

7-9th December 

Shakespeare North Playhouse-2

In the twelve years since Prospero’s departure, Caliban has painstakingly sifted through the ashes of the books of magic, slowly piecing together a new language and a way to save this island from mankind’s abuse. ‘There is no welcome here for you, your kind. Mankind, for there is nothing kind in man.’ Caliban’s Codex is a new monologue by the writer John Knowles (Twelfth Night Trilogy) created with Emily Carding (Richard III – Brite Theater). Inspired by Shakespearean iambic pentameter, this one-person show explores loss, abuse and magic and is a disturbing insight into Caliban’s world view.

Get tickets for all of these shows on the Shakespeare North Website here.



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