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Shakespeare North Playhouse is celebrating its birthday this weekend with a number of experiences and shows

12 months ago

Shakespeare North Playhouse is celebrating its birthday this weekend with a number of experiences and shows
Credit: Shakespeare North Playhouse

Shakespeare North Playhouse, a world-class cultural landmark situated in the heart of Prescot, is celebrating its first birthday. 

Since its grand opening in July 2022, the Playhouse has captivated audiences, transformed communities, and solidified its position as a beacon of artistic excellence in the theatrical world. Home to the only 17th-century style, timber-built “Cockpit” theatre outside London, able to configure in to two formations end-on and in-the-round, Shakespeare North was built entirely during the pandemic thanks to public funds and donations. 

The crowning achievement of the past year came at the 2023 The Stage Awards, where Shakespeare North Playhouse was proudly named Theatre Building of The Year. This prestigious accolade stands as a testament to the innovative design and architectural prowess that has created a venue like no other in the country. 

Credit: Shakespeare North Playhouse

Notably this year His Royal Highness, The Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Edward, officially opened the theatre on May 16th 2023. The Duke was welcomed to the venue by Chief Executive, Melanie Lewis and Chair of the Shakespeare North Trust and playhouse Max Steinberg CBE DL before being taken on a tour of the building. 

Since its opening, the Playhouse has fast become a cultural landmark, drawing over 100,000 visitors this past year, with a significant 10% of these visitors never having set foot in a theatre before. Throughout this past year the theatre has staged a staggering number of 1,316 performances and 149 captivating workshops and events. These productions have resonated deeply with audiences, fuelling conversations, and inviting introspection, part of Shakespeare North’s mission to be ‘Bold and Brave’ in their approach to programming. 

The first productions to take to The Cockpit stage exemplified this approach. On September 9th 2022 Shakespeare North Playhouse and The One Show’s collaboration ‘As You Write It’ gave 3 budding young playwrights the chance to see their work performed as the first plays to take place at Shakespeare North Playhouse. These plays encompassed revised fairy tales, narratives that embraced queer joy, and even imaginative scenarios where William Shakespeare encountered the contemporary backdrop of Liverpool.

Credit: Patch-Dolan

This past year has included an exciting and diverse array of productions. ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ being the first Shakespearean production to take place at the theatre starring musician Nadine Shah and the vocal talents of David Morrissey. ‘A Christmas Carol’ delighted audiences with their musical rendition of the classic tale, with Shakespeare North also partnering with local community organisation Aid To All to raise donations for their Christmas appeal. 

Shakespeare North has also become known for its ‘Evening With’ events, beginning with screenwriter Jimmy McGovern, being interviewed by Johnny Vegas. It was there that the ‘passing of the key’ began, with each ‘Evening With’ featuring a guest being interviewed by the guest of the next show. Jimmy McGovern passed the key over to Johnny Vegas, who then passed it on to Angela Griffin, and has since become a tradition. The key has since been passed on to Steve Coogan, Frank Cottrell Boyce, Lemn Sissay and next we passed on to beloved Liverpudlian playwright Willy Russell. 

Credit: Shakespeare North Playhouse

Shakespeare North Playhouse also introduced the Pay What You Decide (PWYD) initiative, allowing patrons to choose the ticket price that suits their budget, ranging from £3 to £30. Over the course of the first year, an incredible 10,026 Pay What You Decide tickets were utilised, enabling a diverse range of individuals to experience the transformative power of live theatre. But it must be noted that the impact of Shakespeare North Playhouse extends beyond the walls of the theatre. The total audience members reached an impressive 63,914, equating to one in every four Knowsley residents having attended a performance or event, and the theatre’s influence extends beyond the stage, as evidenced by the transformation it has brought to the local community.

Since its opening, there has been a remarkable 25% increase in spending in the borough, exemplifying the economic vitality generated by the venue. Furthermore, several new businesses, including Pinion and the Lord Strange Pub and Bar, have opened their doors, invigorating Prescot High Street and establishing a thriving cultural ecosystem around the Playhouse.

Shakespeare North Playhouse
Credit: Shakespeare North Playhouse

Shakespeare North Playhouse is playing a key role in the regeneration of Knowsley; impacting the people and communities by providing job opportunities, skills development, raising aspirations and increasing health and well-being. Looking to the future Shakespeare North will continue its work as a beacon of artistic excellence through its creative and innovative programming, events and workshops. 

This 2023 Shakespeare North is celebrating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s First Folio. The First Folio is the first collection of Shakespeare’s work that was collated and published in 1623. This collection is made up of 36 plays and without it, many of Shakespeare’s most revered works would have been lost. Theatre goers can look forward to Shakespeare North Playhouse and English Touring Theatre’s co-production of Macbeth (01/09/23-23/03/23) celebrated playwright Lauren Gunderson’s European Premier of The Book of Will (19/10/23-11/11/23) and Sir Ken Dodd’s favourite tale The Wind in The Willows (24/11/23-13/01/24). 

Shakespeare North Playhouse
Credit: Shakespeare North Playhouse

This birthday weekend Shakespeare North will be hosting new Technical Guided Tours, designed for those with a keen interest in the technical side of theatre, this exclusive experience offers a captivating glimpse behind the curtain. Associate Artist Shakespeare’s Globe will bring their Olivier Award-nominated Family show Midsummer Mechanicals (15-18/07/23) to Shakespeare North. Imaginarium Theatre will also be performing their production of The Taming of The Shrew (14-16/07/23) in The Sir Ken Dodd Performance Garden. Visitors are also invited to free Birthday Bitesize Tours across the weekend led by a member of the Shakespeare North team, this free tour will take visitors through the key spaces of the one-of-a-kind venue. 

Visit the Shakespeare North Playhouse Theatre website here.

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