The North West is to get its very own Shakespearean theatre and it is going to be built on Merseyside in Prescot town centre which is building a replica Elizabethan theatre.
The Shakespeare North Playhouse at the heart of Prescot town centre which is due to open in 2020, will include a 350 seat theatre, education facilities, performance studio, exhibition area, office accommodation, a small shop, a coffee shop and bar and an outdoor performance area to accommodate an audience of 150 as well as a dedicated Exhibition and Education Centre.
Plans for a theatre are more than 10 years in the making. The vision of Shakespeare North is to celebrate the Elizabethan heritage of Knowsley and bring Shakespearean theatre back to the area that has an important place in the history of Elizabethan drama.
The proposed site of the Playhouse on the current Mill street car park has been carefully considered and researched and is very close to the site of the only purpose built playhouse outside of London in Elizabethan times.
400 years ago the small Northern English town of Prescot was the site of the only known purpose-built indoor playhouse outside London which was thought to have been built around 1593.
At the time, the Earls of Derby at neighbouring Knowsley Hall had an important connection with William Shakespeare.
The support and patronage of the Earls of Derby at Knowsley Hall played a notable part in the development of Shakespearean drama.
Lord Strange’s Men, under the patronage of Ferdinando Stanley (who became the fifth Earl of Derby), later formed part of Shakespeare’s own company at the Globe. So, Strange’s Men, who had performed at their home base in Knowsley, were important to the world in which Shakespeare became the world’s greatest playwright. The Prescot and Knowsley story is the prequel to the story of Shakespeare in London.
Academic researchers have looked into this over a number of years and uncovered some fascinating information about Prescot and its importance to the world of theatre.
The Playhouse will be built to designs drawn in 1629 by Inigo Jones, the greatest English architect and theatre designer of his day. Jones created The Cockpit in Whitehall, for the exclusive use of the Court of King James I. He designed the perfect stage on which to present the plays of his time, the most celebrated of which were Shakespeare’s.
The Shakespeare North Playhouse will run its own Masters Programme in Shakespearean Performance Practice allowing students to train in a real theatre with real actors and will be validated by Liverpool John Moores University.