Shakespeare North Playhouse construction completed

AFTER more than ten years in the planning, two years of construction work and a global pandemic to contend with, the long-held dream of creating a Shakespearean theatre in Prescot has taken a step closer to being realised.

The main contractor for the project, Kier Construction, Knowsley Council and Shakespeare North Playhouse have formally marked the end of building work on site of venue.

A fit-out period will now take place up to July when the Playhouse opens its doors to the public.

Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council said: “We have held a strong belief in our vision to create a world class venue in Knowsley and despite challenges such as the pandemic, Knowsley Council has remained 100% committed to this project and doing whatever we can to make this dream a reality for our communities. The impact the Playhouse is set to have is remarkable and the ‘promise’ of Shakespeare North Playhouse has already attracted significant new funding and new businesses into Prescot.

“I want to thank everyone who has made this happen, including of course Kier Construction, the whole of the Design Team led by Austin-Smith: Lord and the other businesses and contractors who have helped to make Shakespeare North Playhouse so special. I also want to thank the many Council Officers who have supported this project from day one – giving their time and expertise, and Shakespeare North Trust, the new operators of Shakespeare North Playhouse, who have played a key role as we reached this day of handover. Now I cannot wait for the doors to open and for people to be able to enjoy the many opportunities at their Shakespeare North Playhouse.”

Melanie Lewis, chief executive at Shakespeare North Playhouse, added: “It is so exciting to finally reach this landmark stage in the project, and what started out as a unique and ambitious idea now seems all very, very real. The official public opening is just around the corner, and we cannot wait to finally be able to open our doors and let the Prescot community experience this wonderful and magical space. As I’ve have always said, this place is theirs to own!”

Opening Weekensd

Shakespeare North Playhouse is set to open its doors with a weekend of festivities for everyone to enjoy on Saturday 16 and Sunday 17 July. On the evening of Friday 15 July, the people of Prescot will create a ceremony, All The Joy That You Can Wish, to celebrate the opening. This is a significant part of Knowsley’s celebrations for its year as Liverpool City Region Borough of Culture.

Shakespeare North Playhouse is inspired by Prescot’s historic connections to William Shakespeare and a love of storytelling. In addition to providing a world class attraction, its mission is to become an exciting new destination that the Prescot community can call their own.

The project idea and design by Dr Nicholas Helm and Professor Richard Wilson is based on the 17th-century ‘cockpit-in-court’ design of Inigo Jones and is the only traditional timber framed theatre of its kind outside London.  

Shakespeare North Playhouse will also boast an inclusive education programme, exhibition gallery, Studio, café, shop, and additional performance spaces including the outdoor Ken Dodd performance garden. The venue is anticipated to attract more than 140,000 visitors a year to the region.

The opening programme includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Christmas Carol, ‘Evenings with’ Johnny Vegas, and Jimmy McGovern and performances of the wining plays from the Young Persons Playwriting competition with BBC’s The One Show – As You Write It. The Borough of Culture ‘Serious Nonsense Festival’ will also feature in Shakespeare North Playhouse and outdoor Piazza.