You are nearly approaching your first birthday so we thought it would be a good time to reflect on how far you have come. Can you give us some insight into the project and how it came to be built in Prescot?
The theatre has been in the planning for almost 2 decades. In 2006 a conversation between architect Dr. Nicholas Helm and Professor Richard Wilson sparked the idea that led to Shakespeare North Playhouse. A project this unique required a huge amount of research, planning and ultimately funding to get it off the ground.
Shakespeare North Playhouse is inspired by Prescot’s historic connections to William Shakespeare and a love of storytelling. In the 1590s, a remarkable theatre stood in the town and hosted performances made possible by the Earl of Derby, resident at Knowsley Hall. It is thought that it was the only purpose-built indoor playhouse outside of London, and players brought with them new shows from a certain popular playwright of the day… William Shakespeare.
This unique 17-century style, timber built “Cockpit” theatre is at the heart of a remarkable and contemporary building for education and social activity. A place that welcomes its community and theatre goers from across the globe to celebrate creativity and the joy of performance. It is a regeneration project which brings a sense of excitement and opportunity, establishing Prescot as a thriving part of Liverpool City Region.
The build began at the start of the pandemic, at a time when there was a pressure on the sector to keep the arts alive and funders focused their energies on established organisations who needed support to survive. Remarkably the building opened on time in July 2022 – a testament to the drive and passion of the project team and contractors.
We follow you on social media and you always seem to have something exciting going on. Do you have any personal highlights from the last year?
We’ve had an amazing first year and there has been so many personal highlights for us. Winning Theatre Building of The Year at the 2023 The Stage Awards was an incredible moment for us. We are so pleased to be recognised for our hard work and we wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support of our wonderful audiences and community. The first Shakespearean production on our Cockpit Theatre stage, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, was also a personal highlight. Since then, we’ve staged so many wonderful productions, workshops and activities, welcomed thousands of people through our doors and met so many incredible individuals that it has all been one big highlight!
We work in a lot of schools in the area and have recently done training around our new Shakespeare units of work. Do you have anything in particular to offer schools that you’d like to share with our readers?
We offer a cross-curricular approach to exploring the many themes within Shakespeare’s work. Our full day workshops offer students the opportunity to discuss and share their ideas, nurturing their creativity, supporting metacognition and developing resilience through experimentation and collaboration. We present the themes in ways that are accessible to all ages and abilities, using fun and engaging activities, taking Shakespeare off the page and allowing new interpretations. When possible, we also build in a tour of our Cockpit Theatre, and nothing beats the joy on the faces of visitors when they enter this glorious heritage space.
Some of our team have visited with family and it is a great place to take the children during the school holidays. Can you share with us anything you have coming up which might be of interest?
We have a great selection of workshops and events coming up over the next few months for all the family to enjoy! These are just a few below so please check our website for further workshops and productions.
Baby Bards runs each week and is an early years story and language session for pre-school children aged 18 months to 4 years old. Led by our resident spoken word artist, Charlie Staunton, the sessions introduce story, letters and phonetics through readings and fun activities.
Also running every 2-weeks is our Five Elements: Hip Hop Youth Project for 11-18 year olds. These exciting free sessions explore the five pillars of Hip Hop: MCing, DJing, Beatboxing, Breaking and Graffiti.
For Eurovision we’ll be hosting a Shakespeare’s Eurovision workshop, a fun family session exploring a map of Shakespeare’s world and discovering the locations of his plays.
We also have a great range of family productions lined up!
Treasure Island and the Last Lighthouse Keeper (2-3rd June) by Imaginarium Youth Theatre present this swashbuckling half-term pirate show for all the family. Comic eco-adventures abound on the high seas in the race to find treasure and save the planet!
After last year’s smash-hit Romeo and Juliet, the Rubbish Shakespeare Company return to Shakespeare North Playhouse with more magical family-friendly fun with A Rubbish Midsummer Night’s Dream (9-11th June). 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.
Shakespeare’s Globe’s Olivier Award-nominated family show Midsummer Mechanicals (15-18th July) comes to Shakespeare North Playhouse! Enjoy this ‘fantastically funny’ ★★★★★(Broadway World) family show, based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. One midsummer’s night, a band of amateur actors led by Nick Bottom staged their first ever play. It was so bold, so brilliant and so chaotic that it went down in theatre history.
Congratulations again on a successful first year. We think it is so important for the people of the north to have access to this type of venue and you have created a real buzz in the area. Can you share with us what we can look out for in year 2?
It’s been a fantastic first year and we couldn’t have anticipated the overwhelmingly positive response that we’ve received. We’re so looking forward to our second year of programming and we’ll be pleased to announce our Christmas show shortly. Keep your eyes peeled for further announcements about Shakespeare North Playhouse on our socials and website!
Thank you for your time and we hope to call in and see you all again soon.
Are you looking to celebrate Shakespeare in your school? Our ‘Shakespeare’ collection of units, for EYFS – Y6 has been designed to spark a love for one of our greatest writers’ works and nurture pupils’ spoken language skills to ensure pupils are able to perform their written work to an audience.
All of our ‘Shakespeare’ units comprise 15 sessions of English planning and focus on mastering key writing skills (grammar, vocabulary and punctuation) from the national curriculum and Development Matters. Each unit has opportunities to develop reading comprehension, writing composition and spoken language.