Our Opening Programme Announced

Thu 24 Mar, 2022

We are ready to unveil our Opening Programme with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Christmas Carol and Audiences with Johnny Vegas and Jimmy McGovern among highlights all coming to this incredible new £30m theatre in Prescot, Knowsley.

Our stunning new venue, home to the only 17th-century style timber theatre outside London, also includes a fully accessible outdoor performance garden, exhibition gallery, 60-seater studio theatre, learning centre, exhibition and events spaces, and a café and bar with outdoor piazza. We will open our doors to the public with a joyful weekend of free festivities, from July 15-17.

Kicking off events, ‘All the Joy You Can Wish’ will be a
glorious ceremony for ‘local heroes’ including builders who helped construct the venue, and Prescot Cables FC players. Co-created by Slung Low Theatre it will celebrate the opening, as well as the heritage and community of Prescot.

Events continue with a weekend of ‘Open Up’ performances, curated by inspirational Prescot-born playwright, actor and community champion Ashleigh Nugent and featuring The Candle Project by Abigail Conway. There will be free activities including dance and drama alongside classical music, rap, DJs crafts and tours throughout the weekend, including tours of the
extraordinary new 470-seat Cockpit Theatre. Inspired by Inigo Jones’ historic 1629 Cockpit-In-Court London masterpiece, it is the jewel in the crown of the new Playhouse.

Among the highlights of the opening season will be
Shakespeare’s classic comedy A Midsummer Night’s
Dream, a co-production with Northern Stage and Not
Too Tame. Directed by Matthew Dunster, (Young Vic
and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre) and Co-directed by
Warrington-born actor Jimmy Fairhurst, of Shakespeare
North Playhouse’s associate company Not Too Tame.

The Playhouse will also host comedy and music from a
wide variety of artists, with two local legends, Liverpool
screenwriter Jimmy McGovern and St Helens comedian and actor Johnny Vegas booked for the first ticketed events inside the Cockpit Theatre – An Evening With Jimmy McGovern on July 23 and An Evening With Johnny Vegas on July 29.

The first plays to grace the Cockpit stage, will be those
written by three young winners of the As You Write It national playwriting competition, run in conjunction with BBC’s The One Show, as part of the theatre’s mission to nurture new talent. The show is directed by Jude Christian and designed by Abby Clarke.

And this Christmas, Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol,
recreated with a distinctly Knowsley feel, offering ‘a slightly bonkers, fast and furious retelling of the original text with some familiar local references and a sprinkling of pantomime fun. Our version is written by Nick Lane and is directed by Ellie Hurt.

In addition to the shows that we are producing for the space we also have a wonderful season of shows brought to us by other theatre makers, including Imaginarium Theatre, Shakespeare Schools Festival and the Serious Nonsense Festival in partnership with Knowsley Borough of Culture and Writing on the Wall.

Some tickets for each performance will be available on a
‘Pay What You Decide’ basis, with a large proportion reserved for Knowsley residents, giving everyone the opportunity to come and enjoy a show.

A supporter’s scheme will also launch in April, giving people the opportunity to get priority booking, invitation to an opening welcome event and more and we’ll be looking for volunteers to join the team very soon.

We will offer a range of workshops and activities for families and will work in partnership with every school in Knowsley to offer children and young people inspirational arts and cultural experiences. We want young people to celebrate this new resource and we’ll work with our D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent community to ensure opportunities are as open and inclusive as possible to all.

The Shakespeare North Playhouse is inspired by Prescot’s historic connections to William Shakespeare and a love of storytelling and is operated by the charitable Shakespeare North Playhouse Trust.

Our outdoor performance space, The Sir Ken Dodd
Performance Garden, was kindly supported by The Sir Ken Dodd Charitable Foundation. It honours the brilliant, local born comic, with some of his most famous comedy expressions engraved into the giant steps which will form the amphitheater style seating space. Here audiences will be able to enjoy family entertainment throughout the summer months.

Honorary Patrons of Shakespeare North Trust are Oscar
and BAFTA winning Dame Judi Dench and Glenda Jackson.

Special advisers to the Playhouse are Trainspotting and
Slumdog Millionaire director Danny Boyle, and Bootle-born writer Frank Cottrel-Boyce, who collaborated on the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics,
partly based on Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Tickets go on sale for our first season of performances at the end of April.