On what would have been William Shakespeare’s 454th birthday, a major tribute to the Bard in Yorkshire took one step closer becoming a reality.
Next month building work will begin on a recreation of the historic Rose Theatre next to Clifford’s Tower in York and yesterday the cast for the inaugural summer programme of plays was unveiled.
Europe’s first ever pop-up Shakespearean theatre will see Versailles actor Alexander Vlahos play Romeo opposite The Musketeers’ Alexandra Dowling’s Juliet, while Requiem’s Dyfan Dwyfor will play Richard III.
Completing the quartet of plays, Coronation Street’s Richard Standing will perform in the title role of Macbeth and a gender-swapping A Midsummer Night’s Dream will see Antony Bunsee (RSC, EastEnders) play Titania with Amanda Ryan (Shameless) taking the role of Oberon.
James Cundall, originator of the project and CEO of international theatre production company, Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, said: “More than 400 years ago, the first audiences for Shakespeare’s plays enjoyed an experience that was as intimate as it was exciting, crowded in close to the actors and the action, in a small theatre in the bustling city of London.
“Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre will offer an experience every bit as exciting, intimate and immersive. It will connect actors and audience together in a way many people will never have encountered before. No seat in the theatre will be more than 50ft from the action, providing plenty of breath-taking, spine-tingling, heart-stopping moments.”
The original Rose Theatre was built in 1587 on the south bank of the River Thames in London. It was a slightly irregular 14-sided structure made of timber, with plaster exterior and a thatched roof, open in the centre to the elements.
Its success paved the way for other theatres to be built in the area, including the Swan in 1595 and the Globe four years later. The 21st century version will combine state-of-the-art technology within the historic design. The venue, which will be in place for three months, will house an audience of 950, with 600 seated on three tiered balconies around an open-roofed courtyard and standing room for 350 ‘groundlings’.
Mr Cundall said: “One of our key aims is to offer comprehensive support for school groups, to encourage young people to see these plays, in this space. As well as special schools performances and ticket prices, we have established the Rose Bursary Scheme whereby schools with limited resources can apply for free tickets. I am delighted to say we have had great take-up from schools across the north of England.
“With dramatic sword-fights, bubbling cauldrons, wayward fairies, passionate love scenes, gruesome murders, grand poetry and no shortage of fake blood, audiences will experience the comic heights and tragic depths of Shakespearean theatre in a memorable setting.”
A trial build of the theatre in an off-site location outside York has been completed. Work is due set to begin on the actual structure at the foot of 13th century Clifford’s Tower at the end of May with the first performance of Macbeth on June 25.