Richard III could finally be coming home to York as ambitious plans are unveiled to build the county’s answer to the Globe theatre within the city walls.
The project, which would be Europe’s first ever temporary Shakespearean theatre, is the brainchild of Lunchbox Theatrical Productions. If given the green light, it would see a recreation of the 16th century Rose Theatre, which was a forerunner to the Globe, built next to the iconic Clifford’s Tower.
Similar in style to London’s South Bank venue, the open-roofed, three tiered balcony Elizabethan-style theatre would house almost 1,000 people and it is hoped the inaugural season, scheduled to begin next June, would run for 10 weeks.
While the proposals are still awaiting planning approval from York City Council, the team behind them has already decided on the first programme of plays, which will include Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet and Richard III.
James Cundall, the man behind the Rose Theatre project and chief executive of Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, told the Yorkshire Post: “As a proud Yorkshireman, I am truly excited to be creating this venue in the heart of York. It’s hoped that it will excite both locals and tourists and create a new legacy for the city.
“The performances will be innovative and fun and will showcase heritage theatre at its best. It is our aim to get as many children from the region to see four of Shakespeare’s greatest titles probably for the very first time.”
The intimate auditorium, as in Shakespeare’s day, would see most audience members sitting within 50ft of the action on stage and the decision to include Richard III in the inaugural season is a canny one.
After the remains of the last Yorkist king of England, were discovered under a Leicester car park during an archaeological dig in 2012, a campaign to have him reburied in his ancestral home was launched. It ultimately proved unsuccessful, but while Richard now resides in Leicester Cathedral a staging of Shakespeare’s not entirely flattering version of his life and death would at least be a partial homecoming.
Steve Brown, managing director of the tourism and business organisation Make It York, said: “York already has a brilliant programme of events and festivals lined up for 2018 and this adds another world class dimension. It will appeal to both residents and tourists from all over the world and it’s a massive coup for the city that this fabulous opportunity has been landed. I’m sure everyone will support it to the hilt.”
While the arrival of the Rose Theatre may prove a cultural draw, Shakespeare is also big business. Figures from 2016, which was the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, show that in his home town of Stratford upon Avon, the Bard is worth £600m to the local economy, brings in 10m visitors a year, and supports 11,000 jobs in the area. Each year, the Royal Shakespeare Company also sells close to two million tickets to its various productions.
Sir Gary Verity, chief executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “I am absolutely thrilled that Shakespeare will be coming to Yorkshire next year. It couldn’t be better placed than in our wonderful historic city of York.
“I’m sure it will open Shakespeare up to a whole new audience of young and old alike and will draw in many more visitors to enjoy everything the city and its surrounds have to offer, as well as prove a huge boost to the local economy. We can’t wait to experience it.”
The plans for the Rose Theatre are due to go in front of the council’s planning committee in September.