Merseyside is to get not one but two new theatres, PurpleDoor – whose watchword will be free admission and a relaxed style – and a northern home for the works of William Shakespeare, the Shakespeare North Playhouse.
PurpleDoor in Bold Street in the heart of the city, will open next spring with a radical new approach funded by charitable sponsors and bar takings. It will be the country’s first “truly free” theatre, aimed at showcasing local talent and putting theatre at the centre of a socially-welcoming (coronavirus notwithstanding) atmosphere.
Architects Constructive Thinking are responsible for the open design, in which the 250-person bar and performance spaces are in one area.
General manager Karl Falconer explained: “This will provide crucial opportunities for people from all backgrounds to achieve beyond antiquated and outdated social constraints.”
The seatless, dog-friendly theatre will have performance spaces, a rehearsal room and a gallery area and is hoping to avoid having an artistic director pushing the building in a particular artistic direction, in favour of a “community artistic board”.
The theatre is the brainchild of PurpleCoat, a community theatre company based in Liverpool since 2008 and in 2014 responsible for a youth theatre company that has since worked with hundreds of young people. The new theatre is the fulfilment of a long-held ambition.
The other new Merseyside theatre is on a far larger scale, work having started on the £19 million building in Knowsley which is due to open in 2022.
The theatre is based on designs created by Jacobean architect Inigo Jones in1629. At its core is a 350-seat theatre, modelled on the cockpit-in-court design popular during the Elizabethan era. Alongside the theatre will be an outdoor performance garden, exhibition and visitor centre and educational facilities.
The Playhouse, in Prospero Place, Prescot, will complete the UK’s Shakespearean triangle, London and Stratford being the other two points. Why Knowsley? Shakespeare received support from the Earls of Derby, so the area has a natural, if slightly tenuous, connection to the works.
The project is still raising money from private sponsors - one of whom has been Lady Dodd, who has pledged £700,000 from the Ken Dodd Charitable Trust, set up by the famous comedian in his later years.
More on Shakespeare North here.