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Shakespeare North Playhouse is Theatre Building of the Year


SNP's beautiful wood-built Cockpit Theatre
SNP's beautiful wood-built Cockpit Theatre

Shakespeare North Playhouse has been named Theatre Building of the Year in this year's Stage awards.

Shakespeare North Playhouse, in Prescot near Liverpool, opened in July 2022 after almost two decades of planning.

The £38 milllion venue was built entirely during the pandemic thanks to public funds and donations from key organisations, including Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Sir Ken Dodd Foundation, and a significant £18m from Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, in whose area it stands.

The venue is home to the only 17th-Century style, timber-built "cockpit" theatre space - a traditional Elizabethan, hand-carved theatre put together with traditional methods. The 60 tonnes of English oak are held together with dowels using traditional carpentry methods.

The design is multi-functional, with three different formats: end stage, in-the the- round and thrust, with a substantial number of removable benches allowing configuration for wheelchair users.

The theatre seats 470 people in-the-round, 320 end-on and 300 with the addition of a Frons Scenae - an elaborate backdrop for the stage, one of only two in the UK, currently being installed and available for shows from April.

The venue is also home to a fully-accessible outdoor performance garden, an exhibition gallery, a 60-seat studio theatre, a learning centre, events spaces and a cafe and bar with an outdoor piazza.

Chief executive of Shakespeare North Playhouse, Melanie Lewis, said: ‘It was an honour to accept the award on behalf of the multitude of people who have got Shakespeare North Playhouse to this point. "This project has been visionary in so many ways. It is a building that connects people and communities to culture, sparking intrigue in those who may have let theatre and performance previously pass them by. "Our spectacular space has been brought to life by the people who have inhabited it over the last six months, and the architecture and building will continue to inspire and house future generations.”

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