Plans for northern Shakespeare hub in Merseyside submitted

The Globe Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption It is hoped the new theatre will join other Shakespeare attractions like The Globe in London

Plans to create a northern Shakespearean theatre on Merseyside where the Bard's plays can be performed and studied have been submitted.

The £19m 350-seat Shakespeare North Playhouse is planned for Prescot, where the first Elizabethian indoor theatre outside of London was built.

It will be built alongside a new international university college focusing on Shakespearean drama.

Among the project's patrons are Vanessa Redgrave and Dame Helen Mirren.

The Shakespeare Trust hopes a combination of public finance and private donors will pay for the project.

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Shakespearean scholar and trust member Prof Kathy Dacre said: "The plans are now submitted and it is very exciting."

She said it was also hoped that the project will help the regeneration of the Knowsley area, which was named one of the most deprived in England in 2015.

The theatre will be built based on designs for The Cockpit in Whitehall drawn by Inigo Jones in 1629.

Image copyright HelmArchitecture/Shakespeare North
Image caption Architects' designs of the college, which it is hoped will be affiliated to Liverpool John Moores University

'Strange's Men'

The theatre's production season will run annually from October and include other performances by the local community, schools and touring companies.

It is hoped the new theatre will form part of a Shakespearean triangle linking Prescot with Stratford Upon Avon and The Globe in Bankside, London.

Merseyside's historic connection to Shakespeare involves a troupe of actors called Strange's Men, named after their sponsor Ferdinando Stanley, Lord Strange, the future Fifth Earl of Derby and patron of the bard.

The actors, who were the first to stage Shakespeare's Henry VI, in 1592 at the Rose Theatre in London, fled to Lord Strange's ancestral home at Knowsley Hall during an outbreak of the plague.

They performed in the Elizabethan mansion and later at a purpose-built theatre called The Playhouse in Prescot.

The plans for the new playhouse are due to be considered by Knowsley Council Planning committee.

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