A 350-seat theatre has moved a step closer to reality with a planning application submitted to Knowsley Council.
The Shakespeare North Playhouse aims to boost Prescot’s economy and job market with a place where actors, writers and students will be able to study and practice the plays of the Bard.
The playhouse will be the site of the only actor training programme in Shakespearean Performance Practice in the UK with plans for the erection of a four storey building and multi-use space with facilities for teaching, professional and community performances and film screenings.
The aim of the completed theatre culturally, will be to ‘make a triangle for the Shakespeare pilgrim, linking Prescot to Stratford and Bankside in London’, states the submitted application as Prescot was home to the first indoor Elizabethan theatre outside London over 400 years ago.
On the design of the building, which will not overbear current buildings such as St. Mary’s church, the application says: “As we did this we looked for an architectural theme to bridge the gap between past and present: one that evoked a sense of theatre – and yet would be suited to an educational institution of public cultural significance.
“The design also had to work well with the historic auditorium space at its core and the Jacobean parish church of St. Mary across the open space to the South, fully respecting the quiet, delightful architecture.”
The project will benefit the local job market with local residents gaining employment at the theatre and boosted by the income it will generate.
The local economy will be boosted, according the financial impact report, by the purchase of goods and services in the local supply chain for the theatre and arising from the spending of theatre employees and visitors in the local area which will in turn support local and create jobs.
Education will be a key cornerstone of the plans with the application submitted to the council highlighting London’s Globe as an example to follow in a teaching capacity and social regeneration project benefiting the community.
The application says: “The Globe Theatre and Globe Education in London is the primary model that demonstrates how theatre, and education related to it, work in a local and international visitor context, and the social benefits and regenerative effect of such a mix of uses.
“As well as the primary use as a University College, education facilities will be used for local drama, dance and music workshops outside the mainstream timetable. The facilities will therefore be used intensively to provide a valuable outreach asset for the wider community.
“The active development of practical theatre skills training will be encouraged through apprenticeships in stage management and support skills, these will include historic and current practice skills.”
Added to the main theatre, the plans include a multi-space of 140 seats, a coffee shop, bar and a book shop all housed within the building.
The theatre’s production season will run annually from October and will include other performances by the local community, amateur dramatic societies, schools, and touring companies.
To further the educational core of the plans, the playhouse will host a Summer Play Festival and a Shakespeare in Schools Festival in November of each year.