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All the world’s a stage: Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre comes to York

Posted on 25 June 2018

University of York academics have contributed their expertise to an ambitious project to bring Europe’s first pop-up Shakespearean theatre to York.

The theatre will have the historic polygonal design of the early modern playhouses of Shakespeare’s day such as the London Rose Playhouse, which was built 12 years prior to Shakespeare’s globe in 1587. Image credit: Lunchbox Theatrical Productions LTD.

The pop-up Rose Theatre, which has been constructed opposite York’s Clifford’s Tower, will host four Shakespeare plays: Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet and Richard III.

Performances run from 25 June to 2 September and have been brought to the city by Lunchbox Theatrical Productions Ltd. The plays are directed by York Theatre Royal’s Juliet Forster and Damian Cruden, and the West End’s Lindsay Posner. Cruden and Posner are both winners of Olivier Awards.

Historic design

The theatre’s design is inspired by the open-air playhouses that flourished in London in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, such as the Rose Playhouse built in 1587 and the Globe built in 1599. The York Rose will house an audience of 950, with 600 seated on three tiered balconies around an open-roofed courtyard, and standing room for 350 “groundlings”.

The historic design based on the early modern playhouses of Shakespeare’s day will enable a modern-day audience to enjoy the same close-to-the-action experience as the first audiences for Shakespeare’s plays 400 years ago.

To celebrate the theatre’s opening, Shakespeareans from the University of York are also running a series of free pre-show public talks – one on each of the plays in the season’s programme and one on early modern playhouses more generally.  They have also written pieces on the performance history of the plays, on the history of early modern playhouses and the history of theatre in York since Medieval times for the season’s programme.

White rose

Professor Judith Buchanan, Dean of the Faculty for the Arts and Humanities, and an advisor on the project, said: “It is a wonderful intervention into the cultural and touristic life of the city and region that Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre is coming to York and mounting four Shakespeare plays across the summer. 

“Members of the University are delighted to be offering their expertise to help enrich and enliven some of the satellite events and the project is providing terrific opportunity for some of our students to gain professional experience working with a theatre production company.”

As well as to the early modern London playhouse, the pop-up theatre’s name also alludes to the heraldic white rose of York and to the four Shakespearean plays – Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo and Juliet and Richard III – that will be performed there.

Elizabethan entertainment

During Elizabethan times, actors and playing companies would often travel the country performing plays on the street and on farm wagons.  To recreate this atmosphere, a Shakespearean village is also being created around the theatre with free wagon performances and other forms of Elizabethan entertainment. 

For more information and to book tickets visit: .

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About this research

Academics from four University of York departments are contributing to the Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre project:

Professor Judith Buchanan and Professor Helen Smith (Department of English and Related Literature); Dr Kate Giles (Archaeology Department); Professor Mark Ormrod (Department of History), and Dr Ollie Jones and Prof Michael Cordner (Department of Theatre, Film and Television).

Explore our research.