Europe’s first ever pop-up Shakespearean Theatre – Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre – has announced its expansion for 2019 with a summer residency of nine weeks at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire. This follows last week’s announcement of a return to York, following its inaugural and successful season in 2018. Both theatres will run simultaneously over summer next year, performing a total of eight Shakespeare plays.
Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre – a 13-sided Elizabethan-style playhouse, complete with an Elizabethan village –will be constructed over a three week period in the glorious grounds of ‘Britain’s Greatest Palace’ where it will run from 8 July until 7 September 2019, whilst in York the theatre will return to the foot of 13th-century Clifford’s Tower, where it will open on 25 June and run until 1 September.
The originator of the project and CEO of international theatre company Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, James Cundall, said:
“We had such a wonderful response from our 80,000 visitors in York over the summer and an overwhelming number of requests to return – so not only are we thrilled to be coming back to York in 2019, but our expansion to the magnificent grounds of Blenheim Palace will enable us to bring this unique immersive experience of Shakespeare to an even wider audience.
“Preparations are now in full swing for eight Shakespeare plays, four companies of actors, two theatres and two Elizabethan villages.”
The new site at Blenheim Palace will enjoy one of the finest views in England, situated within the glorious grounds, adjacent to the 18th-century palace. Coincidentally, it will be just yards from the historic Shakespeare’s Way, which bisects the Blenheim Palace Estate.
At both the York and Blenheim Palace sites, the Shakespearean theatres will be constructed using state-of-the-art scaffolding technology, corrugated iron and timber. Inspired by the famous London Rose Playhouse built in 1587, 12 years prior to The Globe, Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre will house an audience of 900, with 560 seated on three-tiered balconies around an open-roofed courtyard with standing room for 340 ‘groundlings’.
Both theatres will be located within a Shakespearean village, bringing an authentic Elizabethan ambience and theatricality to the event.
The plays have been selected from across the genres, offering something for everyone, and will be performed in repertory by two companies of actors based at each location. The Blenheim Palace companies will be performing the repertoire of plays from the first season in York: Romeo & Juliet, Richard III, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth, while in York another four of William Shakespeare’s most popular plays will be performed: Hamlet, Henry V, The Tempest and Twelfth Night.
Dominic Hare, chief executive of Blenheim Palace, said: “When I visited Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre in York over the summer I was absolutely blown away, not only by the quality of the whole event, even down to the vintage carts and wagons, but by the extraordinary experience of seeing Shakespeare performed in such an intimate setting. It created the most astonishing connection between audience and actors and produced some truly spine-tingling moments.
“I immediately thought it would be the ideal summer event for Blenheim Palace, and am immensely excited at the prospect of bringing these outstanding Shakespeare productions, as well as the Elizabethan experience, to such a stunning setting. We believe that Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre will bring many more visitors to the area for everyone’s benefit as well as being a marvellous cultural experience for local people.”
The Blenheim Palace season will be co-presented by Raymond Gubbay Ltd. Full details of the creative team and cast for both companies will be announced in due course.