Following ongoing fundraising problems and construction delays, Sir Peter Hall’s Rose of Kingston is now aiming for an autumn 2007 opening, two years later than originally planned, with building work on the interior commencing shortly (See News, 2 Jul 2004).

A spokesperson told that the £11 million venue modelled on the Elizabethan Rose will take approximately one year to complete once the final interior fit-out is in progress. Following confirmation from Kingston Council this week that it will fund the completion of the building, this work is expected to get under way this autumn.

When fully open and operational, the Rose of Kingston will be a producing house with its own 20-strong ensemble Company led by Hall with a repertoire that will include both classical and contemporary work. The theatre is also working in partnership with Kingston University in the creation of a new Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in Classical Theatre - a practical apprenticeship for the next generation of actors, directors and designers.

The main Kingston auditorium is housed within a modern building, designed by architects Michael Holden Associates, but follows the ground plan of the Rose, which was built in 1587 and premiered many of Shakespeare’s early plays. Like the Elizabethan original, the 1,100-capacity Rose of Kingston comprises a promontory stage surrounded by three tiers of seating and a pit for audience ‘groundlings’.

In December 2004, Hall’s production of As You Like It had a brief “In the Raw” season at the Rose, performed in the unfinished shell of the building and featuring gala evenings hosted by Judi Dench and Jimmy Tarbuck in an effort to raise more money for its completion (See News, 17 Sep 2004).

A team of leading theatre practitioners including designer Alison Chitty, lighting designer Peter Mumford and sound designer Paul Groothuis have been working with Hall, the venue’s executive director Sue Higginson and project director Rosie Hoare, to plan the internal fit-out. Schedule-wise, Hall plans to open the Rose for Sunday performances, with two shows on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, but no performances on Mondays or Tuesdays. Instead, the building may be hired out for use as a cabaret or comedy venue early in the week.

The first director of both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre’s South Bank complex, Peter Hall celebrated 50 years as a professional director in 2003. In 1977, he was knighted for services to theatre and, in 1999, was presented with an Olivier for Lifetime Achievement.

Hall said in a statement: “I’m overjoyed that we are starting work to complete and open the theatre. Rose of Kingston is a unique and very special performance venue and will be a centre of excellence and entertainment not only for our local audience but also for the wider theatre-going public. And if you add to the building and the Rose’s own company of actors our plan to have a small band of student actors from Kingston University’s new MFA programme, we have the real possibility of handing on classical theatre techniques to future generations. I can’t wait to get started.”

- by Caroline Ansdell