As previously reported (See News, 2 Jul 2004), Rose of Kingston - a new, £11 million theatre, modelled on the Elizabethan Rose and operated under the artistic direction of Sir Peter Hall - will be unveiled this winter.

The special “In the Raw” season of Hall’s production of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, first seen last year at Bath’s Theatre Royal, is now confirmed to run from 3 to 18 December 2004 (previews from 30 November). The season, performed in the Rose’s unfinished shell, will include gala evenings hosted by Judi Dench (pictured, on 5 December) and TV funnyman Jimmy Tarbuck (on 12 December) in an effort to raise the additional £6 million needed to complete the theatre.

In a statement, Hall said: “It is a particular joy for me that we are able to perform it in this extraordinary new theatre. This special season gives us all a wonderful opportunity to show the world what Rose of Kingston will be capable of when the theatre is fully fitted out, and can be at the forefront of staging classical theatre at the highest level.”

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. Archaeological remains of the actual Rose were discovered in the London borough of Southwark in 1989 and are still being excavated (See News, 29 Jan 1999). 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’.

As You Like It stars Philip Voss, Michael Siberry, Terence Rigby, James Laurenson and the director’s daughter, Rebecca Hall. After the Rose run, the production returns to the US to play in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Upon completion of building work at Kingston, now targeted for autumn 2005, the plan is to establish a permanent 20-strong company, presenting a repertory of eight plays, running annually from September to June and complementing a programme of education work alongside Kingston University’s two-year Master of Fine Arts post-graduate course. Students – actors as well as directors and designers - will join the theatre company in their second year of study.

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 last year. In 1977, he was knighted for services to theatre and, in 1999, was presented with an Olivier for Lifetime Achievement. His second annual ten-week repertory season finished earlier this month at Bath’s Theatre Royal, where the programme comprised the world premiere of Timberlake Wertenbaker’s Galileo's Daughter and revivals of George Bernard Shaw’s Man and Superman, Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit and Simon Nye’s Don Juan, based on Moliere’s original (See News, 26 Feb 2004).

- by Terri Paddock