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New Shakespeare North Playhouse unveils inaugural season

The £30m venue is located near Liverpool

Shakespeare North Playhouse
© Austin Lord Smith

The brand-new Shakespeare North Playhouse has unveiled its inaugural season.

The venue, which has the only 17th-century style timber theatre outside London and aims to house 140,000 visitors a year, will open its doors in a special weekend of celebrations from 15 to 17 July.

The event, which sees an array of activities, will give audiences the first chance to experience the 470-seat Cockpit Theatre, inspired by the venue designed by famous architect Inigo Jones in the 17th century.

As part of the season, Northern Stage and Not Too Tame will co-produce a staging of A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by Matthew Dunster and co-directed by Warrington-born former rugby player turned actor Jimmy Fairhurst. It runs from 22 September to 22 October.

Comedy and music will be a part of the venue's plans, with both Johnny Vegas and Jimmy McGovern holding events inside the Cockpit.

Plays will be staged as part of the As You Write It national playwriting competition, run in conjunction with BBC's The One Show, with more details to be revealed on the show this evening.

The venue's first winter show will be a new adaptation of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, written by Nick Lane, associate artist at the Stephen Joseph Theatre and directed by Ellie Hurt, co-founder of Liverpool's The B Collective. It runs from 25 November to 7 January.

Tickets go on sale at the end of April, with prices from £3 to £35.

Laura Collier, creative director at Shakespeare North Playhouse who programmed the season, said: "We're thrilled to announce our opening season, which is very much a statement of intent in terms of our ambition for the venue and our engagement with the local community and audiences in the years ahead.

"We are balancing well-loved texts and new ideas, working with a variety of world-class creatives, from innovative theatre-makers such as Not Too Tame, Abigail Conway, Ashleigh Nugent and Slung Low, to our internationally renowned local heroes, Jimmy McGovern and Johnny Vegas.

"We want the building to be a beacon for creative excellence, as well as a supportive and nurturing playground for people to explore ideas and develop their own creative voice."