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  • Merse-Coast Shakespeare Theatre

    Shakespeare North Playhouse, Prescot, United Kingdom

    Architects: Nicolas Helm, Austin-Smith:Lord (on the basis of Inigo Jones)
    Text: György Szegő
    Photos: Andrew P Brooks – Shakespeare North Playhouse

    Further up the river from Liverpool’s famous Merse-bank Anfield football ground, an old-new theatre was opened in Prescot in 1922: it is named the Shakespeare North Playhouse. The idea came from academic Richard Wilson and theatre director David Thacker, who chose the site of Hoghton Tower, where the great playwright spent part of his teenage years. The project tells the tangible story of Shakespeare’s first patrons, bringing Shakespearean theatre back after 400 years to a corner of the world that played an important role in the drama of the Elizabethan era. With no surviving contemporary depictions or architectural plans of the Prescot Playhouse, they turned to a predecessor that, though short-lived, had become iconic: the Inigo Jones-designed Royal London Theatre. The auditorium with 4710 seats was based on drawings of the old Cockpit by Inigo Jones’ student, John Webb. The intimacy of the octagonal timber space and the downstage viewing angle make for an exceptional experience. In addition to the central performance space, the theatre also features an outdoor performance garden, an exhibition gallery, a 60-seat studio theatre, an education centre, exhibition and event spaces, a well as a terrace café and bar. Helm Architects have created an experiential concept of the link between Shakespearean theatre and the 21st century.

    Client: Knowsley Mbc
    Architects: Helm Architecture, Austin-smith:Lord
    Timber frame: Mccurdy&Co
    Structure: Mott Macdonald
    Services: Dodd Group + Foreman Roberts
    Theatre Consultants: Arup
    Sustainability: Aecom
    Contractor: Kier