The largest Shakespearean company in Europe this Summer assembles to rehearse

The largest Shakespearean company in Europe this Summer assembles to rehearse as full casting is announced for 2019 Summer of Shakespeare.

Preparations are in full swing for a glorious Summer of Shakespeare for the North and South, as the full company of SHAKESPEARE’S ROSE THEATRE, the award-winning pop-up Shakespearean Theatre, comes together for the first time ahead of its triumphant return to York this summer, and its expansion to a second site at Blenheim Palace. The SHAKESPEARE’S ROSE THEATRE Company has commenced rehearsals for eight of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, which will be performed in repertory by two companies of actors based at each location.

Over the last few weeks a huge tented rehearsal village has sprung up outside York at the McArthurGlen Designer Outlet, which becomes a custom-built temporary home to one of the largest Shakespearean companies in Europe, and possibly the world, this summer. The 2100 square metre rehearsal village is made up of seven tents in total: the two biggest acting as the main performance spaces, able to accommodate areas bigger than the eventual stage, and audiences who will be able to attend open rehearsals. Other tents will be used as stage management offices, a green room (holding up to 70 people at one time), wardrobe spaces and break out rooms for dance, fight and vocal calls.

Artistic Director of SHAKESPEARE’S ROSE THEATRE, Damian Cruden said, “It’s wonderful to have such a unique and bespoke rehearsal space that accommodates the needs of creating eight fantastic Shakespearean productions and encourages strong creative collaboration.”

In total, 75 actors, 22 creatives, 12 musicians and 41 crew have taken up residence in the grounds of McArthurGlen Designer Outlet, the company’s home until the two pop-up Elizabethan theatres are constructed at the foot of historic Clifford’s tower in York in May and in the grounds of Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire in June.

McArthurGlen Designer Outlet are also hosting an exhibition of costumes and props from SHAKESPEARE’S ROSE THEATRE.  The items from the 2018 plays of Richard III and Romeo and Juliet can be viewed all summer in Unit 19 at the South Atrium.

The York season of SHAKESPEARE’S ROSE THEATRE will run from Tuesday 25 June – Sunday 1 September 2019, with Hamlet, Henry V, The Tempest and Twelfth Night, and the Blenheim Palace season will run from Monday 8 July – Saturday 7 September 2019 with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet and Richard III.

Originator of the project and CEO of international theatre company, Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, James Cundall MBE, said “Shoppers at York’s Designer Outlet have already been taken aback by blood-curdling war cries and delighted at the beautiful poetic verse emanating from our rehearsal village… I am both excited and proud to have brought together such an incredible company – we may well be the largest in the world right now!”

Full casting has been announced for the four companies – previously announced cast includes Maggie Bain (Netflix’s Black Mirror, The End of the F***ing World, film Dark Sense and A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe) as ‘Henry V’; ITV’s Victoria star David Oakes as ‘Hamlet’; Sam Callis (Game of Thrones, The Bill) as ‘Prospero’ in The Tempest; and returning from last year’s SHAKESPEARE’S ROSE THEATRE,  Olivia Onyehara as ‘Viola’, Mark Holgate as ‘Orsino’, and Leandra Ashton as ‘Olivia’ in Twelfth Night.

The Blenheim Palace company includes Dave Fishley (recently seen in the West End as ‘William III’ in Queen Anne at the Theatre Royal Haymarket) as ‘Richard’ in Richard III; Emilio Iannucci (son of Armando) as ‘Romeo’ opposite Ella Dunlop (recently seen in The Secret Garden at York Theatre Royal) as ‘Juliet’ in Romeo & Juliet; Alex Avery (series regular in Doctors, The Bill and EastEnders) as ‘Macbeth’; and Paul Hawkyard (multiple West End credits, Coronation Street, Casualty, ) returns to SHAKESPEARE’S ROSE THEATRE to play ‘Bottom’ in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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, and will feature:

  • ‘wagon’ performances of Elizabethan-style entertainment, including comic mini-plays, speeches and medieval musicians
  • the best Yorkshire and Oxfordshire food and drinks, housed in the oak-framed and reed-thatched Bear Arms pub
  • in York, an Elizabethan garden created by Yorkshire garden designer Sally Tierney, with ornate box-edged beds of roses, cottage flowers, herbs and vegetables. Mrs Tierney is the winner of a Silver-Gilt medal at the Royal Horticultural Society’s renowned Chelsea Flower Show, and created the Elizabethan garden for SHAKESPEARE’S ROSE THEATRE in York last year to great acclaim.
  • in Blenheim, a village pond, with farm wagons and carts, evoking a rustic rural scene
  • tables and benches around the village, enabling visitors to enjoy the historic atmosphere.