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Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre: A Summer Pop-Up in York

Alex Vlahos
Alex Vlahos

Love, Laughter, Revenge and Murder. Fancy some of that? If so then pop up to Yorkshire this summer and go to Europe’s first Pop-Up theatre for what promises to be a delicious programme of Shakespeare classics. The Rose Theatre is literally going to pop up in the carpark next to historic Clifford’s Tower in York and, surrounded by a “Shakespeare Village” with Yorkshire produced street food (courtesy of Brian Turner of Ready Steady Cook), an Elizabethan garden designed by Sally Tierney, Chelsea Flower Show medalist, “wagon entertainment” comprising jugglers and jesters and medieval music and speeches and sonnets, it is destined to be a fully immersive Shakespearian experience. There will also be a licensed bar and locally made ice-cream – most Bard-appropriate as does not Lady Macbeth herself cry out: I heard the ice cream and the crickets cry.? (I may have mis-heard that).

So from the first sentence of this piece can you spot the plays? Love – must be Romeo and Juliet of course; A Midsummer Night’s Dream will undoubtedly dispense the laughs; for revenge, we have Richard III and there can be no better play to provide a few murders than Macbeth. Two companies of actors will be led by Alexander Vlahos (Romeo) and Alexandra Dowling (Juliet) and Dyfan Dwyfor, fresh from Requiem, will play the title role in Richard III.

Damian Cruden, Artistic Director of York Theatre Royal directs Macbeth and Associate Director at the Theatre Royal, Juliet Forster, directs A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Romeo and Juliet and Richard III will be directed by renowned theatre director Lindsay Posner.

Setting up a Shakespearian “Wooden O” – a full-scale replica of the Rose Playhouse built in 1587 on Bankside in London (predating the Globe) – is the brainchild of James Cundall, whose Lunchbox Productions have garnered an awesome international reputation, and the project has assembled a formidable team of creatives that will guarantee superb productions in a truly unique setting. It will take 3 weeks to assemble the theatre and the season will run from 25th June until 2nd September. Tickets range from £12.50 – for uncovered standing “Groundlings” – up to £90 for the “York Experience” – all the seating is covered. Full details are available at:

Those who wish to make the trip up from London can do so via main sponsor Grand Central Rail, from Kings Cross to York on the East Coast line. This venture promises to be one of the iconic artistic events of the summer and I, for one, will be making the trip (if only for the ice-cream)!


Situated beside the iconic York landmark of Clifford’s Tower, Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre will combine state-of-the-art scaffolding technology, corrugated iron and timber with the historic 13-sided design of a 16th-century Shakespearean theatre. It will house an audience of 950, with 600 seated on three-tiered balconies around an open-roofed courtyard and standing room for 350 ‘groundlings’.

Four of William Shakespeare’s most popular plays, across the genres, will be performed in repertory by two companies of actors during the 10-week season, from Monday 25th June until Sunday 2nd September 2018:

A tragedy – Macbeth
A comedy – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
A tragic love story – Romeo and Juliet
A history – Richard III

The traditional setting will host new interpretations of these famous works, both challenging and entertaining. Romeo and Juliet and Richard III will be directed by the award-winning Lindsay Posner, while York Theatre Royal’s Olivier Award-winning Artistic Director Damian Cruden will direct Macbeth, and Associate Director Juliet Forster will be putting her stamp on A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Making up the York company are Gareth Aled (Lennox/Starveling), Leandra Ashton (Lady Macbeth / Peaseblossom), Antony Bunsee (Siward / Theseus & Titania), Clare Corbett (Witch 3/Puck), Fine Time Fontayne (Duncan/Egeus), Maria Gray (Witch 2/1st Fairy), Paul Hawkyard (Macduff/Bottom), Mark Holgate (Banquo/Demetrius), Emilio Iannucci (Malcolm/Flute), Amy Lennox (Mentieth/Hermia), Rina Mahoney (Lady Macduff/Quince), Olivia Onyehara Angus/Helena), Jordan Peters (Ross/Lysander), Amanda Ryan (Hecate/Hippolyta & Oberon), Robin Simpson (Witch 1/Snout) and Richard Standing (Macbeth/Snug).

The York company creative team will be led by directors Damian Cruden (Macbeth) and Juliet Forster (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) with designer Sara Perks, choreographer Philippa Vafadari, composer Chris Madin, fight director Jonathan Holby, and voice coach Yvonne Morley.

Making up the London company are Emma Darlow (Dorset/Balthazar), Alexandra Dowling (Lady Anne/Juliet), Dyfan Dwyfor (Richard III/Sampson), Gabriel Fleary (Brackenbury/Escalus), David Fleeshman (Stanley/Friar Laurence), Charlyne Francis (Second Murderer/Gregory), Robert Gwilym (Hastings/Capulet), Julie Legrand (Margaret/Nurse), Tom Lorcan (Rivers/Benvolio), Joey Phillips (Lovell/Abram), Shanaya Rafaat (Buckingham/Mercutio), Dale Rapley (Lord Mayor/Lord Montague), Emily Raymond (Queen Elizabeth/Lady Capulet), Edward Sayer (Tyrell/Tybalt), Julia Swift (Duchess of York/Lady Montague), Richard Teverson (Clarence/Paris) and Alexander Vlahos (Catesby/Romeo).

The London company creative team will be led by director Lindsay Posner and associate director Martha Geelan, with choreographer Mike Ashcroft, designer Lee Newby, costume designer Sue Willmington, composer Olly Fox, fight director Kate Waters and voice coach Yvonne Morley.

Casting for Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre is by Ginny Schiller, lighting design by Paul Pyant and sound design by Harry Johnson.

Outside Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre will be ‘Shakespeare’s Village’, and exciting plans for this free-to-enter attraction have been revealed. Yorkshire-born celebrity chef and food ambassador for the Village, Brian Turner (Ready Steady Cook, Saturday Kitchen, A Taste of Britain), is creating a special street food menu with leading Yorkshire street food vendors, showcasing some of the best fare the county has to offer. In addition, there will be locally-made ice cream and a fully licensed bar, all housed in traditional oak-framed and reed-thatched buildings.

Award-winning Yorkshire garden designer Sally Tierney has been engaged to design and create an Elizabethan garden, with ornate box-edged beds of cottage flowers, roses and herbs. Ms Tierney is the winner of a Silver-Gilt medal at the Royal Horticultural Society’s renowned Chelsea Flower Show, as well as ‘Best in Show’ and numerous gold medals at the Harrogate Spring Flower Show.

The production team are also busy sourcing performers for the Village. During Elizabethan times, actors would often travel the country performing plays on farm wagons. Shakespeare’s Village will feature a regular schedule of ‘wagon entertainment’ with sensational speeches, soulful sonnets and medieval music, as well as juggling jesters.

The original Rose Theatre was built in 1587 on the south bank of the River Thames in London. It was a slightly irregular 14-sided structure made of timber, with plaster exterior and a thatched roof, open in the centre to the elements. The success of The Rose Theatre paved the way for other theatres to be built in the area, including The Swan in 1595, The Globe Theatre in 1599 and The Fortune in 1600.

Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre and Shakespeare’s Village will be created and managed by Yorkshire-based Lunchbox Theatrical Productions.

Listing Information
Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre
Tower Street, York, YO1 9SA
Monday 25 June – Sunday 2 September 2018.
Romeo & Juliet, Richard III, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Macbeth


  • Peter Yates

    Peter has a long involvement in the theatrical world as playwright, producer, director and designer. His theatre company Random Cactus has taken many shows to the Edinburgh Fringe, the London Fringe and elsewhere and he has been associated with the Wireless Theatre Company since its inception where his short play Lie Detector can be heard: Wireless Theatre Company.

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