Shakespeare North Playhouse, Shakespeare North Playhouse, P Knowsley Council
"Toby" the crane got its nickname from its "To Be" sign. Credit: via Knowsley Council

Shakespeare North Playhouse construction update

Julia Hatmaker

Last bricks have been laid and “Toby” the crane has departed as the £27m theatre project in Prescot nears completion.

Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram laid some of the final bricks himself, along with Knowsley Council leader Cllr Graham Morgan and Shakespeare North Playhouse chief executive Melanie Lewis.

Rotheram, who was an apprentice bricklayer early in his career, said: “It was great to be able to dust off my trowel and lay some of the final brick at the magnificent Shakespeare North Playhouse.

“Our region is the country’s cultural capital, and the new playhouse will give people from across the UK and further afield another fantastic reason to come and visit. It’s going to be a brilliant resource for the local community, especially budding actors and local schoolchildren. I know that it will play a big role in Knowsley’s year as our Borough of Culture in 2022.”

Cllr Graham Morgan, Melanie Lewis And Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram At The Shakespeare North Playhouse Site, P Knowsley Council

Cllr Graham Morgan, Melanie Lewis and Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram at the Shakespeare North Playhouse site. Credit: via Knowsley Council

“Toby” the crane, nicknamed for its illuminated, Shakespeare-inspired “To Be” sign, had been a fixture on the site since Kier Construction began work on the site in January 2020. The crane had been used to lift the main steel roof trusses of the playhouse into place. While the crane’s job finished earlier this month, its sign will remain and be displayed on the playhouse when it opens.

That opening is still slated for summer 2022.

Designed by Helm Architecture, one of the main highlights of the 30,000 sq ft Shakespeare North Playhouse is its timber-framed theatre. The theatre harks back to Shakespeare’s time with a “cockpit-in-court” design. It can fit between 320 and 472 seats. It was installed by specialists McCurdy and Co. earlier this year.

When complete, Knowsley Council estimates that the playhouse will bring in more than 100,000 visitors a year. Knowsley Council contributed £12m to the funding of the playhouse, which also received £5m from the central government and £10.5m from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority. A further £8m is being provided by Liverpool City Region’s Strategic Investment Fund, which aims to support improvements to Prescot’s transport interchange.

Shakespeare North Playhouse CGI, Shakespeare North Playhouse, P Knowsley Council

A rendering of what the finished building will look like. Credit: via Knowsley Council

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Needs futureproofing as the tenant occupier will have moved within three or four years and another use will need to be found for it.

By neil williams

Fantastic for Liverpool and the North great choice of Location as Liverpool is a cultural melting pot of activity

By Anonymous

Good that the design looks as if it has been future proofed for conversion to office space which is what Knowsley really needs.

By Realist

I wish Knowsley well in this project, they’ve invested a huge amount of time and money into it over the years.

By Mark Gilbertson