Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre to pop up at Blenheim Palace

By Emma Bowden, Press Association

Four of William Shakespeare’s most loved plays are coming to the grounds of “Britain’s Greatest Palace”.

Following the success of Europe’s first pop-up Shakespearean theatre in York last year, Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard III and Romeo & Juliet will be performed in the gardens of Blenheim Palace.

The stately home – residence of the Duke of Marlborough – is staging the event in a move to boost the economy of the local area over a nine-week period.

Chief executive of the palace Dominic Hare approached Lunchbox Theatrical Productions after going to see their inaugural season in York.

Paul Hawkyard as Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the palace grounds (Emma Bowden/PA)

The venue, a 13-sided Elizabethan-style playhouse complete with a period village, will house 900 – with 540 seats and a courtyard for 340 “groundlings”.

“This is Shakespeare country, this is an area where local people love their culture, this is a place that’s uniquely positioned post-Brexit in a sense of brands,” Mr Hare said.

“If you go anywhere in the world – whether it be Asia, China, America, Europe – brands like Oxford, Blenheim Palace, Winston Churchill, Shakespeare, these are the giant brands.

“You could be in a city that nobody knows the name of in China and they’ll nod at two of the four I’ve just said.

“We have this amazing opportunity in the uncertain world in front of us, to draw people to this area by using those brands.”

Hawkyard and Leandra Ashton – as Lady Macbeth – both have leading roles (Emma Bowden/PA)

Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre will run the Oxfordshire venue simultaneously with its original location, presenting a total of eight plays in the summer.

James Cundall, chief executive of Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, said: “We’re recreating two and creating six so effectively eight shows are being created.

“It’s more than any other Shakespearean company is doing in this country this year I believe – there’s an excitement in the scale of the project.

“It was refreshing to have the CEO of one of the most gorgeous stately homes probably in the world wanting our product in their backyard.”

Damian Cruden, overall artistic director, said of the relevancy of Shakespeare: “He writes brilliantly to the story he wants to tell.

“What would world history be without Shakespeare? If you look at the number of times Shakespeare is quoted in politics, in general life, in other art forms.

“The number of times his work has been turned into operas, used in movies, basis for science fiction, it is so much a part of the world that we now live in.

“The notion that it wouldn’t be relevant is almost untenable.”

– Dominic Hare, Paul Hawkyard, James Cundall, Anthony Findlay, Leandra Ashton and Joni Marks at Blenheim Palace (Charlotte Graham)

The season at Blenheim Palace will be co-presented by events company Raymond Gubbay Ltd, and will run from July 8 to September 7.