Prince Edward, Duke of Edinburgh officially opens Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot

The Duke of Edinburgh has officially opened the Shakespeare North Playhouse on Merseyside.

In his first official engagement since the coronation of King Charles III, Prince Edward unveiled a commemorative plaque at the £38 million theatre in Prescot, Knowsley.

His Royal Highness met local dignitaries, members of the Shakespeare North team and some of the people who have been instrumental in the creation of the new venue.

The prince joked that he needed to make the unveiling “as slick and as professional as possible."

Referring to his late father, he added: "I was really worried having been given this new title.

"I was actually following in the footsteps of the most experienced plaque-unveiler the planet has ever known."

Prince Edward described the playhouse as “fantastic”. Credit: ITV Granada

The theatre first opened to the public in July 2022 after being entirely built during the pandemic.

Prince Edward visited the venue's Cockpit theatre, the only 17th-century style timber theatre outside London, and watched local school taking part in an educational session.

The 450-seat Cockpit theatre is accompanied by a studio for smaller showers, a learning room and an outdoor performance garden funded by the Ken Dodd Charitable Foundation.

Supporters hope the theatre will be a catalyst for economic regeneration, community engagement and education, and develop a new generation of talent. 

It is expected that over 140,000 people a year will visit the area because of the theatre.

The Shakespeare North Playhouse was inspired by Prescot’s historic connections with the Bard Credit: ITV Granada

Prince Edward told invited guests, "I'm optimistic and positive about life, and I just think the most fantastic clash of cultures is here at the Shakespeare North Playhouse.

"You had a bit of Eurovision in here as well.

"That's what the arts are about, bringing that to life and that contemporariness to it as well.

"The unveiling of a plaque is not necessarily the most exciting thing that has happened in your lives, but I know this probably comes as a bit of a disappointment.

"There's an air of expectation.

"I need you to pretend that it really is the most exciting thing that has happened in Prescot in 400 years!"

Why Prescot?

In the 1590s, a remarkable theatre stood in the town and hosted performances made possible by the Earl of Derby, resident at Knowsley Hall.

It is thought that it was the only purpose-built indoor playhouse outside of London, and players brought with them new shows from a popular playwright of the day... William Shakespeare.