Culture Vulture – Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre

Oh York. You’ve done it again. You’ve blown my mind with your incredible sights and culture, your one-of-a-kind unique opportunities, and your overwhelmingly lackadaisical response to it all.

Last week, I got to check out Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre, a “pop-up cultural event” that’s the first of its kind in Europe. It’s a recreation of the actual 16th century Rose Theatre in London – you know, the little ol’ place where some upstart no-name playwright got his start? The 21st century iteration is built in the shadow of York’s iconic Clifford’s Tower, and the Shakespearean village that surrounds it is a huge upgrade to the gnarly, unkempt car park it sits upon. Ironic, that, because the original Globe Theatre – Shakespeare’s other stomping grounds in London – is currently located under the car park of a listed building, which means they can’t actually excavate it. Because the building on top of it is too old and culturally significant. Can I just remind everyone for a moment that Canada, from whence this humble writer has come, is 150 years old (well, now, I’m about to argue with myself because it was inhabited for thousands of years before my ancestors, and yours, traipsed over there and claimed it for their own a mere 150 years ago, but that’s not really what this column is supposed to be about). What I’m getting at is that in Canada, there is very little that might be built on top of anything else, that would be considered old enough, or culturally significant enough, to merit protection. It’s pretty mind boggling to think that anything in this country could rank more important than Shakespeare, but you know… cars gotta park and people gotta… live in condos? But like, Edwardian condos, yo.

I wandered off on a tangent again, didn’t I? Is this becoming my thing? My signature style? Right, you don’t care. Back to Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre. The “village” surrounding the theatre is more than an improvement on the car park upon which it sits. It’s an immersive experience. The ground is covered in straw, there are wooden food stalls and shops, and interesting historic displays, but most importantly, it has ye olde alcohol bar. Complete with ye olde gin – which maybe didn’t become popular in England until a century after Shakespeare’s heyday, but it’s damn popular now, so I for one am not going to complain about historical authenticity. Especially not when they pre-book intermission libations.

The exterior of the theatre itself requires a tiny stretch of the imagination to see what is meant to be a representation of the classic timber-framed architecture of the era. Wandering into the theatre, up several flights of scaffolding stairs, you might also find yourself wondering about the authenticity of the the interior. Don’t. It requires far less creative leap, because once you get to your seats, you will basically be swept away to an Elizabethan-London theatre experience. It really is an incredible set-up. It looks exactly like all the old drawings they made you study for your English Lit A levels.

Did I mention it’s the first of its kind? Here in York. I mean, this is fan-freaking-tastic, right? Surely every culture-lover and general fan of all-things-York who wants to support and maintain the city’s cultural relevance will have snagged tickets moments after they went on sale, and it must surely be sold out for the entire run. I mean, it’s basically a Harry Styles concert for literature lovers. Oh sure, Shakespeare’s no Bronte, and I know how you Yorkshireans fall over yourselves for the tragic sisters three, but he’s still got a bit of sway in these parts, no? Apparently not, because the seats were about 65% full. Come on, York. COME ON. This is another “oh I’ve never been for a walk on the walls” all over again, except worse. Because this incredible, first-of-its-kind-in-Europe unique experience has an expiry date.

The last show runs on 2nd September, 2018. You can go for a walk on the walls mid-winter, if you so desire. Which reminds me, the friend who inspired last month’s rant has since been shamed up onto the walls, and not surprisingly, she was right impressed by the experience. So after you’ve bought tickets to a show at Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre, go for a damn walk on the walls already!

With tickets ranging from £12.50 – £59.95 (or £90 if you want to take advantage of the York experience which includes box seats on stage, wherein you can feel like Dame Judi Dench revealing herself as Queen Elizabeth in Shakespeare in Love), and good cross-section of the bard’s classics (Macbeth, Romeo & Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Richard III) there really is an opportunity for everyone to check out a show. The floor seats are an immersive experience with the actors frequently moving about amongst the audience, and I think I’ll go back to see a different play from that vantage point.

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