Above-ground construction on the Shakespeare North theatre in Prescot will begin in January 2020.
Knowsley Council have appointed contractors Kier Construction for the two-year task.
The ground, formerly part of the Mill Street Car Park, has already been levelled in preparation, and a 350-seat replica Jacobean theatre is already being built off-site as the centrepiece of the modern complex. The opening is scheduled for summer 2022.
The vast project will pay tribute to Prescot’s key role in the history of theatre. In Shakespeare’s time the town, then a major centre of the West Lancashire economy, was the site of the first purpose-built theatre outside London, and Knowsley’s Lord Stanley, the Earl of Derby, was among the Bard’s wealthy patrons.
As well as the authentic period theatre, the building will house all-age education facilities, an exhibition centre and other indoor and outdoor performance spaces. The central stage and auditorium will be versatile enough to accommodate contemporary theatre and music performances as well as classical theatre, such as Shakespeare’s plays.
The project has attracted support from such luminaries of the arts as Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Patrick Stewart and Sir Paul McCartney.
Knowsley Council have said that the construction phase will create “11 new apprenticeship opportunities and seven new jobs,” and once complete “the Shakespeare North Playhouse will create 19.5 new direct jobs and 203 off site permanent posts while bringing £5.3m GVA to the Liverpool City Region and attracting approximately 111,000 visitors per year.”