Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre goes under after poor ticket sales

York's role as a cultural destination, exemplified by Shakespeare's Rose Theatre, is key. Photograph © Allan Harris on Flickr
25 Sep 2019 @ 5.20 pm
| News

Hailed as one of the great additions to York’s cultural scene, Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre has gone from triumph to tragedy.

The company behind it has entered liquidation after ‘unsustainable losses’ this summer.

The pop up theatre, modelled on one from Elizabethan times, made its first entrance on a section of York’s Castle Car Park in 2018.

It was a hit, and was brought back again this year, staging four of Shakespeare’s plays. And a sister version was also built at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.

In York ticket sales fell by 40% this year compared to last. And the company that ran the productions – Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre Ltd – is now insolvent – and they say Brexit is partly to blame.

Much sadness and regret

Macbeth at Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre in 2018. Photograph: Charlotte Graham

The company today issued a statement about the demise of the company. It says:

  • With much sadness and regret, a Board meeting has been held to start the Liquidation process for Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre. The company suffered unsustainable losses from its recent seasons in York and at Blenheim Palace.

    In all, eight productions were staged in the 2019 seasons which were greeted with great acclaim by audiences and critics alike.

    Sadly, due to Brexit and the economic and political uncertainty this has created, the anticipated audience numbers needed to sustain a project of this scale were not achieved.

The figures tell their own story. In 2018 Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre in York attracted 78,000 visitors but achieved only 47,000 in 2019.

At Blenheim Palace only 38,000 people attended, whereas a figure of 75,000 was anticipated.

Widespread dismay

The news caused dismay among city leaders. Andrew Lowson, executive director of the BID, said: “This is sad news for the city and naturally for the employees who put a lot of hard work into these high quality productions.

“The Rose will be a loss, as it is the type of cultural event that we want in York, but we are glad to hear that the extremely popular Thor’s Tipi will continue to be part of the York Christmas experience.”

And managing director of Make It York Sean Bullick said: “This is sad news for York as Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre had become a valued addition to the summer events programme in the city.

“This innovative approach to outdoor theatre set the bar high in its field and won numerous awards including three at our own Visit York Tourism Awards this year.

“We commend the team at Lunchbox for their vision and hard work in bringing Shakespeare’s Rose to York and the cultural impact it had on the city.”

Winter Wonderland unaffected

Thor’s Tipi on Parliament Street. Photograph: Trev Pack

Shakespeare’s Rose Theatre Ltd is a sister company of Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, originally formed in Hong Kong by James Cundall.

In York Lunchbox runs Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland at the York Designer Outlet and the Thor’s Tipi and Sól Ást pop-up bars.

Both companies are now based in Welburn and have James and Rebecca Cundall as directors.

According to the statement the directors of Lunchbox Theatrical Productions “are taking professional advice”.

Yorkshire’s Winter Wonderland and Thors Bars Ltd “are unaffected” by the collapse of Shakespeare’s Rose.

James was awarded an MBE for services to the entertainment industry in the New Year Honours.