Groundlings Theatre Brings Shakespeare to Life with Summer Festival

Courtesy of Groundlings Theatre.

The Groundlings Theatre will build a replica of The Rose Playhouse, where Romeo & Juliet was first performed, for a special Shakespeare Festival this summer. Sarah Cheverton reports. 

Audiences will be invited to ‘step back in time’ for an authentic Tudor experience in a replica of The Rose Playhouse, the theatre where Romeo & Juliet was performed for the first time in the 16th century, and the setting for the film Shakespeare in Love. 

Groundlings’ Artistic Director, Richard Stride, was inspired to rebuild the theatre after working on the famous Hollywood film.

‘I had worked on the film Shakespeare In Love and acted in the set of the Rose Playhouse. It was an incredible film to work on, but as the Rose is smaller than the Globe [Theatre] it’s more intimate.’

A model of The Rose, an early modern London theatre, in the Museum of London. Image by Ethan Doyle White via Wikimedia Commons

The replica Rose Playhouse will be approximately one third of the size of the original and will be located inside the Groundlings Theatre, itself a Grade II* listed building, known locally as  the ‘Old Benny’, and first built in 1784 by the Portsea Beneficial Society. Groundlings Theatre Company has been restoring the historical building since 2010, after it was gutted by fire some years before.

‘We have a whole team of volunteers working on the replica, aged from 15 years old to 80,’ said Richard.

 The replica will form part of a Shakespeare Festival running over the summer at the Groundlings Theatre, and including a complete Shakespearean experience with a Tudor village, alongside productions of Romeo & Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing. Both shows will be performed in Tudor dress and Romeo & Juliet will feature an all-male cast, reflecting how it was first shown to audiences in 1596.

 The Groundlings Theatre festival will also include performances of The Terrifying Tudors and a one-man-show of A Midsomer Night’s Dream with Tony Howes.

‘I think what makes it exciting is we’re transporting people back over 400 years to experience how these plays were performed,’ said Richard.

The Rose Playhouse was built in London in 1587, 12 years before the Globe Theatre, and is believed to have been torn down between 1606 and 1613. The remains of the building were uncovered in 1989 and are protected by the Rose Theatre Trust.

Richard Stride said, ‘We always try to do something different, and this may be our biggest project yet but the response we have had from people has been brilliant and we hope this unique experience will be a highlight of the city’s summer.’


The Groundlings Theatre summer of Shakespeare runs from 10th -25th July 2019, with multiple shows across the run. 

Find more details at the Groundlings Theatre website, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, telephone the Box Office on 023 9273 7370, or drop in and visit at 42 Kent Street, Portsmouth, PO1 3BS.

Image of model Rose Playhouse by Ethan Doyle White using CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons. All other images courtesy of Groundlings Theatre.