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Sir Ken Dodd’s widow pledges £700k to Shakespeare North Playhouse project

The new theatre will create a ‘Shakespeare Triangle’ with London and Stratford-upon-Avon when completed.

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Lady Anne Dodd (The One Show/BBC)

Lady Anne Dodd (The One Show/BBC)

Lady Anne Dodd (The One Show/BBC)

Sir Ken Dodd’s widow has pledged around £700,000 through the late comic’s foundation to build a mini-amphitheatre in Prescot.

The outdoor space will form part of the Shakespeare North Playhouse project, due to open in 2022, and be used for performance and teaching.

The Merseyside theatre is being built to celebrate Prescot’s links to the playwright and form a “Shakespeare Triangle” with London and Stratford-upon-Avon.

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(The One Show/BBC)

(The One Show/BBC)

(The One Show/BBC)

The Ken Dodd Charitable Foundation initially put in £250,000 but will now be investing around £700,000 in total to complete a so-called Performance Garden.

Speaking to BBC One’s The One Show, Lady Anne Dodd said: “Ken’s real love was the theatre and Liverpool and he set up the Ken Dodd Charitable Foundation some years ago and I’m now able to use the money in that foundation – and his legacy – to fund a lot of different and wonderful projects, one of which is this Shakespeare North Playhouse theatre.

“Ken was approached a couple of years before he passed, and he was absolutely delighted to be able to help with this project.”

Sir Ken, famous for his epic stand-up shows and his tickling sticks, died aged 90 in 2018.

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Veteran entertainer Sir Ken Dodd (Yui Mok/PA)

Veteran entertainer Sir Ken Dodd (Yui Mok/PA)

PA

Veteran entertainer Sir Ken Dodd (Yui Mok/PA)

Lady Anne said her husband loved to visit amphitheatres on their travels around Europe.

She added: “One of the ideas I had was that famous phrases from Shakespeare should appear on the steps as you go up, and interspersed with ‘How tickled I am’, ‘tattyfilarious’, ‘plumptious’ – a few of Ken’s well-known phrases.”

The playhouse will have capacity for between 320 and 472 seats and will be based on the 17th century “cockpit-in-court” design.

Prescot was the only place outside London to have a purpose-built theatre in Elizabethan times.

Lady Anne said: “Ken just loved Shakespeare because of the words, he was such a wordsmith.

“A lot of people may not recall – way back in 1971 Ken played Malvolio in Twelfth Night.

“Some people thought he might not stick to the script, but he did, he was word perfect from the first day. He got wonderful reviews.

“I’m really waiting for 2022, when we’re all going to come here and see such wonderful performances.

“You know Ken would be really thrilled to bits. He would have loved it, he really would.”

Lady Anne is backing The One Show’s As You Write It – Your Play On Stage competition, which gives children and young people the chance to see their plays performed at the Shakespeare North Playhouse.

Lady Anne said: “Ken was very interested in children being encouraged in the arts.

“He always said he was given a lot of encouragement and he thinks we have to do that. He would have liked this idea.

“He won a writing competition himself when he was 11, and I’m sure the local kids are really excited about this too.”

The competition is open to those aged between seven and 16 years old.

Deadline for entries is just before midnight on Monday August 31.

More details can be found at bbc.co.uk/theoneshow.

Lady Anne’s interview with The One Show airs on Wednesday on BBC One at 7pm.

PA