Dramatic entrance: Shakespeare North Playhouse posed unique hardware challenge

Cockpit-in-court style theatre ©photography: Andrew P Brooks

The Shakespeare North Playhouse opened in July 2022 to a rapturous reception. The £27m build in Prescot, Merseyside, features two theatres, with 420/60-person capacities respectively. The building also offers an exhibition gallery, café, studio space, visitor centre and learning centre. The main theatre is based on a cockpit-in-court style and is in-keeping with other replica Shakespearean theatres in the UK and internationally. 

The project designed by architect Dr. Nicholas Helm and built by main contractor Kier, had sustainability at its heart. It was built from reclaimed hardwood and used carbon-reduced building methods. The Playhouse itself sits in a conservation area, with Knowsley Council looking for social benefits and minimal environmental issues during construction. 

RB Architectural Hardware was asked to work with similar concepts in mind, using a UK firm for the creation of the ironmongery to minimise environmental impact, and working with the wooden materials that had been chosen for the theatre, as well as glass doors that form part of the main lobby and make use of natural lighting.
The door furniture chosen needed to fulfil two separate briefs, but to match seamlessly and link from the theatres to the outdoor areas. The handles needed to easily work with the large doors, but not be too cumbersome and distracting.
The well-informed team at RB enlisted Instinct Hardware to help bring this vision to life. 

Light-filled modern interiors
Ironmongery style

The hardware style chosen was solid mitred door furniture in PVD matt black and satin stainless steel. The styling of the theatre mixes a historic layout with modern style, with reclaimed wood making a visual impact. The door furniture needed to complement this, while remaining simple in design. Minimal intrusion and reflection of lighting was a must for the theatre, making PVD matt black an ideal finish – matching the balconies and accents in the theatre itself. The solid mitred pulls are slimline but extremely sturdy – allowing full power to the pull but again meaning that the eye is not drawn away from the action on the stage. Double mitred solid lever handles matched the pull handles, with adjustments made allowing for matching lift to lock handles in the accessible bathrooms. 

The door furniture needed to fulfil two separate briefs but to match seamlessly and link the theatres to the outdoor areas"

On the other side of the theatre doors, satin stainless was the order of the day, mirroring their matt black counterparts inside. The same solid steel was used to provide a slimline finish to the overall look, whilst ensuring the larger doors could still be easily manoeuvred. Finally, all accessories such as escutcheons and radiused flush pulls were created to match the handles, providing a polished look to this project. 

Instinct was a good choice to meet the sustainability brief: the manufacture of the products was done in house. The material (19mm solid stainless bar) is sourced from a UK supplier, modern manufacturing techniques are used to minimise any environmental impact, and excess materials are recycled. 

Shakespeare North Playhouse won Theatre Building of the Year at this year’s The Stage Awards. 

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