The oak-timbered set, modeled on London's 16th-century Rose Theatre, was donated to the British Shakespeare Company by Judi Dench, who won an Academy Award for playing Queen Elizabeth I in the 1998 romantic comedy.
The set — a full-size replica of a galleried theater interior — was given to Dench by the filmmakers and is currently in storage. British Shakespeare Company artistic director Robert Williamson said Monday the actress had recently made the "wonderful decision" to donate it to the troupe for a permanent base in northern England.
Williamson said he imagined the venue as "a living history center," offering live performances and a display of costumes from the film, which starred Joseph Fiennes as the playwright and Gwyneth Paltrow as his feisty love interest. It won seven Oscars, including best picture.
The original Rose was built in 1587 on the south bank of the River Thames — then just outside the city limits of London, whose officials frowned on "disreputable" actors and often banned plays. Its repertoire included plays by William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlowe.
The British Shakespeare Company, which tours open-air productions of Shakespeare around the country, said it was looking at locations in the northern English cities of Sheffield, Manchester and York. It has set up a charitable trust to manage the project.
Williamson said northern England lacked a permanent Shakespearean venue. Audiences in southern England can visit Shakespeare's Globe, a rebuilt Elizabethan theater in south London, and the Midlands has the Royal Shakespeare Company, based in the Bard's hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon.
And yet Williamson said, "the four biggest Shakespearean actors are from the north of England — Ben Kingsley, Judi Dench, Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen."
"We want to offer the north of England what London has," he said. "Every child in Great Britain still has to study Shakespeare. He's an integral part of our heritage and our identity."
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