ROSE OF KINGSTON – the making of a theatre


Wednesday 19th June 7.30pm at the Judge lecture Hall, Tiffin School. Polymath Frank Whately tells the fascinating, complex story of how the Rose Theatre, Kingston’s finest cultural asset, came to be. He’ll cover the campaign to build what became the Rose, the previous theatre ventures in Kingston, the original 1587 Rose Playhouse on Bankside all sprinkled with some commentary on productions and personalities involved with the Rose.


Frank Whately has been professionally and intimately involved with the theatre for a very long time. To list just some of his career highlights: Head of Drama at Tiffin School; Head of School, Performance and Screen Studies, Kingston University; Associate Writer and Director, National Youth Music Theatre; Director, Kingston Theatre Trust (responsible for the Rose Theatre; and he is one of the two founders of the Rose Theatre. He also conceived the International Youth Arts Festival in partnership with Robin Hutchinson.

The Rose Theatre in Kingston, inspired by the historic Elizabethan playhouse on Bankside, traces its origins to 1986, when local councillors and residents envisioned a new cultural hub. The theatre’s shell was constructed by St George PLC as part of the Charter Quay development, though its completion was not included.

The original Rose Theatre on Bankside, established in 1587, was one of the first purpose-built theatres in London and a major venue for Shakespeare’s early plays. Its distinctive lozenge-shaped stage and intimate atmosphere influenced the design of the modern Rose Theatre in Kingston, which features three levels of horse-shoe-shaped seating around a central stage.

The Rose Theatre officially opened on 16 January 2008 with Sir Peter Hall’s production of “Uncle Vanya” and the initial season showcased national touring companies with notable productions like “The Tempest,” “George’s Marvellous Medicine,” “Romeo and Juliet,” and “Tartuffe.” The Rose’s first in-house production, “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” directed by Hall and starring Peter Bowles, premiered in October 2008.

The Rose Theatre in Kingston continues to celebrate its Elizabethan heritage, echoing the innovative spirit of its Bankside predecessor while serving as a vibrant modern venue for the performing arts.

Frank will be selling copies of his book (£14.99) All proceeds from the sale of this book will go to the Rose Theatre’s charitable funds to support the Theatre in its work with young people, the creation of exceptional artistic work and ever wider engagement with the community.

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Last Updated on June 7, 2024 by Kingston Society