THE stately grounds of the magnificent Blenheim Palace will echo with the words of Shakespeare this summer.

On what would have been the bard's 403rd birthday, the country house has released more detail about its elaborate plans to reconstruct a 900-seat Elizabethan-style theatre on the site this July.

The Rose Theatre, being billed as Europe's first ever 'pop up' Shakespearian playhouse, will host epic performances of Macbeth, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Richard III and Romeo and Juliet from July 8 to September 7.

Dominic Hare, the chief executive of Blenheim Palace, said he expected audiences to be 'enthralled and captivated' by the plays.

Oxford Mail:

He said: "I saw the Rose Theatre when it was in York last year and I remember vividly seeing the looks on the children's faces in the front row - they were following every minute of the drama.

"I am certain people will walk away and think 'that was not like any Shakespeare play I have ever seen before'.

Oxford Mail:

"It's such a wonderful setting and a perfect summer activity."

The Blenheim theatre will run simultaneously with one in York which is returning for its second year.

The 13-sided building will be constructed next to the estate's famous long drive directly opposite the main visitor entrance.

A Shakespearian style village will be built next door, hosting mini performances, a pub and food and drink stalls.

James Cundall, the chief executive of Lunchbox Theatrical Productions, who came up with the project, said it will take 50 people two weeks to build the structure.

Oxford Mail:

He said: "I want people to look at it and think 'wow'.

"If Shakespeare were to come back and see it he would look at it and recognise it.

"It's made out of layer scaffolding which wasn't a material back then but everything else he would know like his own.

"It's the same - from the positions of the trapdoors to the flying sequences."

Casting for the performances is ongoing and rehearsals are set to begin at the start of May.

Didcot-based Lucy Pitman-Wallace, who is directing the production of Richard III, said she was expecting working outdoors to throw up its own unusual challenges.

She said: "The audiences will surround the actors from all sides.

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"There's something about being able to access the audience in this way that is so different from being stuck up in the gods, miles away.

"The play involves a lot of audience interaction. Richard III is quite an attractive villain and he keeps you engaged in what's happening.

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"Once a swan came onto the stage during the play but it's all part of it. Ducks will fly past and, god forbid, it might rain a bit but I think it's a fantastic way to see these plays."

Mr Hare said he hoped everything on offer will encourage more tourists to stay in Oxfordshire for longer as well as give local people the excuse to visit the palace.

He said: "I hear people all the time who say they have always meant to visit.

"Well, now is the chance as this is going to be so special and it won't be here forever."