FROM A distance, it could have been a spaceship looming in the car park next to Clifford’s Tower in York.

In fact, it was a theatre, a pop-up copy of The Rose Theatre, built in three weeks by a team of 30 scaffolders and roofers.

It’s as close a replica as we can manage to the layout for which Shakespeare wrote and upon which he sometimes acted.

As the bard himself says in the prologue to Henry V:

‘On this unworthy scaffold to bring forth

So great an object: can this cockpit hold

The vasty fields of France?’

There’s been something similar in London for 20 years: the Globe theatre on Bankside.

But we poor benighted Northerners didn’t have the chance to enjoy the experience without travelling down to the smoke until last year.

The 2019 season finished just a few days ago.

‘Within this wooden O:’ it’s circular, more or less — actually a 14-sided polygon — with the stage taking up a quarter, and three tiers of seats the rest.

It’s sheer-sided, so everyone’s close enough to hear without the need of microphones and amplification.

The middle section is open to the sky.

Tickets in the middle section are available for sale more cheaply for ‘groundlings’ to stand and watch the performance from close range.

That’s the big difference between this building and the sort of performance space that we’re used to as modern theatre-goers.

It all feels like a party — especially as there’s a ‘village’ of buskers and bars mocked up around the outer walls.

Chance to spend a little money and make a day of it.

And this makes a huge difference to the theatrical experience.

For one thing, every matinée performance and most of the evening ones take place in daylight.

Not much chance to use fancy lighting effects.

And the actors can see the audience far better than in a dark hall.

So there’s a rumbustious feel to comic scenes, with stage business and audience interaction such as we’d expect in a modern pantomime.

Steps lead from the stage down into the groundlings’ area, so the action threads itself through the watching crowd: chases become more hectic; surprise entrances come from any direction… and watchers suddenly find themselves, quite literally, in the middle of a battlefield.

The best thing about the layout, though, is how much variety it offers the director and cast.

The photograph shows the front stage, with stairs leading up to either side of a balcony (famously used in the Romeo & Juliet balcony scene).

There are entrances and window-spaces at high and low level.

It’s marvellously fluid.

The action can move forwards or back, side to side, up or down, far more freely than at the Bradford Alhambra or Leeds Playhouse.

So, when Prospero speaks of ‘cloud-capped towers and gorgeous palaces,’ it’s easy for us to imagine them.

Even in broad daylight, on a midweek afternoon, in York, perched on an unworthy scaffold.