Lancaster's The Dukes theatre announces winter plans for 50th anniversary

The Dukes in Lancaster 50th

The Dukes in Lancaster have announced their plans to celebrate the theatre’s 50th Anniversary over the Winter season.

The Dukes first opened its doors in 1971 and as Lancashire’s only producing theatre has welcomed the likes of Dame Harriet Walter, Gloria Grahame, Andy Serkis and most recently, Sir Ian McKellen.


The venue has announced a year-long celebration until Summer 2022 which will start with the debut of two new productions: a new retelling of the infamous Buck Ruxton case, Belle & Mary (18-20 November), and this year’s annual in-the-round Christmas production, Beauty & the Beast (3-31 December).

Belle & Mary brings the infamous Lancaster true-crime tale of Buck Ruxton to the stage in The Dukes-commissioned piece by Adam Z. Robinson, which will be performed as if a radio play.

Directed by Martha Simon, the production turns the tables on the narrative with the production focusing on the perspectives of Ruxton’s victims Isabella ‘Belle’ Ruxton and Mary Jane Rogerson.

When several wrapped bundles containing human remains are discovered in Moffat, Scotland in 1935 a landmark police investigation begins that will eventually lead back to two women in Lancaster and to the man who killed them. Based on the true story of the murders of Isabella “Belle” Ruxton and Mary Jane Rogerson. Still regarded as one of the most shocking crimes of the last century, this infamous case of jealousy, deception and tragedy also marked a pivotal moment in forensic detection.

Beauty & the Beast will welcome back the creative team of Daniel Bye (writer & co-director) and Sarah Punshon (co-director), who previously collaborated on The Dukes’ highly acclaimed productions of Cinderella: A Fairytale and Sleeping Beauty.

Bella and her mother live alone in the countryside, scrimping and saving to make ends meet. But, not far from their farm, in the forest, there is a terrible secret waiting to be uncovered that has made the land barren.

Kidnapped by the fearsome Beast, Bella discovers that he might not be the mean-spirited creature that she has been told about – and that the curse he is under can be broken.

The Dukes’ Chief Executive Karen O’Neill said: “It is so wonderful to be celebrating the Dukes 50th Birthday! This is a milestone year for the Dukes and we are so pleased to be sharing it with our team, volunteers, audiences, artists and community. The Dukes has been at the heart of Lancaster since 1971 as both a theatre and independent cinema and has achieved so much since then.

“We are so proud of the Dukes’ legacy and thank everyone who has been part of the journey so far. We are so excited for the future and we look forward to creating more memories, creative projects and continuing to be part of what makes Lancaster a great place to visit or call home. Thank you to our core funders Arts Council England and Lancaster City Council and to all our supporters, partners, funders, audiences and creative professionals. Here’s to the next 50 years!”

The festivities will also celebrate the theatre’s long-standing team members including Data & Audience Development Manager ​Karen Chandisingh and Technical Manager Brent Lees, who have both worked at the theatre for over 25 years, as well as The Dukes’ team of volunteers who have supported the venue for many years.

Tickets for all productions are now on sale with tickets available at

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