THE north-south divide is over as Lindsay Posner's southern company unite with Damian Cruden and Juliet Forster's northern troupe in the backstage corridors of Shakespeare's Rose Theatre on the Castle car park in York.

Posner, the Olivier Award-winning West End director, has directed for the Royal Court Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre, and plenty more besides. Now he adds another string to his bow, directing a company of 17 simultaneously in Romeo And Juliet and Richard III – the late local lad's ironic return to a car park – in a ten-week run at "Europe's first ever pop-up Shakespearean theatre".

Until the beginning of this week, north and south had not met, Posner rehearsing his combined forces in London, but now, as the Rose Theatre's edifice of wood and steel scaffolding rises around them and Lunchbox Theatrical Productions' hands-on producer James oversees the Shakespeare Village taking shape, his cast is in tech week, sharing the rota with Cruden and Forster's players.

Posner was rehearsing the fiery Tybalt's death scene, repeating it several times to the accompaniment of a band's accordion and wind playing from above, when The Press arrived for Tuesday's lunchtime interview. "It's been exhausting in some ways, doing two productions at once," he said, quietly spoken in a a seat by the groundlings' floor space in front of the stage.

"That's partly because nine weeks, although it might seem a long time to rehearse two Shakespeare plays, is not. I've always had six weeks, but that's been the luxury of working for the RSC, so effectively we're doing each play in four and a half weeks.

"So we've had to work long hours, but we've managed it, and the big plus is that I've found it stimulating to work this way and the actors have found it energising to work on two plays at once. You quickly develop a shorthand way of working; you get to know each other and the personalities involved."

Choosing a cast that could handle the pressure of doing two plays at once was vital. "Company chemistry is always important and you just go on instinct," says Posner. "Casting for two parts is always tricky because an actor is usually better suited to one than the other, but it's not about compromise but about being about better in one but hopefully good in both."

York Press:

Alexander Vlahos as Romeo and Alexandra Dowling as Juliet in Shakespeare's Rose Theatre's Romeo And Juliet. Picture: Anthony Robling 

The first seven weeks of rehearsals were held at the Menier Chocolate Factory – "a lovely location but there were pillars in the way" – but Posner's company then switched to a huge studio space near the O2 (the former London Dome) in Greenwich, where a balcony and stairs to match the York theatre was built.

What's more, Posner could call on his past directing experiences. "I've never worked at Shakespeare's Globe but I did Much Ado About Nothing [in the open air] at Regent's Park and I directed a production of Richard III at the Old Globe, in San Diego, California, run by Adrian Noble after he left the RSC." he says.

"I think what's great about this performance style is the audience's relationship with this space, where we rely on the actors' delivery of the language. You are getting back to the purity of the actor-audience relationship, and it's very much outdoor theatre, because we don't have sets, nor an intricacy of lighting, but it's still possible to do a modern Shakespeare production in this environment, so we're not harking back to Shakespeare's day but finding a modern-day equivalent.

"Romeo And Juliet is a domestic tragedy – that's the best way to describe it – whereas Richard III is epic, so you have to find a social context to suit. We're setting Romeo And Juliet in Mussolini's era in Italy, told largely through costume and music, while Richard III will be set in a modern-day England, in a parallel world in the near future, as if England had turned Fascist, with the production offering references and gestures to contemporary tyrannies."

Will there be connection between the two productions? "If there is any connection, the audience will see it in the directing style, which is not a conscious thing, but there's always an attention to the detail in the text, and any humour that comes out in both productions comes out of truth, and not comedy business, as I have an unsentimental view of the world. Truth is always funnier than comedy business."

Looking forward to Shakespeare's Rose Theatre opening on Monday, Posner looks around the newly constructed theatre. "I think it's been a very successfully built as a theatre space; it feels like a vital event space and will be wonderful for the actors with the wraparound effect of the design making it feel intimate and the acoustic is surprisingly kind too.

"The actors will feel much closer to the audience [with the standing area], and it'll feel exciting to enter through the crowd, which you'd never do in an conventional indoor theatre. Asides from actors work much better in a space like this...but I'm also very keen that the productions don't ham things up or slip into broadness."

Lunchbox Theatrical Productions present Shakespeare's Rose Theatre, at Tower Street, York, from June 25 to September 2. Box office: 01904 623568 or at