YOU can see entertainment at Shakespeare's Rose Theatre for free over the next ten weeks.

Not the actual plays on the Rose Theatre stage, unless you are an invited school party, but in the wood-chipped environs of the Shakespeare's Village that encloses the castellated amphitheatre in the matching shadow of Clifford's Tower.

In one corner, next to Sally Tierney's deeply fragrant Elizabethan Garden for Shakespeare's doomed young lovers, Romeo And Juliet, stands a traditional Yorkshire Wolds wagon dating from the late 1800s. Once used for gathering sheaths of corn on farms, and lovingly restored in a year-long project by 86 year-old Peter Bellamy, it is now the home to a variety of pre-show performances over the ten-week season, from 12 noon to 2pm and 5pm to 7pm each day, except on July 2 to 4, 9 to 10 and 16 to 18 when they take place from 1.30pm to 7pm.

Inspiration for these free shows was drawn from Elizabethan times, when actors would often travel the country on farm wagons, turning the wagon into an impromptu stage on which to perform their plays, enacting different scenes in different locations as they passed through a town.

In addition, the York Mystery Plays, dating back to medieval times, are still performed on 12 pageant wagons by the Guilds of York, the latest production taking place under Tom Straszewski's artistic direction on the city streets on September 9, 12 and 16.

Surrounded by ten low benches, the wagon corner is playing host to Elizabethan music; scenes from Shakespeare’s plays; gruesome stories from York and silent Shakespeare films.

The York Waits, who take their name from the ancient city band of York, performed at Monday morning's ribbon-cutting ceremony to launch "Europe's first ever pop-up Shakespearean theatre" and can be heard each Sunday and Monday. Aptly they play music from the days of Richard III, one of the four plays on the Shakespeare's Rose Theatre roster alongside Macbeth, Romeo And Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The York Waits, incidentally, continue to provide music for the City of York twice a year, leading the annual Mayor Making Procession in May and beating the bounds at the Sheriff's Riding on December 21.

On Tuesday evenings, the York Dungeon stages three exclusive Shakespeare’s Village performances, featuring "horrendous characters and performances you’ll only be able to find on top of a wagon". First up, village visitors will meet The Gong Farmers, on the lookout for a recruit to join their ranks, but be wary, their job really is the pits.

York Press:

Mad Alice, alias Alicia Stabler, and her assistant Clifford, alias James McKellar, from the Bloody Tour of York

Then, experience Outbreak! as the Black Death makes its way to York, and there is but one way to survive. Luckily one local con-artist/genius has the only cure you will need, but could the Doomsayer scare everyone off before the plague arrives?

And finally, witness a Tribute To The Rose, featuring two dedicated, proud and moronic jesters on either side of the fence, with one backing the Lancastrian challenger Henry, the other supporting the glorious Yorkist Richard III.

Award-winning Mad Alice, alias Alicia Stabler from the Bloody Tour of York, and her assistant Clifford will tell the gruesome truth behind Shakespeare's plays every Wednesday with a few exceptions, promising to "delight and disgust audiences with 20-minute shows running through the afternoon".

"Was Richard III that villainous? Why was James I obsessed with ghosts? What was the plague really like in Shakespeare's day? And did audiences enjoy watching torture and punishment as much as watching plays?" asks Mad Alice. "You can learn how Shakespeare may have even borrowed from York's very own gory history, for Henry VI Part III, Act 1 Scene 4: 'Off with his head and set it on York gates, so York may overlook the town of York'."

Each Thursday afternoon and evening will bring an interactive Shakespeare game show to the wagon stage, as Re:Verse Theatre present Wheel Of Shakespeare. Director Ben Prusiner invites you to "roll up and spin the Wheel of Shakespeare whereupon our three competitive actors will present a scene on the spot".

"Get ready for sword fights and shenanigans as we work our way through the Bard's canon. The show will never be the same twice, and at the end of each hour you'll get a chance to cheer for your favourite genre. Will it be History? Tragedy? Comedy? Or do you prefer plays that don't fit any one category? Come, find out and give the wheel a spin!" says New York ex-pat Ben, whose cast comprises Jodie Fletcher, David Phillipps, and Emily Thane.

York Shakespeare Project, now up to play number 32 in their 20-year mission to stage all the Bard's works, will be in the Village on Saturday afternoons to perform perform well known and lively excerpts from Shakespeare’s plays. What might you witness? Perhaps a taste of YSP's most recent production, Two Noble Kinsmen, or knockabout humour from the rustics in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, or maybe witty banter from the lovers in Much Ado About Nothing, famous soliloquies from Hamlet or an unusual version of The Tempest, a pretty unusual play already of course.

Accordion player Iñigo Mikeleiz Berrade, already busy playing at Rose Theatre performances of Lindsay Posner's production of Romeo And Juliet, will combine this with regular wagon slots throughout the week.

All the while, Shakespeare's Village will be serving Yorkshire food and drink too, not so free, but available nevertheless to complement entertainment on the wagon.