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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: August ::
The Theatre at Shoreditch Discovered
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0454  Wednesday, 13 August 2008

From:       Hardy M. Cook <
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Date:       Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Subject:    The Theatre at Shoreditch Discovered

[Editor's Note: Last week, many print and online newspapers reported on the 
discovery of remains of The Theatre, "the first substantial purpose-built London 
playhouse in England since Roman times, built in 1576 by James Burbage." 
(Gabriel Egan, _The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare_, eds., Michael Dobson and 
Stanley Wells, Oxford UP, 2001.). Here are excerpts from two of those reports 
that appeared in _The Times_ and _The Guardian_. --Hardy]

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/science/article4466781.ece

 From The Times
August 6, 2008
Dig reveals The Theatre - Shakespeare's first playhouse
Fiona Hamilton, London Correspondent

Every year hundreds of thousands of visitors make their way to 
Stratford-upon-Avon and the Globe Theatre, on the Thames, to explore 
Shakespeare's intriguing past.

Not surprisingly, an unremarkable plot of land on New Inn Broadway, just north 
of London's medieval City wall, does not rate a mention on the Shakespeare 
tourist trail, since before now only the most fervent history buffs were aware 
of the site's significance in the playwright's life.

However, that history can be laid bare after an archaeological dig at the 
Shoreditch site uncovered the remains of The Theatre -- one of the capital's 
first playhouses -- where Shakespeare's works were first performed in the 16th 
century.

In what the Museum of London Archaeology has described as "one of the most 
exciting finds of recent years", an excavation last month uncovered a large 
section of what is believed to be the original brick foundations of the theatre.

Jo Lyon, a senior archaeologist at the museum and the dig's project manager, 
told The Times yesterday that one of London's most enduring secrets had been 
uncovered.

[ . . . ]

An archaeological evaluation report for the borough of Hackney concluded that 
the remains were of "national, if not international, importance".

Julian Bowsher, a senior archaeologist at the museum, said that there could not 
be 100 per cent certainty about the remains. However, he said it was very 
likely, because the bricks form a polygon, which documentary evidence suggests 
was the shape of the theatre. "It's certainly in the right area and it's 
certainly very important," he said.

[ . . . ]

The Tower Theatre Company, which performs a Shakespeare work every year, will 
design its modern playhouse around the remains of the original. Jeff Kelly, the 
chairman of the company, said: "We're thrilled. It's an incredible coincidence 
that we want to build our theatre on the site of Shakespeare's first playhouse. 
It unveils a secret past."

[ . . . ]

http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2008/aug/07/shakespeare.shoreditch

Shakespeare's Shoreditch theatre unearthed
Archaeologists have discovered Shakespeare's lost theatre in east London
Maev Kennedy
Thursday August 07 2008 14:02 BST

A shiver of excitement rippled around the theatrical globe as news spread of 
some grubby red bricks uncovered in a muddy pit off a nondescript street in east 
London.

Sir Ian McKellen will be making his way to New Inn Broadway in Shoreditch, one 
of many theatre luminaries impatient to see the site where his hero William 
Shakespeare learned his trade not just as a playwright but an actor.

The rows of Tudor brickwork uncovered by archaeologists from the Museum of 
London are believed to be the foundations of The Theatre, lost for more than 400 
years since the building was dismantled in a stunt worthy of a Shakespeare comedy.

[ . . . ]

It was undoubtedly on the road and in Shoreditch, with Burbage's son and star 
actor Richard, that the upstart crow learned his trade, what worked and what 
bored the groundlings so that they started cracking walnuts and gossiping, how 
many kickshawses Andrew Aguecheek could dance across the thrust stage before he 
fell off into the pit, and what carried to the top gallery of The Wooden O: the 
famous phrase from Henry V almost certainly refers to The Theatre and was first 
heard there.

The team from the Museum of London has been re-drawing the theatrical map of 
Shakespeare's London, working on the sites of the Rose, the Hope, and the Globe 
itself - still buried under a modern building.

Usually they are racing ahead of the piledrivers for towering blocks of offices 
and flats. This time the site was being cleared for a new theatre -- like the 
original, a first permanent home for a touring company, the 75-year-old Tower 
Theatre Company, one of the great survivors of the amateur theatre world.

[ . . . ]

The crook-of-an-elbow-shaped angle of red brick uncovered is believed to be the 
north-east corner of the building -- an important discovery that will help 
calculate the exact shape and dimensions of the theatre. Archaeologists will now 
be working with architects to see if any of the remains can be preserved on 
display in the new building.

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