The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.0194  Friday, 5 February 1999.

From:           Stephen Miller <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Thursday, 4 Feb 1999 18:23:19 +0000 ()

For immediate release


--- Latest Stage in a Campaign to Rescue Remains of World Famous
Elizabethan Theatre ---

The site of the Rose Theatre, the first Elizabethan theatre on London's
Bankside where Shakespeare learned his craft, where he had his first
plays performed and where he probably acted, is to be opened to the
public in early April 1999 (exact date still to be confirmed). The Rose
was also the venue for the plays of Shakespeare's famous contemporary,
Christopher Marlowe.

A sound and light show, by the acclaimed theatre designer William
Dudley, will tell the history of the Rose, and of Bankside. It marks the
first stage of a massive fundraising campaign by the Rose Theatre Trust
(RTT) to rescue the archaeological remains of the theatre from eventual
decay and to secure them for future generations by carrying out a
full-scale excavation.

The discovery of the theatre site in 1989 was greeted by a blaze of
publicity. Its remains are of huge archaeological and cultural
importance but have sadly been hidden for conservation reasons below a
protective crust of sand and concrete and a pool of water for nearly 10
years. Now at last work has begun to present the site to the public.

The Rose was found by Museum of London archaeologists carrying out an
exploratory dig on the site of a proposed office block on the south side
of Southwark Bridge. They first moved onto the site on December 19, 1988
and the first trace of a foundation wall was discovered on January 31,
1989. As digging continued it revealed a site redolent of the history of
the greatest period of English drama.

Built in 1587, the Rose is the only playhouse from this period to have
been substantially excavated and it remains the only one where a full
excavation is possible. An English Heritage report published recently,
identifying for the first time the sites of all known Tudor theatres in
London, confirms that none of the others are likely to become available
for excavation in the foreseeable future.

Visitors to the Rose will be entering what Simon Hughes, local MP and
Rose Theatre Trustee, has described as being uniquely the sound and the
ground and the place and space of Shakespeare. Standing on a viewing
platform above the pool, they will see a series of images projected over
the surface of the water, just a few feet above the position of the
original stage.

Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus received its first performance on this
stage, as did his Henry VI Part I. Marlowe's Tamburlaine the Great,
Doctor Faustus and The Jew of Malta were all performed at the Rose, as
were works by many other famous playwrights of the day including Ben
Jonson and Thomas Kyd. Until overtaken by later rivals, including the
Globe, the Rose was central to the development of drama in this country.

Adding to its importance is the fact that more documentary evidence
exists about the Rose than about any other theatre of the period. The
Roses leading actor, Edward Alleyn, was also the stepson-in-law of its
builder, Philip Henslowe. Later in life Alleyn founded Dulwich College
and many of his and Henslowe's papers still survive there. During the
few months when the theatres remains were exposed, scholars were able to
piece together the physical evidence they provided with this
documentation. In consequence our knowledge of the way the great
Renaissance playhouses were designed and used has been greatly
enlarged.  A full excavation will enable scholarship to advance still

In 1989 The Times described it as the most celebrated archaeological
site since Tutankhamen's tomb. Thousands of visitors queued for a
glimpse of the poignant relics of a great theatre, while celebrated
actors and theatrical scholars joined with the archaeologists, the
developers, the local authority and the Government to find a way in
which to Save the Rose. On May 13 and 14, an impromptu weekend programme
of entertainments and speeches was held, culminating in a candlelight

The developers, Imry Merchant, agreed to alter their designs so that the
remains could be preserved in the basement of the new building, now the
headquarters of the Health and Safety Executive. They also generously
donated 230,000 for the eventual redisplay of the remains, which, for
their protection in the meantime, were reburied on June 16, 1989. They
are being carefully monitored by English Heritage but cannot be left
indefinitely in this state.

Sir Ian McKellen was one of the first of many famous actors who joined
and still support the campaign to save the Rose. Dame Peggy Ashcroft and
Lord Olivier were Founding Patrons of the Rose Theatre Trust. Sir Peter
Hall and Janet Suzman are Patrons, Dame Judi Dench and James Fox are
Trustees. Among the many others who have been involved are Timothy
Dalton, Ralph Fiennes, Leslie Grantham, Dustin Hoffman, Tim
Pigott-Smith, Vanessa Redgrave, Steven Spielberg and Patrick Stewart.

The Rose Theatre will join the growing range of cultural attractions
associated with the regeneration of Bankside. Southwark Cathedral, the
new Tate Gallery of Modern Art, the Millennium footbridge and the Globe
Theatre are all nearby. The RTT has been working very closely with the
Globe and joint tickets for the two sites will be made available to all

For further information, please contact:
Dr Clare Graham
The Rose Theatre Trust
c/o HSE (Room 007a GSW)
Rose Court
2 Southwark Bridge
London SE1 9HS
tel: 0171 207 6280
e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Stephen Miller
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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