1. ITV Report

Shakespearean theatre to be unearthed

The Curtain Theatre was built in 1577 and was home to Shakespeare's company before he moved to the Globe Photo: Holistic

The theatre in which Romeo and Juliet and Henry V were first performed is to be unearthed, preserved and displayed in Shoreditch.

The Curtain Theatre, built in 1577, was home to William Shakespeare's company the Lord Chamberlain's Men, before they moved to the Globe.

The theatre will become a scheduled ancient monument and the centrepiece of a huge exhibition space Credit: Pringle Brandon Perkins + Will

Archaeologists undertook exploratory digs at the site in 2011 and found preserved remains of the 14-sided theatre three metres below ground level, including the original stage floor and brick walls that supported the "Wooden O" mentioned in Henry V.

A 164-seat indoor auditorium and 200-seat outdoor space will provide space for theatrical performances Credit: Pringle Brandon Perkins + Will

The development has now been approved, and excavations can get underway. The Curtain Theatre will become a scheduled ancient monument and will form the centrepiece of a 13,000 ft exhibition space.

Curtain Theatre factfile

  • The Curtain Theatre is London's second oldest Shakespearean playhouse
  • It was home to Shakespeare's company, the Lord Chamberlain's Men
  • It was built in 1577 on the site of 'The Stage' in Shoreditch
  • It was the main venue for Shakespeare's plays between 1597 and 1599
  • It showed the first performances of Romeo and Juliet and Henry V
  • It was later operated by James Burbage
  • It was named after nearby Curtain Close
  • It disappears from the historic record in 1622
Little is known about "this wooden O" despite it being immortalised in Henry V Credit: Pringle Brandon Perkins + Will

It is inspiring that the Museum of London has unearthed the foundations of The Curtain Theatre. I look forward to touching the mud and stone, if not wood, and feeling the presence of that space where Shakespeare's early work, including the histories, made such a lasting impact.

– Michael Boyd, Royal Shakespeare Company artistic director

The theatre will form the centre of a 13,000 foot exhibition space, with a 164-seat indoor auditorium and 200-seat outdoor space for theatrical performances.

385 homes, offices, shops, cafes and restaurants will also be built at the site.

This is an outstanding site.Developer-led archaeology, investigating and recording a site before anyconstruction begins, has undoubtedly enriched our understanding of our townsand cities. A sensitive and creative public presentation of these remains willbe a fantastic addition to telling the constantly unfolding story of London.

– Kim Stabler, English Heritage archaeology adviser
Related archaeological finds, plus others from Elizabethan theatres, will be showcased Credit: Pringle Brandon Perkins + Will

The find is anotherwonderful opportunity to further our understanding of Shakespeare’s theatres

– Neil Constable, Chief Executive, Shakespeare's Globe

When completed, 30,000 visitors and students are expected to visit each year.

This is a site of international significance that, without this development, will lie hidden and inaccessible to the public. Both we and English Heritage believe that the Shakespeare Centre and Curtain Theatre will be one of the archaeological highlights for visitors to London and will form an unrivalled educational andheritage resource for the people of Hackney

– Chris Thomas, Museum of London Archaeology