Building a new theatre on the foundations of Shakespeare’s first playhouse in East London


This new post is about a tremendous fundraising project I recently had the honour of working to as consultant to theVisitors’ Centre layout design and Exhibition budgeting:  it’s been a great pleasure to be part of the team of artists, professionals, volunteers and archaeologists who contributed to the delivery of the exhibition that unveiled the site of Shakespeare’s first playhouse in East London, known as “The Theatre”, and raised awareness on funding a new building with the ambition of becoming a cultural hub for the borough and for London as a whole.      

Planning permission have been granted to build a new 135 seat theatre and production centre on the site of the glorious late 16th century playhouse: the aim is to begin building in 2011 and open in 2012. It’s not intended to recreate an Elizabethan theatre, but to provide the twenty-first century equivalent of the original: it will offer valuable performance, exhibition and rehearsal space for a wide range of arts projects in central London as well as being a versatile and accessible resource for the neighbourhood.     

Visitors' centre

In July 2008 Tavistock Repertory Guarantors Ltd acquired a disused warehouse in New Inn BroadwayShoreditch,  off Curtain Road, which is one of the most vibrant street  in the once-slum East London cultural and art gallery district.  

TRGL commissioned Museum of London to carry out research and excavations on the site, as they intended to have a new theatre built on the remains of the warehouse as a new home for The Tower Theatre Company: the new building will be both a new permanent base for the Tower Theatre Company, and a valuable resource for other community and arts activities.
TRGL is a registered charity and a limited company committed to fostering the arts and education; it works closely with The Tower Theatre Company, a non-professional company founded in 1932 and presenting up to 18 productions a year as well as providing a wide range of high quality and affordable drama.      

In February 2009 MoL discovered the remains of “The Theatre“, the first purpose-built playhouse in London, home of the “Lord Chamberlain’s men” of which Shakespeare was a member: the great playwright worked, acted, directed and created his masterpieces here between 1596 and the end of 1598, when the theatre was dismantled only to re-emerge as The Globe South of the River Thames in 1599.      

The Theatre

The exhibition went through the history of the site and of the district, once known as The Suburb of Sin, introduced the building of the first Public Playhouse in 1576 by the Theatrical Entrepreneur James Burbage, then presented The Theatre in the 21st Century; it also offered the chance of visiting the excavations’ site and experiencing the thrill of stepping over the boards of Shakespeare’s first London stage.     

Senior archaeologist Heather Knight describes the excavations

 You can find out more about how to support the Project and “The Theatre” Appeal on: