Ed Vaizey visiting the Curtain Theatre archaeology site (c)MOLA

Ed Vaizey joins us at the site of the Curtain Theatre as we break ground

MOLA team

Today our archaeologists broke ground at the site of the Curtain Theatre with a special visit from Ed Vaizey MP, the Minister for Culture

In this short film, our experts Heather Knight and Julian Bowsher discuss their hopes and expectations for the dig...

Almost 400 years to the day since Shakespeare’s death, we begin excavating through the 18th century remains that encase the 16th and 17th century Curtain Theatre, 2-3 metres below modern ground level. The Curtain Theatre is one of Shakespeare’s least historically documented theatres, so the dig promises to shed new light on physical structure, use of the theatre and add to our understanding of performance at that time.

Trial archaeological excavation at the site in 2012 provided tantalising glimpses of the remains, which in places survive up to 1.5 metres high. The detailed excavation is taking place over a couple of months. The team will be looking for evidence of the yard, the stage, the backstage area, the stairwells that led theatregoers up to the galleries, and for artefacts, such as fragments of props or costumes.

The Curtain Theatre was the longest standing of the Shakespearean theatres, in use from 1577 to the late 1620s. The Lord Chamberlains Men, the troupe with which Shakespeare performed, used The Curtain as their base from 1597-1599. It was during that time that Henry V premiered there and a number of famous plays, such as Romeo and Juliet, were performed.

Once the detailed dig is complete, the remains of The Curtain will be preserved in-situ, and artefacts discovered and records taken during the excavation brought back to MOLA to be studied in detail by our specialists. A display of the finds will sit alongside the theatre remains as part of a cultural and visitor centre at The Stage development when it is complete, which will also feature over an acre of public space including a performance area and a park.

Keep an eye on our blog, Facebook and Twitter updates of our findings as the dig progresses  and check out our Shakespeare400 events programme, insprired by our excvations at the Curtain Theatre mola.org.uk/events.

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