Shoreditch venue proposed on Shakespeare theatre site

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A 235-seat theatre in Shoreditch, London, has been proposed to occupy a site where Shakespeare’s works are thought to have been first performed.

The London Borough of Hackney has received a planning application from the Belvedere Trust to create a six-storey building that would include a three-floor theatre and a display area for archaeological remains of the 16th century theatre that were discovered there.

An excavation of the site in 2008 by the Museum of London Archaeology Service, which was commissioned by a previous company that wanted to turn the space into a performance venue, revealed what is believed to be brick foundations of one of London’s first playhouses, The Theatre.

Built in 1576, The Theatre was home to the company in which Shakespeare first performed as an actor, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

The Belvedere Trust wants to expose and display the archaeology on the ground floor of the building. It is consulting with English Heritage on this plan, with one of the options being to create a glass case that people can stand on to view the remains.

There would also be a cafe and multi-use space on the same level with room for exhibitions and talks.

In its application, the trust says it wants to become a professional receiving house, but would also want the theatre to be available for community use.

Project manager Alan Taylor said consultation on the type of stage that would be used was under way.

He said that, alongside receiving shows, the multi-million pound development would show films of productions from other venues.

Taylor said: “This is a site of huge Shakespearean history. When we’ve shown people in the theatre business these plans their eyes pop open. When they go and stand on the area which is undoubtedly where Shakespeare performed, they find that quite interesting.”

“Although we’re not intending to solely have Shakespeare productions, it would hopefully be a multi-faceted repertoire, including – we hope – films of productions from elsewhere,” he added.

Bland, Brown and Cole Architects, which has previously worked on the Cambridge Arts Theatre, has developed the designs for the project.

Currently the site – at New Inn Broadway – is vacant, after a warehouse occupying the spot was demolished following the approval of the previous applicant’s plan to create a theatre there.

A decision from planning officers on this latest application is expected in early 2013.

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