The Stage: Excavation of Shakespeare’s Curtain theatre begins in Shoreditch

Jonathan Goldstein, Cain Hoy�s chief executive; Ed Vaizey MP, Minister of State for Culture and the

Jonathan Goldstein, Cain Hoy�s chief executive; Ed Vaizey MP, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy; and Heather Knight, the senior archaeologist leading the dig on behalf of MOLA at the launch of The Stage dig (Picture: Adrian Pope) - Credit: Archant

Archaeologists have begun excavating one of Shakespeare’s lesser known playhouses – the Curtain Theatre where Henry V was first performed.

The historic site will be preserved as a cultural centre once the dig is complete.

The team from Museum of London Archaeology officially “broke the ground” at the site of the appropriately named Stage development in Shoreditch, off Curtain Road, almost 400 years to the day since the death of the Bard.

Culture minister Ed Vaizey MP, who launched the dig, said: “The 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death is a fitting time to be excavating this significant historical site. Shoreditch today is one of London’s most vibrant locations, and its prominence as a theatrical hotspot during Shakespeare’s time highlights this area’s enduring cultural appeal.”

Evidence for the theatre, revealed through trial excavations for The Stage in 2012, indicates its remains are very well preserved, experts say.

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It is hoped the remains of the Curtain, which are two to three metres below modern ground level, will shed light on Elizabethan playhouses and give archaeologists more clues about the physical structure and use of the theatre.

Heather Knight, the senior archaeologist leading the dig, said: “There is also the possibility of finding fragments of props, costumes or items used by the audience, including food remains or drinking vessels, which could tell us more about theatre productions and culture at the time.”

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Once the dig is complete, the remains of the Curtain will be preserved and artefacts discovered and records taken during the excavation will be studied in detail.

A display of the finds will sit alongside the theatre remains as part of a cultural and visitor centre. The £750m Stage development will include homes, shops and offices. Findings from the dig will be reported next month.

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