Archaeologists from MOLA have started the detailed excavation of the Curtain Theatre, one of the Elizabethan era’s least historically documented playhouses, and where Shakespeare’s Henry V is thought to have premiered. The dig was officially launched by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, almost 400 years to the day since Shakespeare’s death.
It is hoped that excavation of the site, in London’s vibrant Shoreditch, will reveal more about the structure of the theatre and provide a clearer indication of how Elizabethan playhouses were used. Heather Knight, the Senior Archaeologist leading the dig on behalf of MOLA, remarked that there is the possibility of finding fragments of props, costumes or items used by the audience, which could tell us more about theatre productions and culture at the time.
The development – a new £750m mixed-use scheme including 33,000 sq ft of retail, over 200,000 sq ft of office space, and more than 400 homes – brings with it both obligation and great excitement. In being responsible for the careful excavation of a hugely significant archaeological site, Cain Hoy and the consortium of investors involved in the development of The Stage have a rare opportunity to uncover nearly 500 years of English history.
Once fully excavated, the remains of the theatre will be preserved in-situ; any artefacts discovered, as well as the records taken over the course of the excavation, will be examined in detail. A display of the finds will sit alongside the theatre remains as part of a heritage and visitor centre at The Stage.
Take a look at the video below to find out more about the theatre and the recently launched excavation.