Rose Theatre goes from strength to strength

 

Last week, I went to see Thomas Kyd's gory revenge play The Spanish Tragedy, performed on the archaeological remains of the first Elizabethan theatre on Bankside, where it had its very first performance around 1587. A two-minute walk down a winding street from Shakespeare's Globe, the remains of the Rose Theatre were only discovered in 1988/89, before an office block was due to be erected.

A huge campaign to save the Rose from redevelopment followed; the theatre staged a few plays in 2002 and began programming proper seasons from 2008. Since then it has gone from strength to strength, staging newer plays, such as Buried Alive by Philip Osment for The London Fringe Festival last month, alongside classics.

A tiny makeshift stage the size of a sitting room is suspended above two-thirds of the theatre's well-preserved remains, which are covered in water to keep them moist. The odd flickering candle and red rope lighting, mapping out the original foundations, add to the atmosphere. As I waited with a small audience of around 12 people in the entrance hall, an usher informed me that Shakespeare was probably in the original cast of 'The Spanish Tragedy'.

It was a quirky evening. Refreshments included coffee or mango juice for £1 and Quality Street chocolates and, after the show, the cast mingled with the audience, inviting us to the pub where they told ghost stories. The next production is The Tempest.

To Sunday (020-7261 9565; www. rosetheatre.org.uk)

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