Shakespeare's Rose theatre to rise again after centuries under London silt

British acting's aristocracy unite to resurrect Bard's first stage, immortalised on film
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The Independent Culture

The Rose, the Elizabethan theatre immortalised in the Oscar-winning film Shakespeare in Love, is to be recovered from the London silt after being buried for centuries, and opened to the public.

The Rose, the Elizabethan theatre immortalised in the Oscar-winning film Shakespeare in Love, is to be recovered from the London silt after being buried for centuries, and opened to the public.

Leading figures from the British stage, including Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Judi Dench will next month launch a £5m plan to resurrect the historic building, which first staged Shakespeare's early plays, including Titus Andronicus and Henry VI Part I. Supports plan to reopen it in four years' time.

The remains of the venue were unearthed at Bankside in London in 1989 - close to where the reconstructed open-air Globe theatre is now sited - in what has been described as the most exciting find in British theatrical history.

A project director is to be named within the next few weeks to mastermind the scheme, which depends on securing £5m of Lottery funding.

The Rose was built in the bustling "anything goes" environment on the south side of the Thames in 1587, alongside brothels and bear-baiting arenas. A black flag would be flown to signify that a tragedy was playing, while white would herald a comedy.

Shakespeare, who also acted at the Rose, eventually moved to the theatre's larger rival, the Globe, and by 1606 the Rose was no longer a working theatre, simply disappearing from the map.

The remnants of walls, giving a skeletal outline of the venue, and a cache of artefacts were discovered on the site when the area was cleared to make way for offices. The exposed remains of the theatre have been preserved in a dark chamber beneath an office building used by the Health and Safety Commission.

Tony Toller, director of the Rose theatre trustees, said the appointment of a project director was a major step forward. "It's an enormously difficult post to fill. It requires the 'winner', if you like, to have expertise in so many different areas - to be experienced in making applications for Heritage Lottery Fund grants, in archaeology, history and in dealing with the various authorities.

"It's a mammoth undertaking and is a hugely important part of the next five years.

"When it was discovered in 1989 people talked about the Rose being a shrine to Shakespeare - it's one of the most exciting finds in theatre history in this country."

The Rose is unlikely to be used as a full-time theatre again, although fundraising performances such as sonnet readings have taken place occasionally, for audiences of up to 80 people. The next will be on Shakespeare's birthday, 23 April.

Mr Toller said: "We will have space for students, both adults and young, to come and have lectures and learn more about the Elizabethan theatre and the history of the theatre. Bankside was a wonderful place in the 1580s to early 1600s - a real sink of iniquity."

In the coming months Sir Ian will raise awareness of the project through a story-writing competition in which people will be asked to construct a tale about one of the items found during the 1989 dig, an inscribed gold ring that dates back 400 years. The winning entries will be read on radio by the actor.

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