Letter: Hackney's great theatrical past

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The Independent Online
From Ms Katharine Owen

Sir: I was delighted to read Andrew John Davies's "Site unseen" (22 August) on the Theatre in Shoreditch. It is rarely recognised that the first permanent purpose-built theatre in the country was built in 1576 in Shoreditch, now part of Hackney. So, in fact, was the second, the Curtain Theatre of 1577. Shakespeare acted at both and a number of his plays were first performed at these venues.

However Mr Davies is wrong to lament that there appears to be little to mark these two internationally important sites. Only last year Hackney council erected commemorative plaques at both.

Sir Ian McKellen unveiled the plaque at the Theatre which, unlike the earlier London County Council tablet, highlighted Shakespeare's personal involvement.

And, just two minutes' walk from Curtain Road, from which the Curtain Theatre took its name, there is another new plaque at 18 Hewett Street. It notes that the Curtain stood near this site between 1577 and around 1627, and that at this theatre, the second English playhouse, Shakespeare acted and his and Ben Jonson's plays were performed.

In the grounds of the nearby St Leonard's Church a number of important Shakespearean actors were buried, including Richard Burbage.

Yours faithfully,

Katharine Owen

Conservation Officer

Hackney Council

London, E8