It is not widely known that the sites of many of the London theatres of Shakespeare's time have been positively identified and can be enjoyed as tourist destinations. This project aims to increase public awareness of these sites and to promote their enjoyment by producing, through a partnership between De Montfort University and the Victoria and Albert Museum, a map, a printed ShaLT Guide, interactive software, public talks, and downloadable short films that will enable the public to travel to the modern London locations of these theatres and learn about them.
Via our outputs we offer knowledge about the histories of particular theatres--who owned them, how they were designed, what plays were performed there, their playwrights, and what kinds of audiences came--as well as social and cultural differences between these locations now and 400 years ago (when, for example, Shoreditch was suburban and largely fields). Our map, Guide, lectures, and films transmit this knowledge, while this website and our software Apps for smartphones interactively direct users to particular sites in modern London and provide visual representations of how the sites looked 400 years ago when theatres stood and thrived in their several locations.
Knowledge of the history of professional drama in London begins, for many, with the Restoration theatre in 1660, and the start of the Drury Lane tradition that by the twentieth century had evolved into London's West End Theatreland. However, this evolution could not have taken place without the theatregoing that flourished from 1567, when the Red Lion theatre in Stepney was built by John Brayne and James Burbage (father of the celebrated actor Richard), until 1642 when Parliament closed the theatres as Civil War loomed. Interested playgoers are aware of Bankside's original Globe theatre, where Shakespeare's dramas were performed from 1599, and its modern replica nearby. Rather fewer playgoers are aware of the adjacent Rose theatre (where his early plays premiered), although its site was extensively surveyed 20 years ago, providing a mass of new knowledge. The benefits of recent archival and archaeological discoveries about other theatres are currently confined to specialist research publications. Apart from those who teach or research the topic, few people know anything about the other 20+ theatre venues which brought dramatic entertainment to all sectors of the rapidly increasing population of London over the 75 years from 1567 to 1642. This is the 'Shakespearean Period' of theatre, for which the project aims to promote a greater awareness among 21st century citizens.