You probably only need to be a medium-level nerd to know that William Shakespeare’s stage career didn’t begin at the Globe, but rather in Shoreditch, at London’s first ever permanent theatre The Theatre (yes, that was actually its name) and then the nearby Curtain Theatre, which was rediscovered by archaeologists in 2012.
However, short of actually being an archeologist you won’t have actually seen The Curtain or indeed, any real evidence that Shakespeare was ever an east Londoner resident: while Bankside and Stratford-upon-Avon contain lavish living monuments to the Bard, Shoreditch has famously taken a different route, culturally speaking.
However, that’s going to change when a new immersive museum opens next year, and the remnants of the Curtain are opened to the public for the first time.
The Museum of Shakespeare is a permanent attraction due to open in the spring of 2024, and it sounds pretty promising. Located three metres underground, the museum is a collaboration between the Museum of London Archeology, Historic England, and hip creative studio Bompas & Parr. Far from a dusty collection of artifacts, it’s designed to immerse you in the sights, sounds and smells of Shakespeare’s world in the year 1598: just before ‘Hamlet’ and just before the Globe opened, but with Shakespeare and his company the Lord Chamberlain’s men approaching the zenith of their Elizabethan glory – such immortal bangers as ‘Romeo & Juliet’ and ‘Henry V’ premiered at the Curtain around this time.
Standing above the remains of the actual stage, an AI-powered projection will bring the theatre and its performances back to life for a family audience.
The museum will form the centrepiece of The Stage, a new development based around the archeological site. Inevitably it’s mostly going to be turned into eye-wateringly expensive luxury flats, but we’re getting a cool museum out of it so let’s not complain.
The Museum of Shakespeare is due to open next spring. To sign up for more information, head to Bompas & Parr’s website.