The museum is scheduled to open in Spring 2024 and will mark the first time the remnants of the Curtain Playhouse have been opened to the public. In 2012, the site where William Shakespeare began his stage career was rediscovered by archaeologists. Shakespeare masterpieces including ‘Romeo & Juliet’ and ‘Henry V’ are believed to have premiered at the Curtain, and while its approximate location was known, the exact site of the museum was lost for the best part of four centuries after clothing in 1620.
It is a collaboration between the Museum of London Archeology, Historic England, and the studio Bompas & Parr. The project promises to recreate the “sights, smells and sounds” of Shakespeare’s London and the original theatre.
Visitors will look down on the foundations of the stage and the gravelled yard, which sit three metres underground. It’s understood that immersive plans for the museum include an “AI-powered projection will bring the theatre and its performances back to life for a family audience.” Other items set to go on display include a bird whistle (believed to be used for sound effects), pottery money boxes, dropped buttons, clay pipes, pins, coins and nutshells from theatre snacks.
The Museum of Shakespeare is opening as part of Stage, a coming development of flats, offices and retail spaces where the Curtain Playhouse once stood. Built in 1577, Shakespeare plays were performed at the Curtain until Shakespeare’s theatre manager, James Burbage, is said to have fallen out with the landlord.
While the now more famous Shakespeare’s Globe was an O-shaped theatre, as were others of the time, the Curtain was a rectangular building with a long and narrow stage. It is the earliest known example of a theatre of this kind in London.