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What's going on at the Rose Theatre

01:00 Tue 23rd Oct 2001 |

A.Archaeologists at the Rose Theatre, London, say it's in better condition than they thought - so a campaign is being stepped up for full excavation.< xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Q.And how important is the Rose

A.Amazingly important. The theatre, near Southwark Bridge, is where Shakespeare learned his craft. It is also the only Elizabethan theatre left in the world of which there are substantial remains.

Q.When were they discovered

A.In 1989. More than half of the Rose's remains were found during the redevelopment of an office block and a campaign stopped the site from being destroyed. Since then it has been preserved under layers of concrete, sand and water. Some of the site is waterlogged from the Thames - but that is helping to keep the remains in good condition.

Q.Now what

A.English Heritage has paid �17,500 for a preliminary excavation. Chief scientist Mike Corfield said: 'It would be magnificent to see the site properly explored and put on show to the public. There have been many discussions about the way the remains could be conserved and presented. We now think that a viable solution is being developed by the Rose Theatre Trust and look forward to seeing their detailed proposals.'

A Heritage Lottery Fund bid is now being prepared by the Rose Theatre Trust to develop the site for Shakespeare fans.

Q.When was the theatre built

A.The Rose, built by Philip Henslowe, opened in 1587 and shut in 1605 after staging plays by Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Kyd. Shakespeare acted at the Rose and many of his early plays were performed there. It was London's fifth theatre but went out of fashion when the bigger Swan and Globe theatres opened nearby.

Q.What about the other theatres

A. Dr Clare Graham, of the Rose Theatre Trust, said: 'The 11 open-air theatres built in London between 1567 and 1614 are highly important cultural relics. But only 60 per cent of The Rose, and very small areas of the Globe and the Hope have been uncovered. Our best hope of gaining a better understanding of these unique buildings lies in a full-scale excavation of The Rose.

'A full-scale excavation and permanent presentation of the site would benefit not just archaeologists and scholars but students of all ages. It would also attract millions of people all over the world who venerate the work of Shakespeare.'

Q.Any performance plans

A.The Rose has held a highly acclaimed series of readings from Christopher Marlowe's Dr Faustus - the first public performances at The Rose since it shut in 1605. The trust plans to use the site for more theatrical and special events while the campaign for full-scale excavation is under way.

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By Steve Cunningham

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