Today we launched our website. Oddly scary stuff. We’re very excited to be rethinking the start of public theatre in Britain, and equally aware of the pitfalls of doing so. There will be people reading that last sentence and wanting to point out the wealth of publicly-available drama in Britain in the Roman and medieval periods, but our focus is on the playhouses that open in and around London in the second half of the sixteenth century. Those playhouses feel new in their architectural specificity, their sheer number, their investment in the problem of how you make money from a building primarily devoted to performance and how you entertain thousands of people with fictional or semi-fictional stories. Above all they feel new in their position in the class structure of their time: these buildings and the playing companies are run by working people trying to pull in other working people to come and see their shows. Whilst historians of this period get nervous of the term ‘working-class’, this seems a distinctively working-class movement at a time when most people had little access to the stories, ideas and characters the playhouses were committed to exploring.
So that’s what we’re up to for the next two years: exploring and celebrating the first thirty years of those playhouses, and trying to call attention to the wealth of forgotten plays that ought to get back on to the modern stage. Come play in the playhouses with us!