Many will recall from last summer the announcement of the discovery of the probable foundations of the Theatre, the polygonal arena in Shoreditch where Shakespeare and the Lord Chamberlain's Men first achieved popularity.
While thrilling in itself to have located the actual foundations of the building where all the great early plays were premiered (and it is debatable which were presented at the Theatre and which at the Curtain), it is more thrilling to imagine the space being used by a modern company to present the same dramas.
But aye, there's the rub. There are two companies vying to take advantage of the site's historical cachet. One is the Tower Theatre Company, a full-time non-professional company "...that since its formation has always played in public theatres. We stage up to 18 productions a year and all our actors, directors and technical crew get involved for the love of it, working together to produce shows that compete with the best of the professional London fringe" (Tower Theatre Co. web site). The other is Big Space Productions, "...which was formed in 1993 and is currently based at St Leonard's, has spent four years working on plans for a £5 million theatre with 400 seats and "lots of glass and steel" in the church's disused graveyard" (Times Online). St. Leonard's is, incidentally, where Richard Burbage is buried, to add to the mystique:
Which he review'd, to be revived so,
No more young Hamlet, old Hieronimo
Kind Lear, the Grieved Moor, and more beside,
That lived in him; have now for ever lived.
James Burbage, Richard's father and builder of the original Theatre, is also buried there. And that's all fine, but, as the producer said: the show must go on. The question is, who's show?
The Tower Theatre Company are a group of public spirited amatures. Big Space Productions ("BIG SPACE PRODUCTIONS was formed in 1993 by Mathew Jay-Lewis, Douglas Pye, Daniel Stewart and John White, with the view to exploring the potential of large cast ensemble theatre, performing classic texts in dynamic spaces specifically chosen for each project") has the star association of Daniel Stewart, Patrick Stewart's son:
Big Space has already invested heavily in the Shoreditch area. A rival, and particularly a non-professional rival who can operate at lower cost, so nearby, cannot be entirely welcome. "'I'm not worried about them,' John White, one of the company's directors, said yesterday. 'They're amateurs doing their three nights of Whitehall farces and we're hardened professionals.'" Directors are always right. Ask any playwright. Both companies, according to The Times, plan to name their venue The Theatre. Since Tower has the site, I say they get the name. Let Big Space settle for, Oh, I don't know, maybe The Curtain?