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Rose Theatre blooms
after 400 Years

The Rose Theatre Exhibition, on the site of the Elizabethan Southwark Theatre where England's greatest playwright, William Shakespeare, may have learnt his craft, has at last opened to the public for the first time. Britannia's roving reporter, Jane Johnson, went along to the official opening on 13th April.

The Rose and some of Banksides Elizabthean Inns (Dudley)

"Cry God for Harry, England……and the Rose"

In 1989, shortly after the remains of the original Elizabethan theatre were discovered during building excavations, the late Sir Laurence Olivier rallied support for the site's preservation, with the above words, adapted from the battle-cry of the most famous Shakespearean part he ever played: the title character in Henry V.

After the Government had declined to declare the site a national monument, stalwart campaigners like the late Shakespearean Actress, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, had been prepared to defy building operations until the last moment. Those desperate days in 1989, are now gone, though not forgotten, as Simon Hughes, Member of Parliament for Southwark and trustee of the Rose Theatre Trust, recalls. Developers were persuaded to revise their plans and have created an area to preserve and display the remains of the Rose in situ. Three massive steel girders were Left to Right: Simon Hughes MP, Janet Suzman, Sir Tom Stoppard and Chris Smith MPinserted above to support the thirteen-storey Rose Court office-block; and it was here that many of the original campaigners recently joined with the stars of "Shakespeare in Love," press, politicians, English Heritage and Rose Theatre Trust Representatives to attend the opening of the site as National tourist attraction.

In his opening speech, Chris Smith, Minister of State for the Culture, Media and Sport, reminded those gathered that it was a good year for Shakespeare. Not only had BBC Radio 4 listeners voted him, "Man of the Millennium," the nearby reconstructed Elizabethan Globe Theatre was enjoying unprecedented success, while "Shakespeare in Love" featuring the Rose itself, and been awarded both Oscar and BAFTA Awards. He quoted the celebrated French writer, Alexander Dumas who had rated Shakespeare "Second Only to God"

Archaeologists told of the fragility of emergency preservation measures that had been undertaken in 1989. The water-logged chalk foundations and timber drain structures excavated at that time were only exposed long enough to be photographed and accurately mapped. In order to preserve the remains, they were quickly sealed beneath a thick layer of sand under a concrete cap. Today, this is all hidden beneath a large pool of water and English Heritage employees constantly monitor the whole area for signs of degradation.

Excavation of the Rose (Fulgoni)Speakers pledged their commitment to the long-term total excavation and preservation of the site, which The Times has described as the "most exciting archaeological find since Tutankamhun." As the project will cost many millions of pounds, the audience were urged to join the Friends of the Rose Theatre Trust which is dedicated to fulfilling these goals. Simon Hughes recalled that Bankside, where the Rose is situated, is once more being acclaimed for the arts after several centuries of use as a warehousing area. The transformation of the Bankside Power Station into the Tate Gallery of Modern Art, to be completed shortly, the resurrection of the Globe and now the opening of the Rose Exhibition have all contributed to this reclamation.

Janet Suzman, World-famous Shakespearean actress, early campaigner and trust patron, spoke of her joy at the opening of the site. William Dudley, award-winning theatre designer has masterminded a state of the art ‘son-et-lumire’ style presentation there. Floating electroluminescent pads imported from America mark important features of the polygonal theatre foundations, currently hidden from view, while a video presentation narrated by Sir Ian McKellen, a major supporter of the Rose, traces the history of the theatre and its rediscovery.

Discover The Rose Theatre Exhibition
at 56 Park Street, London SE1 9AR

Open Every Day of the Year, except Christmas & Boxing Day.
There is a small entrance fee. Joint tickets with the nearby active Globe Theatre reconstruction are available.

The History of the Rose Theatre
Southwark and William Shakespeare

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