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Plaque for Jacobean theatre site in Clerkenwell

The plaque unveiling for former The Red Bull Theatre Playhouse on Wednesday is in the crypt of St James’s Church

24 August, 2018 — By Helen Chapman

Dr Eva Griffith standing beneath the arch where the original entrance to the theatre is thought to have been

A PLAQUE is to be unveiled next week at the spot where a Jacobean playhouse once stood in Clerkenwell.

The Red Bull Theatre Playhouse opened during the reign of James I.

His wife, Anne of Denmark, influenced the theatre’s artistic direction.

Historian Dr Eva Griffith, author of a book about the Red Bull Theatre, campaigned for the plaque.

“Being European, Anne of Denmark brought new things to the theatre. She was conscious of the art world and was innovative,” she said.

“For the first time in the royal court context, women could perform in costume – although they couldn’t speak, they just dressed in all sorts of beautiful things.”

The radical theatre even held occasional performances during the Civil War when theatres were illegal – audience members were arrested and actors got into trouble.

Its popular special effects included fireworks, actors swinging on ropes, and, unusually for the time, men dressing up as women.

“Instead of being girls who had to dress up as boys to feel safe in male society, the Red Bull had men dressing up as women. It was a particular type of humour and it was the other way round from Shakespeare,” said Dr Griffith.

The plaque unveiling on Wednesday is in the crypt of St James’s Church.

Dr Griffith added: “It promotes the theatre and makes it real and special, so people think: ‘Gosh, I’m walking through a Jacobean site.’”

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