The Theatre


Big Space Theatre Productions in conjunction with Rev. Paul Turp of Shoreditch Church, St Leonard's, propose to build a theatre and community arts centre within the grounds of St Leonard's medieval churchyard.

The Complex will en-corporate a bespoke 200 seat modern theatre building as well as ancillary buildings including lecture theatre, café and office space. This new and exciting development will provide a focal point for the communities of Shoreditch, Hackney and Tower Hamlets.

Our vision is to create a theatre for all regardless of ethnic origin, physical ability, gender or social background.


Is to re create a modern version of London's first ever public playhouse, “ The Theatre”, within the gardens of Shoreditch Church, St Leonard's, only yards from its original site .

This a fantastic opportunity to develop a space, custom made to our own specifications, where we can continue our work of breaking down the barriers between performer and spectator. A space where actors and audience can become a single attuned collective, celebrating the powerful, shared experience of live theatre.

Our inspiration for this space comes from Elizabethan stage design, not only because of the historical and geographical relevance of the original “Theatre” but also because its greatest freedom was its absence of scenery, a neutral space allowing the imagination of the audience to be led through unlimited journeys of the world. This back to basics “open hand “ design will provide us with a space that has a lightness and range that is vital for us to reach our audience on an equal and honest working level.

“The Theatre” will provide Shoreditch with a Theatrical centre of excellence and arts centre for the use of practitioners in all art forms to develop and present their work in a supportive environment. “The Theatre” will also be a focus point for the community - a space to gather, give voice to their experience and explore their potential.


In 1567 James Burbage , an actor and joiner by trade and funded largely by his wealthy brother-in-law John Brayne , converted “the Red Lion Inn” a public house in London's infamous Shoreditch area. A stage and seating were installed and with this act the first building to provide regular performances of plays was born.

It was such a success that in 1576 Brayne financed a new project - the building of the very first playhouse for use by a professional company of actors. It was named “The Theatre” and stood only yards from the picturesque gardens of Shoreditch Church St Leonard's.

In 1597 the lease on “ The Theatre ” expired and James Burbage its founder died - leaving it to his sons Richard and Cuthbert. They, together with William Shakespeare and other partners engaged a builder called Peter Street to pull down “The Theatre” and reconstruct it on the bankside of the River Thames. The reconstruction opened in the autumn of 1598 and was re-named “The Wooden ‘O' ” , which later became known as, “The Globe Theatre”.

ST LEONARD'S CHURCH was the parish Church of Burbage's company of players. He and his two sons, the actors, Richard and Cuthbert Burbage are buried in the crypt. St Leonard's bells are “The Bells of Shoreditch" immortalised in the nursery rhyme 'Oranges and Lemons.'


Big Space with the agreement of the Vicar of St Leonard's, Rev. Paul Turp and the relevant church authorities are now seeking the funds to commission a full feasibility study into the development and building of “The Theatre” and ancillary buildings on the site.


“The Theatre”: will run a 12-month programme focused on new writing and re-working of established classics. 12 plays per year will be performed in the main theatre with occasional productions being staged in the church itself.

“The Red Lion Inn”: the Bar and cafe area, will double as a gallery with an ever-changing display of art and crafts and will house a small platform performance space. A separate and diverse programme will be developed for this space including open mike nights. Everything will be explored here from poetry to play readings, string quartets and jazz sessions to stand up comedy and cabaret.

Writing Competition: Big Space will inaugurate a new writing competition divided into appropriate age groups, the winners of which will have their work developed and performed in “The Theatre” by the company.

Youth Theatre: The youth theatre will be open to all comers from the community. They will be introduced to a number of theatre disciplines and given the opportunity to mount their own productions.

Workshops: Music, Performing Arts, Art and Animation workshops will be held every weekend for a variety of groups

Therapy: recognised practitioners will run Art, music and drama therapy sessions.

Out Reach Programme: Big Space also have an OUT-REACH policy which we run alongside each production, visiting local schools and colleges, supplying comprehensive educational workshops which allow students to fully experience the world of the play.

Internship Scheme: The building of The Theatre will enable us to widen our INTERNSHIP scheme-giving students studying theatre disciplines the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the realities of professional theatre production.