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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: March 2008

12 - London professional playhouses and performances



On 21 January 1560, Queen Elizabeth's treasurer of the chamber recorded a payment to

The Lord Robert Dudley's players and to Sebastian Westcott, Master of the Children of Paul's… in way of the Queen's Majesty's reward for playing of Interludes before her highness at Christmas - to either [each] of them vj li xiij 8 iiij d .

There were at this time no permanent playhouses in London. The Children referred to – scholars and choristers – performed only occasionally and in private. The small groups of adult actors – around six men in each company – were attached to the households of some nobles but were, for most of the year, itinerant performers, performing where they could find a venue and, in London especially, constantly oppressed by civic authorities.

The first step in the adults' attempts to secure a foothold in London came in 1567, when John Brayne, a grocer from Bucklersbury, paid for a permanent playhouse to be erected in the suburbs of London – the Red Lion. Our knowledge of this project is derived entirely from the records of a dispute between Brayne and his carpenters. According to the details of the ensuing court case, the Red Lion was a ‘messuage or farme house’, and not, as was previously thought, an inn used, like other inns, as an occasional venue for plays. There, in the adjoining garden, Brayne erected what is so far as we know the first purpose-built playhouse in England, essentially combining a platform stage of the kind erected by travelling players with galleries for spectators such as those found in bearbaiting arenas and innyards.

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