Resurrecting The Shakespeare Hut

Exciting News!  The Mustard Club, in partnership with Digital Drama (http://www.digitaldrama.org/), has been awarded Heritage Lottery Funding to tell the story of the Shakespeare Hut, a YMCA hostel for New Zealand soldiers on leave from the Front during the First World War. This summer, as part of the Shakespeare400 celebrations, we will commemorate the centenary of the official opening of the Hut on the Keppel Street site now occupied by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Digital Drama will produce an exhibition and oral history project which will form part of “Space and Place”, the School’s summer foyer exhibition.  On 11th August, The Mustard Club will re-imagine the opening ceremony with a performance based on materials from the archives of YMCA, the National Theatre and the private letters and journals of people who stayed and worked there.  The Hut was staffed by a fleet of “vivacious English women, many of them from the best homes of London…on duty in turn throughout the whole twenty four hours.  Many have never needed to work in their own homes, but here they dust and polish, tidy and decorate, cook and serve with the ardour of a strong patriotism”.  And that’s before we even start to think about the actresses who appeared on the Hut’s modest stage – amongst them Ellen Terry, Fabia Drake and Gertrude Elliott – taking direction from Edith (Edy) Craig.  These performances were one way the YMCA sought to keep the soldiers on leave from “the harpies on our streets” and were a regular occurance  throughout the life of the Hut from its opening in 1916 to 1919 when it served a brief turn as a hostel for Indian Students.  The land was subsequently bought from the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre Trust by the Rockerfeller Foundation and the Hut was demolished in 1924 to make way for the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.  The Foundation Stone was laid on July 7th 1926 and so this year is also the School’s 90th anniversary of Founders Day.  Look out for a series of posts updating on progress, calling out for volunteers to get involved and key dates throughout the summer to take part in “Resurrecting the Shakespeare Hut” – for more information please contact me on rebecca.tremain@lshtm.ac.uk or via the Mustard Club website.

[image reproduced by kind permission of the YMCA]

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