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Design And Locations
Elizabethan England was a bustling, newly urban age of sumptuous excesses and crowd-ed city streets, of both lavish design and ram-shackle neighborhoods

Elizabethan England was a bustling, newly urban age of sumptuous excesses and crowded city streets, of both lavish design and ramshackle neighborhoods. To capture the vibrancy and visual excitement of the day, John Madden brought in a team of highly skilled and creative designers

Production designer Martin Childs was given the task of recreating Elizabethan London, an incredible opportunity to work with his imagination in full flight. "Not only did this film give us the opportunity to build the Rose Theater, but also all the buildings in London that surrounded it," Childs explains. "There is so little left of this period and the only Elizabethan architecture that remains is the odd building surrounded by ones from the Georgian and Victorian period. I knew we would have to build most of Elizabethan London from scratch, so from a design point of view it offered great scope.

He set to work on creating a naturalistic world that could contain the incredible tale of romance at hand - not a painstakingly accurate recreation of 16th century London, but an imaginative capturing of its essence. He comments" I had this mantra going in my head all the time that this is not a documentary, we are allowed to use our imaginations fully. The look we aimed for is somewhere that you believe people actually lived and worked. We wanted to show things almost incidentally, so there are other trades, other interests going on outside the specific world of the theater and our storyline." Childs and Madden spent weeks and weeks playing around with models built perfectly to scale before they came up with a picture of London that seemed worthy of setting in stone.

The filmmakers' vision of London in 1593 came to life on a plot of land of behind Shepperton studios, which had until recently been a garden nursery. A construction crew of 115 men in only 8 weeks constructed 17 buildings including 2 theaters, a series of meandering alley ways, a brothel, a tavern, a whole market place and, of course, the young William Shakespeare's London pad. The backlot became an alternate world of meandering streets, hidden alleyways, nooks and crannies.

Equally central to the story was the erecting of the two theaters vying for Shakespeare's new - but as yet unwritten - play. First there is the Rose Theater, owned by Philip Henslowe, a once robust place now foundering due to closures forced by the plague. Elsewhere in London is the Curtain Theater where the Chamberlain's Men perform. Most important to Martin Childs was creating a definite contrast between the two. Theater design was an important element of Elizabethan drama, although no two theaters followed exactly the same design. Research on what the original Rose Theater looked like was scant, so Childs once again delved into his imagination. "I'd do as much research as I could then throw that to the side and go with my imagination, following my instincts about what looked right and believable for the film. Retrospectively, I've discovered that a lot of the places where I was playing fast and loose were actually fairly historically accurate!"

Childs explains the look he chose for the Rose: "A lot of the feel comes from the fact that there is no roof and that links it with the earth and sky. I was very keen to make it look as though the weather had got to it as they would not have been constantly repainting it. We also kept the Rose Theater quite undecorated, but with a little bit of grandeur on the stage." Co

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