Welcome to Exit: Burbage, a project developed by the residents of Burbage Road, Dulwich, inspired to tell the story of Richard Burbage
“400 years after Richard Burbage’s death, it’s terrific to see Dulwich residents putting him centre-stage. Exit: Burbage promises to be a joyous celebration of one of England’s greatest actors, and a fitting tribute to an artist who should be far better known.”
Andrew Dickson, author of Worlds Elsewhere: Journeys Around Shakespeare’s Globe
The Globe Theatre
Richard Burbage came from a theatrical family, including his father James and brother Cuthbert, who as part of a travelling troupe of actors, Leicester’s Men, probably passed through Shakespeare’s Stratford upon Avon when Shakespeare was still a young man. The troupe settled in London, where they created London’s very first theatre known simply as ‘The Theatre’ in Shoreditch. Later on the same family created London’s first indoor theatre, Blackfriars Theatre, and then, in a dramatic overnight operation, with fellow investor Shakespeare, transported their Shoreditch theatre’s timber structure over the Thames to Southwark creating The Globe. This legendary theatre housed up to 3,000 people at a time when theatregoing first became a major social force and form of entertainment. MORE….
Legendary Elizabethan and Jacobean Actor
Who did appear so gracefully on the stage
He was the admir’d example of the age,
And so observ’d all your dramatic laws,
He ne’er went off the stage but with applause.
Burbage defined for his generation what acting should be, dominating Shakespeare’s roles in legendary performance style. Hamlet, Richard 111, King Lear, Romeo…in turn Burbage took these roles, gave them shape and voice making him even more than famous than Shakespeare in their own time. Those who saw Burbage perform noted his astounding range as an actor, from romance to tragedy, including challenging portrayals of men on the brink of insanity. MORE….
‘Tis a question whether that makes him an excellent player, or his playing an exquisite painter.’
Burbage was an artist too and today his artwork provides a unique window on exciting times. In March 1613 he and Shakespeare were paid 44 shillings to design an impresa (a heraldic badge, like the Prince of Wales’ feathers) for the Earl of Rutland. Burbage drew the design, Shakespeare provided the words. Amongst the first pictures we have of any actor are those attributed to him, including his own portrait on display at the Dulwich Picture Gallery.
When Shakespeare came to London he acted alongside Richard Burbage as part of the troupe, then recognised officially as The Chamberlain’s Men, and a close friendship developed which continued through both of their lives.
Having worked closely together, being friends and joint investors in their theatres, Shakespeare created a number of his most famous roles with Burbage in mind – Hamlet, Othello, Richard III, King Lear, Romeo and Henry V amongst others. MORE…
The Untold Story
In a BBC R3 documentary, Andrew Dickson rescues the great Shakespearian actor who ‘seemed to have been airbrushed from history’
Quoting from his April 2018 article in the Financial Times, Andrew concludes ‘In a way, it doesn’t entirely matter that we’ve forgotten Burbage, just as we’ve forgotten the name of so many great stage actors. Their art is evanescent; their skill, at least partly, one of disappearance. But the plays that Burbage helped to create are a tribute to his remarkable talents. Every time someone steps on stage as Hamlet, a part of him lives still.’ MORE…
‘Here lies the best Tragedian ever played’
When Richard Burbage died on 13 March 1619, London mourned with an extravagance that surpassed their official mourning for the death of Queen Anne some days earlier, his twenty five years’ reign tearfully recalled in the streets. The eulogies ranged from the briefest epitaph, Camden’s ‘Exit Burbage’, to an anonymous poem which is valuable for its confirmation of Burbage’s stage roles including Romeo, Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard, Shylock, Othello and Lear. MORE….