“The theatre was extraordinarily significant,” she said. “It had a tiny stage and doubled as a dormitory, but it could fit about four of five hundred soldiers in it, squeezed on folding chairs. The stage was managed by famous actresses and suffragists, including Gertrude Elliot and Edith Craig.
“There were men on the stage, but the women managed and directed the plays. That’s hugely significant in the history of theatre, when even now there is an ongoing debate about representation on the stage.
“The actors who performed at the Hut were some of the most famous of their time – Ellen Terry, Johnston Forbes-Robinson, Ben Greet. That’s like setting up a little stage and putting on Judi Dench, Kate Winslet and Kenneth Brannagh.”
The Hut played a pivotal role in the history and reputation of UK theatre.
Dr Grant Ferguson said: “Two of our greatest national institutions – the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company – were partly born from the Shakespeare Hut. The Hut had been forgotten until this research was done. It was meant to be the National Theatre’s space but it was never built there, but the NT’s roots and ideas are in the Hut.
“Meanwhile after the war, the Hut became a space for Indian intellectuals to gather. It was run by the YMCA and the rent from their Indian Students Hostel was designed to pay for the first national touring Shakespeare company, the New Shakespeare Company, which was the seed that grow into the Royal Shakespeare Company we know today.”