It’s been 400 years since Shakespeare “shuffled off this mortal coil”. And, while he may be “as dead as a doornail”, his work, life and contribution to the English language are just as important today as when he first put quill to parchment.
So, “as good as luck would have it” there are some fantastic plays and events taking place around the country to celebrate the greatest bard of all time; Mr William Shakespeare. We’ve picked out 10 of our favourites, so why not try and see as many as possible? After all, you can never have “too much of a good thing”!
What better place to start our list than in Shakespeare’s town of birth? Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is hosting a range of exciting and fascinating events in the town. The Holy Trinity church will be hosting two commemorative concerts in April: the Shakespeare 400 Gala Concert and the Ex Cathedra Shakespeare Masque Concert.
To coincide with Stratford’s full and half Shakespeare marathons, ‘The Sonnet Man’ (New York-based rap artist Devon Glover) will be performing all 154 of Shakespeare’s sonnets in a contemporary style. And in July, there’s the unveiling of the major new heritage landmark that is Shakespeare’s New Place – the bard’s family home in Stratford for 19 years.
Although no exact records can confirm it, it’s commonly accepted that Shakespeare died on his birthday, 23 April. That’s why this year’s celebrations in the town are particularly poignant. Soak up the atmosphere as you wander past the riverside streets, bursting with drama performances, music, dancing and the spectacular birthday parade.
On 23 – 24 April 2016, Shakespeare’s Globe is hosting a very exciting and unique walking event along a 2.5 mile stretch of the River Thames. 37 screens between Westminster and Tower Bridge will play a series of specially-made 10 minute films, featuring world-famous actors. The films will play on loop over the weekend so you can go at your own pace. Look forward to seeing Cleopatra, Shylock, Hamlet and more well-loved Shakespearian characters on screen.
Often cited as Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, this dramatic production of King Lear, in association with Ambassador Theatre group, is not to be missed. The play stars four-time Olivier Award nominee Michael Pennington, and has been receiving rave reviews from critics. You can catch it from the 1 – 23 April 2016 at the Royal & Derngate theatre in Northampton. Enjoy a pre-show dinner at The Wicked Way café and when the curtain falls, head to Bar Hygge (both on site) for that post-performance drink.
From now until 19 June 2016, Compton Verney is hosting a special exhibition to commemorate Shakespeare’s works through paintings, photography, projection and sound. Shakespeare in Art focuses on some of his best-loved plays such as The Tempest, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Hamlet. While you’re there, why not take a stroll through the park with a view of Warwickshire’s rolling hills. And who knows? Maybe Will’s own county will inspire you to write a sonnet or two.
If you’ve never had the privilege of watching an open-air performance of Shakespeare in beautiful and historic surroundings, such as Dartmouth Castle, now’s your chance. This summer, The Inn Theatre Company presents the tragic Romeo and Juliet, and the uplifting Twelfth Night, both of which are sure to be crowd-pleasers. Locations for the open-air performances include Torre Abbey in Torquay, Manor Gardens in Exmouth and Duckaller farm in Dawlish.
If you want to get your kids interested in Shakespeare, take them to The Tempest in a Teacup on 8 April at the Minack theatre. Umbrella Arts’ reimagining of Shakespeare’s last play has something for the whole family. Expect fairies, shipwrecks, monsters and romance as you follow the tale of Prospero and his daughter Miranda’s adventures on a magical island. And the setting couldn’t be more beautiful as the Minack’s open-air, cliff-side theatre overlooks the Atlantic Ocean. What’s not to love?
Will’s Birthday Bash 2016 & Sonnet Walk is now in its 5th year and looks set to be another sell-out. Events over the week include the Sonnet Walk Weekend on 23 and 24 April. Starting at St Mary’s Church in Guildford, you’ll be taken on a 70 minute tour where you’ll encounter many of Shakespeare’s most memorable characters. And on Saturday 30 April, the company present Cymbeline, one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known works.
Go back in time to Tudor England when you take a turn around the blossom-scented gardens at Hatfield House. Their Shakespeare’s Songs and Sonnets event on 23 and 24 April will transport you to Shakespearian times as actors and musicians in period costume entertain you with the bard’s poetry and prose. And why not take a tour of Hatfield House itself while you’re there? This romantic day out is sure to leave you enchanted.
With a programme packed to the rafters and fantastic reviews from the critics, it’s no surprise that Cambridge Shakespeare Festival attracts around 25,000 visitors each year. Henry V, As You Like It and A Midsummer Night’s Dream are amongst the open-air performances on offer. And as a recent review from The Times states, “…no knee-bending to trendy revisionism… but rather a tour de force of Elizabethan drama”. Book your tickets now before they go.
Find out more about events taking place to mark Shakespeare 400.