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Shakespeare 400

3082Shakespeare 400: festivals, plays and attractions around England

By Rachel Dixon From The Guardian UK

Cultural events and new openings to mark the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death will be in full swing across the country this weekend – making use of intriguing and dramatic locations

How are you going to celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday?


New attractions to mark the big occasion include the Other Place, an RSC studio theatre that has been closed for nearly 10 years. It holds talks by actors and directors, and visitors can look inside the costume store and climb up the tower (tours £8.50/£4.50, tower climb from £1). Shakespeare’s Schoolroom is a new immersive attraction bringing 16th-century Stratford to life (opens 23 April). The Swan Wing, the oldest part of the RSC’s theatres, is reopening after restoration with a new exhibition telling the stories behind the productions (exhibition opens in June). Shakespeare’s New Place, the site of his house for 19 years (long since demolished), is reopening as a heritage landmark. There will be landscaped gardens, artworks and an exhibition at Nash’s House next door (opens in July).
New Place which was the site of the house where William Shakespeare died in Stratford upon Avon, UK.

On 23 April, the Bard’s birthday and also the 400th anniversary of his death, there is a jazz procession by the New Orleans Shakespeare festival, street entertainment and a Shakespeare Show broadcast live from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, followed by fireworks ( There is also a literary festival (24 April to 1 May) and a poetry festival in July. Shakespeare’s Steps is a year-long interactive installation across town, with mini scenes from his life and works. Holy Trinity church, where Shakespeare was baptised and buried, is hosting several musical tributes this month, including opera and an ode by poet Carol Ann Duffy. The World Shakespeare Congress is the world’s greatest gathering of Shakespeareans (31 July to 6 August).

Shakespeare’s Globe is staging the Complete Walk: 37 new short films on 37 screens on a 2.5-mile route along the Thames between Westminster and Tower Bridges. Each film explores an aspect of one of Shakespeare’s plays, was shot on location – Macbeth at Glamis Castle, Coriolanus in Rome – and stars actors including Dominic West, Gemma Arterton and Toby Jones (23-24 April, free). There are Shakespeare cruises on the Thames this month, with actors performing sonnets, sketches and scenes, including a montage of Shakespearean insults (from £13). The V&A Performance festival includes a promenade performance of Malvolio’s Misorder, inspired by Twelfth Night, plus a poetry marathon of all 154 sonnets, and responses to them by 154 contemporary poets (ends 24 April). The Shakespeare in Shoreditch festival includes a world record attempt by a company touring Hackney to perform 1,000 plays in 10 days (runs to 30 April). Richard II is being performed in the House of Commons (23 April), while Henry V is coming to the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre (17 June-9 July).

The Shakespeare Jubilee includes a parade, visits to the Painted Room that Shakespeare is thought to have stayed in, bands playing Shakespeare songs in the Weston Library and hip-hop Richard II (until 30 April). Shakespeare’s Dead is an exhibition at the Bodleian Library exhibition confronting the theme of death in his work (23 April to 4 September). The Ultimate Picture Palace is screening Shakespeare films, including teen movies, musicals and classics. The University of Oxford’s English faculty is hosting Speak the Speech, a series of high-profile lectures in unusual spaces. The Shakespeare under the Sky summer performance season include plays at Oxford Castle, in Wadham Gardens, and in University Parks. There will also be performances by Creation Theatre Company.

The Guildford Shakespeare Company is running a year-long programme of events that includes performances of The Winter’s Tale, Much Ado About Nothing and The Comedy of Errors. There are also Sonnet Walks (23-24 April), which are treasure hunt-type walks around town, where audiences discover Shakespeare performances in churches, pubs, squares and shops, and a staged reading of Cymbeline in Guildford’s oldest building, St Mary’s Church (30 April).

The Maddermarket Theatre has a Shakespeare at 400 mini festival this month. In May, there will be a performance of The Tempest at the nearby Great Yarmouth Hippodrome, where the stage is flooded and actors are suspended from the ceiling. The Worlds Literature Festival in June is themed around Shakespeare, and there are outdoor talks and performances of Much Ado about Nothing in the cathedral cloister (15 and 16 July).

William Shakespeare’s Second Folio read and annotated by Charles I while imprisoned in Carisbrook Castle before his execution, part of the Royal Collection,

Windsor Castle has performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Moat Garden during August, and there is more open-air theatre at Ascot Racecourse, the Savill Gardens and Cliveden Gardens. The is also an exhibition in the castle’s Royal Library of works of Shakespeare collected by the monarchy and art inspired by the plays.

Bristol’s annual, volunteer-run celebration of the bard lasts for a month and will feature performances outdoors and in unusual locations. Last year, for example, The Tempest was staged in Leigh Woods nature reserve and Macbeth in the atmospheric setting of the Redcliffe Caves. The programme and tickets for the events (30 June-31 July) go on sale on 23 April.

Verdi described Macbeth as “one of mankind’s greatest creations”. To mark the 400th anniversary, the Welsh National Orchestra will be performing Macbeth Verdi, sung in Italian with English and Welsh subtitles (at Wales Millennium Centre 10-24 Sep), before touring the production. Expect a highly-charged spectacle.

St Albans

This ambitious festival of 31 performances in a dozen locations across the city takes in all 37 Shakespeare plays. On the anniversary (23 April) various scenes from the plays will be performed at local landmarks, and the festival culminates with Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Serenade to Music – as part of an evening of Shakespeare-inspired choral music and readings presented by Mosaic Chamber Choir and the OVO theatre company at the city’s cathedral (4 June).

Two hundred volunteer actors, dancers, singers and drummers are joining a professional international team for this epic show that spans 150 years of history, from Belfast’s 19th-century shipping greatness to its modern intercultural future. Filling a former shipyard warehouse (T13) on Queen’s Island in the Titanic Quarter, the immersive show features live music and holographic surround sound. Bring a cushion, warm clothes (the space is unheated) and maybe a picnic, and take your place on a raft or shipwreck surrounded by sand and water (until April 23).


Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire
17-21 July
A Midsummer Night’s Dream was written for a Berkeley family wedding that took place in 1596; 420 years later the play will return to its original home and be performed in the grounds of the castle – home to the Berkeley family for 850 years. Bring a picnic.

Open-air Shakespeare at Appleby Castle, Cumbria
24-26 June
The castle plays host to the GB Theatre Company who will be staging As You Like It and Romeo and Juliet. These will be performed in period costume but with a modern twist for contemporary audiences.

An actor in period dress at an upper floor window at Shakespeare’s Schoolroom, Stratford-upon-Avon, UK
New Place, which was the site of the house where William Shakespeare died in Stratford-upon-Avon. Photograph: Alamy
Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, London, in an aerial shot taken during a daytime performance. Globe trotting … Shakespeare’s Globe theatre will be the focal point of a Bard-related stroll by the side of the Thames. Photograph: Anthony Upton/Rex
The quad outside the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Photograph: Martin Argles for the Guardian
The Guildford Shakespeare Company in action, in contemporary dress during a production of The Taming of the Shrew. Photograph: Mark Dean
Actors from the Maddermarket Theatre company will be taking part in a mini festival dedicated to Shakespeare. Photograph: Reflective Arts
William Shakespeare’s Second Folio read and annotated by Charles I while imprisoned in Carisbrook Castle before his execution, part of the Royal Collection, Windsor. Photograph: Royal Collection Trust/Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
A scene from the Welsh National Opera’s 2014 production of Macbeth with performers in early-20th century attire. Photograph: Patrick Redmond
A dream location … Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire Photograph: Alamy

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