Celebrate the 450th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth in Shakespeare’s England. Shakespeare was born in Stratford-upon-Avon on the 23rd April in 1564 and many of the region’s key attractions will mark the anniversary with a year round programme of productions, events, festivals and exhibitions. With a whole host of celebrations and much to see and enjoy, celebrate the life of the world’s most famous playwright throughout the year in Shakespeare’s England.
Stratford-upon-Avon’s celebrations of the anniversary will take place on 26 & 27 April when thousands of visitors are expected in the town. The tradition of the Birthday Celebrations dates back to 1824 and brings together residents and visitors with people from the worlds of diplomacy, theatre, literature and academia in a vibrant mix of pageantry and performance. Festivities start with the grand 1,000 strong procession which parades through the town centre of Stratford-upon-Avon and finishes with the laying of flowers on Shakespeare’s grave at Holy Trinity Church. A community parade follows and spectators can join the throng of costumed players and musicians to celebrate the anniversary.
Starting with a special performance on the evening of 25 April and morning of 26 April outside Shakespeare’s Birthplace, there will be an extended programme of events and activities at the five Shakespeare family homes and free entertainment in the streets and parks of Stratford-upon-Avon throughout the weekend. The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) will be running a range of free activities for all the family in and around its theatres on Saturday 26 April, including storytelling sessions, stage fighting workshops and the chance to see how fake scars and bruises are created. Visitors will also be able to enjoy music in the foyer areas, and, for 50p, cross the river on the ferry listening to RSC actors reading sonnets.
From March the Royal Shakespeare Company will open a major new production of Henry IV Parts I & II which will play until September in repertoire in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre along with his early play The Two Gentlemen of Verona. In the Swan Theatre, the Roaring Girls Season explores works by Shakespeare’s contemporaries that feature great roles for and about women. On Shakespeare’s actual birthday, 23 April, the RSC will celebrate with a firework display from the top of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre from 10.30pm after that evening’s performance of Henry IV, Part I. Taking inspiration from Ben Jonson’s “star of poets” description of William Shakespeare, the display will include a recreation of Shakespeare’s face, but in pyrotechnics.
In June the RSC will also celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Other Place studio theatre and the extraordinary vision of its founder, Buzz Goodbody, with ‘Midsummer Mischief’, a prologue to their plans to reinstate The Other Place in 2015. ‘Midsummer Mischief’ is a month-long season of new plays running in The Other Place at The Courtyard Theatre.
In March The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust will launch a brand new exhibition ‘Famous Beyond Words’ which will explore the extraordinary story of William Shakespeare, the boy from Stratford-upon-Avon who became a household name all over the world. It will reveal how Shakespeare’s work has fascinated people of all ages and backgrounds for four centuries and will take visitors on a journey back through time to discover what sparked his imagination and how he continues to shape our lives today.
The Trust is also launching its first national campaign to give every primary school child in Britain a great first encounter with Shakespeare. Shakespeare Week (17 – 23 March) will unite primary schools, theatres, galleries, museums, cinemas, libraries, musicians, publishers and historic places in a nationwide celebration of Shakespeare’s cultural and creative influence. For information about events and activities for schools and families see www.shakespeareweek.org.uk
Throughout 2014 the RSC and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust will run other events and exhibitions celebrating Shakespeare’s legacy. They will also release a newly illustrated map of Shakespeare’s hometown, with a walking route between his Birthplace, Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Holy Trinity Church, making the perfect itinerary for visitors keen to explore the playwright’s legacy in this important anniversary year.
A concert in Holy Trinity Church on 24 April will launch a new three year global singing project by the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust to mark the anniversary of the playwright’s birth and death. Singing Shakespeare will inspire choirs from all over the world to perform musical settings of Shakespeare. The concert will form part of the town’s Birthday Celebrations and will feature the world premiere of a new work by award-winning composer Gary Carpenter, as well as the world premiere of a new arrangement of Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Fear No More’.