Shakespeare’s England is gearing up for 23 April 2016 when the region celebrates 400 years of William Shakespeare’s legacy. 2016 commemorates 400 years since the death of the world famous playwright and this special anniversary year is a unique opportunity to visit his home of Stratford-upon-Avon and the surrounding area.
Shakespeare’s England will celebrate his legacy with a range of exciting new exhibitions and events including a new immersive theatrical experience at the Royal Shakespeare Company; a re-imagining of Shakespeare’s final home, New Place, and Shakespeare’s Schoolroom will open for the first time to the general public.
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is transforming New Place, the site of Shakespeare’s family home in Stratford-upon-Avon for the last 19 years of his adult life, to create a new heritage landmark where visitors can discover Shakespeare at the height of his success. The re-imagination of this unique site will be the single most significant Shakespearian project anywhere in the world to commemorate his legacy. Visitors will be able to walk in Shakespeare’s footsteps through a new threshold on the site of his gatehouse and trace the footprint of his family home in a contemporary landscape setting. Commissioned artworks and displays will evoke a sense of family life and the 26 major works written during Shakespeare’s ownership of New Place. A new exhibition will throw light on Shakespeare the family man, homeowner and successful entrepreneur, featuring rare and important artefacts relating to his life at New Place, many of them on display for the first time.
The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC)’s season includes productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Cymbeline, Doctor Faustus, Don Quixote and The Alchemist. A major new exhibition, The Play’s The Thing, will open in June in The Swan Theatre front of house areas. It will celebrate the magic of Shakespeare on stage and reveal the secrets and stories from 100 years of theatre-making in Stratford-upon-Avon. The Other Place is the RSC’s research and development hub, and home to the Company’s new studio theatre, rehearsal rooms and costume store and café bar. It will re-open in April 2016 and a new discovery tour will take visitors on a journey from Page to Stage, from the first day of rehearsals to the first performance, with an opportunity to look inside the RSC’s store of 30,000 costumes for the very first time. As part of the annual Birthday Celebrations on 23 April, the RSC will offer a fun-packed day of free outdoor events for all the family, including a breath taking show by acrobatic company, Mimbre, inspired by Shakespeare’s stories. The day will end with a spectacular free firework display. For those who can’t make it to Stratford, The Shakespeare Show (working title) will be broadcast live on BBC2. A unique collaboration between the RSC and the BBC, this special evening, hosted by David Tennant, will celebrate Shakespeare’s legacy across all the arts.
A major restoration project has made the ambitious vision of the Trustees of King Edward VI School, the school which William Shakespeare attended in Stratford-upon-Avon, possible. Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall will open as a heritage attraction of international significance in April. Visitors will be able to experience the place, not far from his Birthplace, where Shakespeare was educated and inspired to become the world’s greatest playwright, and to learn of the extraordinary history of the building and the civic history of the town. Built between 1418 – 20, the Guildhall, described by historian and broadcaster, Michael Wood, as ‘one of the most atmospheric, magical and important buildings in the whole of Britain’, was last renovated in the 1890s. The building will undergo major restoration and new interactive displays, filmed performances, a Tudor lesson and an 18th century classroom will bring Shakespeare’s story to life.
With over 400 years of involvement in the social and religious aspects of the town, including Shakespeare’s father’s leading role in the council – there are plenty of stories to uncover. The RSC has commissioned a brand new self-guided tour to mark the anniversary. Shakespeare Steps invites people to follow in the footsteps of the world’s most famous playwright. The free self-guided tour, which involves eight locations, will run alongside Stratford’s historic spine. At each stop visitors can follow footsteps and speech bubbles painted on pavements that work as instructions for acting out mini dramas. The tour is available from 23 April and a free map is also available to guide visitors, give them historical background and features a treasure hunt challenge for children. Shakespeare Steps starts at Shakespeare’s Birthplace and other locations include Shakespeare’s New Place, Guildhall, and Holy Trinity Church before finishing at the RST.
Visit Stratford-upon-Avon for the annual Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations on 23 & 24 April for a weekend of pageantry, pomp and performance. Crowds will line the streets as actors, foreign diplomats, civic dignitaries and local children join a 1,000-strong grand Birthday Procession through the streets on the Saturday as Stratford pays tribute to the most famous playwright and poet who was born and died on the same day – 23 April. Starting at the Town Hall the procession will wind its way through the town to Shakespeare’s Birthplace and return passing his School before arriving at the altar of Holy Trinity Church.
Visit the Holy Trinity Church where Shakespeare was baptised and buried and where you can see the graves of Shakespeare, his wife Anne Hathaway and other family members.