The year 2016 marks 400 years since the Bard laid down his prolific pen for the last time, leaving behind countless treasures to be re-imagined again and again. The Resident picks out 10 ways to celebrate Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary…
Words: Madeleine Howell
From the ethereal Midsummer Night’s Dream at Glyndebourne (the perfect production to transport you from reality on a hazy summer evening) to the downright bloodthirsty ‘Scottish play’ – it’s a timely excuse to forget the Shakespeare of your school days and commemorate London’s most infamous dramatist by attending some of these ingenious events and shows…
1 Shakespeare 400 at the Globe
Where else to immerse yourself in Shakespeare than at Shakespeare’s Globe? Catch the four final performances of Hamlet Globe to Globe – The Globe’s unprecedented world Hamlet tour – on 23 and 24 April and, on the same weekend, enjoy The Complete Walk – 37 specially made 10-minute short films playing on loop along a 2.5 mile route of the river Thames between Westminster and Tower Bridge. running from 10am-10pm on Saturday 23 April and 10am-8pm on Sunday 24 April, each film explores an aspect of one of Shakespeare’s plays, featuring scenes shot in the locations Shakespeare imagined. Download the map here.
23-24 April. Call 020 7902 400; shakespearesglobe.com
2 The Royal Shakespeare Company’s first black Hamlet
This spring, bag a ticket to see Hamlet in Stratford-upon-Avon with the charismatic Paapa Essiedu as the prince: he’s the first black actor to play the tortured youth for the RSC, and his spectacular portrayal has so far been lauded by the critics. It’s history in the making, and is also being broadcast live in cinemas across the UK. Keep up, Hollywood.
Until 13 August 2016. Call 01789 403 493; rsc.org.uk
3 Much Ado About Nothing, The Rose Playhouse
Take a trip to The Rose, Bankside’s first recorded playhouse, to discover its colourful history. While you’re less likely to find bear-baiting arenas, brothels and gaming dens nearby, throughout April you can also take a pew – without further ado – for Wolf Sisters Productions’ take on the 1598 romantic comedy, Much Ado About Nothing. There’ll also be a special midnight matinée on the very day dear old Will took his last breath – 22 June 1616. As merry as the day is long…
5-29 April. Call 020 8174 0090; rosetheatre.org.uk
4 Shakespeare in Ten Acts, The British Library
The Shakespeare in Ten Acts exhibition charts the iconic performances of the past four centuries. It’s strong on costume – Vivien Leigh’s glamorous Lady Macbeth outfit is sure to be a crowd pleaser. For bookish enthusiasts, there’s over 200 rare items on display, such as the only surviving manuscript in Will’s own hand, the earliest printed edition of Hamlet, and the First Folio.
15 April to 6 September. Call 01937 546 546; bl.uk
5 Inspired by Shakespeare, the Royal Festival Hall
This feat of creative collaboration will see top-notch choreography from Quicksilver – part of the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance – join forces with the London Philharmonic Orchestra to create a piece inspired by Macbeth. Fair is foul, and foul is fair…
Saturday 9 April. Call 020 7840 4242; lpo.org.uk
6 Kings of War, the Barbican
Directed by Olivier-award winning Ivo van Hove, the explosive Kings of War at the Barbican sees Shakespeare’s Henry V, Henry VI and Richard III become modern-day political leaders – ‘striking a chord with global events we see in the news every day’. We’re in.
22 April to 1 May. Call 020 7638 8891; barbican.org.uk
7 A life in writing, Somerset House
Presented by The National Archives and King’s College London as part of Shakespeare400, By me William Shakespeare: A Life in Writing is an exhibition of Shakespeare’s last will and testament along with eight other ‘nationally important’ documents relating to his life. Court papers, theft, rebellion, favours from the royals, disputed dowry payments… This is the underbelly of the Bard’s world.
Inigo Rooms Somerset House East Wing. 3 February to 29 May. Call 020 7836 5454; bymewilliamshakespeare.org
8 Henry V, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
This promises to be gender-bending Shakespeare at its best. Award-winning actress Michelle Terry takes the title role of Henry in one of London’s finest open air theatres. As ever, Shakespeare’s Henry V is a compelling study of war and peace that is as relevant today as it was 400 years ago. With the first night running the eve before the EU referendum, it’s a well-timed opportunity to consider England’s position on the world stage…
17 June to 9 July. Call 0844 826 4242; openairtheatre.com
9 A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Glyndebourne
This is in Sussex, not London, but we couldn’t miss it off the list: Always a date for the diary, this year Glyndebourne is reviving the acclaimed 1981 production of Benjamin Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Pack your hamper, load the car with champagne and prepare for a treat. Tickets are limited, though, so get in quick.
11-28 August. Call 01273 815 000; glyndebourne.com
10 A Midsummer Night’s Dream afternoon tea, The Swan Bar & Restaurant
The Swan launches a dreamy afternoon tea inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream on 23 April. Expect sweet and savoury treats: The menu features pea flower, the flower from which Oberon conjures a love potion, and the apricots which woodland queen Titania feeds her lover – as well as mulberries, from the tree under which Pyramus and Thisbe agree to meet in the Dream’s infamous play within a play.
From 23rd April; 21 New Globe Walk, Bankside SE1 9DT; 0207 928 9444; swanlondon.co.uk
11 Love in the Life of Shakespeare at St. Gabriels
This event on 16th June is an evening of words, with a talk from academic Robert Mansell, and music, with eleven singers and instrumentalists. It aims to answer some interesting questions… Was Shakespeare gay? What happened to his manuscripts? Why in his will did he leave almost nothing to his wife? The music will include Broadway-style ballads, comic songs and semi-operatic arias.
St Gabriel’s; Pimlico; Warwick Square SW1; robertmansell.com