The best places to celebrate Shakespeare in his anniversary year

Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations © Shakespeare's England

William Shakespeare, arguably England’s best–loved playwright, will be commemorated across England this year to mark 400 years since his death in 1616. Here, VisitEngland rounds up some of the best ways to celebrate Shakespeare’s life and works, and where to discover the untold stories of England’s Bard.

St Albans Shakespeare Festival (March – June)

Held in the ancient city of St Albans, the Shakespeare Festival will feature every single one of the Bard’s 37 plays to commemorate the 400th anniversary of his death. Encompassing theatre, choral singing, symphonic music, poetry, stand-up comedy and dance there is plenty to see and engage with across the 31 performances which include 14 different artists across a dozen locations around the city. Highlights include an interpretation of Hamlet, Hold off the Earth, and a visit to St Albans from Merely Theatre, as part of their nationwide tour.

Take a sneak peek into the dressing rooms… at the re-opening of The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon (21 March)

The RSC iconic studio theatre The Other Place will reopen, after being closed for nearly ten years, with a new space for performances and rehearsals. The studio will feature a 200-seat flexible studio theatre, two new rehearsal rooms and a new home for the costume store. The public will also be able to see the world-renowned costume store, as the Royal Shakespeare Society throws open its doors for public tours for the very first time.

Go back to school at …. Shakespeare’s Schoolroom, Stratford-upon-Avon (April)

King Edward VI School is to open Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall to the public for the first time in April. Built between 1418 and 1420, this schoolroom is where William Shakespeare was educated, and where he first witnessed professional theatre. It served as the centre of civic life and governance in Stratford for over 400 years and is still used to teach students at the school today. The immersive, atmospheric experience being developed will plunge visitors into life in Stratford-upon-Avon in the 16th Century.

See the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon back to its former glory…

After a £2.8m award from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the oldest part of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s theatres will see the completion of its restoration. Work is continuing on a major project which will see the restoration of the Grade II listed Swan Wing.  The 1879 wing forms the entrance of the current Swan Theatre and was built as part of the original Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, which will house a new exhibition.

Help celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday at… Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon (19 April)

World renowned opera singers Joseph Caleja and Angel Blue are set to perform in a very special concert this April to celebrate Shakespeare in music, and the power of his language which so inspires creative artists.  Proceeds will be donated to the Shakespeare Birthplace

Shhh it’s a secret…Shakespeare in Nottingham’s Secret Gardens, Nottingham (April)

To mark Shakespeare’s anniversary, the Lace Market Theatre will be hosting a Shakespeare Season, which includes Shakespeare performances in two of Nottingham’s secret gardens. On 21 April, Twelfth Night will be performed in the secret garden at Bromley House Library, and a performance of Julius Caesar will be performed in the secret garden of historic Newdigate House. Guests will be able to enjoy refreshments served al fresco in the gardens. The Lace Market Theatre will also be putting on a week-long production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (18 – 23 April), while the Lace Market Youth Theatre will perform an adaptation of Julius Caesar (16 – 19 March).

A day in the life of the man himself…The Globe Exhibition and Tour, Shakespeare’s Globe, London

Situated in the underbelly of the Globe Theatre, this exhibition takes guests on an ‘infectiously friendly’ tour through the life of Shakespeare, exploring the London in which he lived, and the 1599 Globe Theatre where his plays came to life. Guests can view a sword-fighting display, handmade period costumes and the working theatre of today.

Get on your bike… Shakespeare’s Way Cycling Tour, London & Stratford-upon-Avon

The Carter Company has created the Shakespeare’s Way cycling tour to celebrate the Bard’s anniversary. The tour will follow a route that the poet may have taken on his journeys between the Globe Theatre in London and his home in Stratford-upon-Avon. Discover the people and places that feature in Shakespeare’s life and works, whilst following the River Thames out of the heart of London. The ten-day trip also includes a tour of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London, and entry to the five Shakespeare houses in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Rub shoulders with royalty…Windsor Castle, Windsor

Whilst staying in the town, Shakespeare wrote The Merry Wives of Windsor, which was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth I for a celebration at Windsor Castle. The play was performed to coincide with the Queen’s Cousin, Lord Hunsdon, being made Knight of the Garter in 1597. When first performed, the play wasn’t open to the public, and rather was shown privately at the Castle in Vicar’s Hall, of which the main window can be seen from the town centre opposite the Royal Theatre. Visitors to Windsor today can see where the play was written, although there are two places in Windsor which claim to be the birthplace of the play: The Old Kings Head in Church Street, and the Harte and Garter Hotel (where the two inns, the White Hart and The Garter once stood).

Stay at …Macdonald Alveston’s Manor Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon

Set in the heart of Shakespeare country, this 16th century manor hotel is home to the famous Cedar tree rumoured to have been the setting for the very first performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  The hotel is surrounded by Shakespearean heritage, and the hotel even offers guests ‘The Poets Tipple’, a cocktail inspired by the famous playwright and his sonnet: ‘Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Day’. The hotel has 113 traditionally furnished bedrooms, which start from £193 for a standard double.

At night… ‘Shakespeare under the Sky’, Oxford (Summer)

As part of the Globe Theatre on Tour, the ‘Shakespeare under the Sky’ summer performance season will include an Oxford Shakespeare Festival of plays at Oxford Castle, the Oxford Shakespeare Company in Wadham Gardens and English Repertory Theatre in University Parks. There will also be performances by Creation Theatre Company.

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