THE 400 YEAR LEGACY OF SHAKESPEARE
By Ann Evans
Photos by Rob Tysall, Tysall’s Photography.
The world celebrated 400 years of Shakespeare’s legacy this weekend. April 23rd marked the 452nd birthday of the famous playwright and the 400th anniversary of his death, both occurring on the same day. And in Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire, and the surrounding region, the weekend saw the start of a range of new exhibitions and events opening to the public.
A major new development is the transformation of New Place by The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. New Place was Shakespeare’s family home for the last 19 years of his life. This new heritage landmark will allow visitors to discover Shakespeare at the height of his success. The re-imagination of this unique site is 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, home owner and successful entrepreneur, featuring rare and important artefacts relating to his life at New Place, many of them on display for the first time.
Visitors to Stratford will also now be able to visit Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall. This follows a major restoration project at King Edward VI, the school that the young William Shakespeare attended as a boy. This opens as a heritage attraction of international significance.
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.
For theatre-goers, The Royal Shakespeare Company’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. This reopens in April 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.
The RSC has commissioned a brand new self-guided tour to mark the anniversary. Shakespeare Steps invites people to follow in the Bard’s footsteps. 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.
Visitors can even meet Shakespeare in person! William will guide visitors along the beautiful streets past wonderful old buildings whilst relating tales of his life and works. From birth to grave, he will
take visitors through his life history and the town in the 16th century. Tours take place every
Saturday and holidays at 2pm from Tudor World in Sheep Street.
Plus of course, there are the Shakespeare houses and gardens to explore. So as well as Shakespeare’s Birthplace, and New Place, there’s Mary Arden’s Farm, Ann Hathaway’s cottage, Halls Croft and Havard House.
So, plenty going on in and around Stratford-upon-Avon and the surrounding areas this year. For more details, and admission prices and opening times visit: http://www.shakespeare.org.uk