400 Years of Shakespeare: Why Any Bard Fan Needs to Book a Trip to London Now

by  Teresa Bitler | Sep 3, 2015
Public Radio International
Public Radio International

April 23, 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. London and other spots in the UK are gearing up to celebrate his life and works. Here’s a sampling of the trip-worthy special performances and exhibits that any Bard-lover should be booking now.

Barbican Centre: You still have time to catch Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet (through October 31, 2016) before the Barbican Centre partners with The Royal Shakespeare Company to present King and Country: Shakespeare’s Great Cycle of Kings (November 7, 2015 through January 24, 2016). The series will feature the playwright’s best history plays: Richard II , Henry IV Part I , Henry IV Part II , and Henry V .

Stratford-upon-Avon: What better place to pay your respects to the Bard than Stratford-upon-Avon? Shakespeare was born and died in this English market town, and you can see his birthplace, grave, and several family homes on a visit here. If you plan on going, consider purchasing a Shakespeare Five House Pass for $28 US, a discount over purchasing individual tickets.

Royal Shakespeare Company: While in Stratford-upon-Avon, don’t miss the Royal Shakespeare Company’s theatre. The company offers several tour options, including a behind-the-scenes tour backstage, an after-hours tour where you'll learn about the theatre’s ghosts, and trip to the theatre’s tower for incredible views.

London Philharmonic Orchestra: The London Philharmonic Orchestra is dedicating a series of performances to Shakespeare that feature music written for Othello, The Tempest, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet. The series culminates with its Shakespeare400: Anniversary Gala concert, which includes theatrical readings from his works, on April 23, 2016.

London Symphony Orchestra: Not to be outdone, the London Symphony Orchestra is also hosting a Shakespeare-themed concert series. Three programs, inspired respectively by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, and Romeo and Juliet, will be held in February 2016.

Birmingham Royal Ballet: You have several options to see ballet adaptations of Shakespeare’s work. In February 2016, the Birmingham Royal Ballet will perform Romeo and Juliet, followed by The Taming of the Shrew in June. Also in June, the company will present a triple billing of three works inspired by Shakespeare: The Moor’s Pavane, The Shakespeare Suite, and Wink.

Royal Opera House: The Royal Opera House is also staging Shakespeare productions. From September 19 through December 2, the company will perform Romeo and Juliet. On select dates from April through June, you can also catch an adaptation of The Winter’s Tale.

Shakespeare’s Globe: Go back to where it all began. Shakespeare’s Globe is open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with theatre tours departing every 30 minutes (see online for specific times the tours are offered). Tickets are $15.15 US.

Stateside Bonus: First Folio on Tour
Closer to home, you can see one of the 233 known copies of the First Folio in your home state. Published by two colleagues seven years after the playwright’s death, the First Folio is the first collection of his works. Washington D.C.-based Folger Shakespeare Library, which owns 82 copies of that first run, will is sending the First Folio to all 50 states.

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