Shakespeare400: best London events marking playwright's 400 year anniversary
From midnight performances to family concerts, the Capital marks 400 years since the Bard's death
Shakespeare: aka the Bard of Avon, aka the Bard with the Beard. You know, that guy credited with writing 37 plays, 154 sonnets and inventing over 1700 of the English language's common words. He also really pulled off an Elizabethan ruff.
This April marks 400 years since his death (23 Apr 1616), and to commemorate the writer's immense contribution to both literature and language, a series of events, exhibitions and activities are taking place across the UK. Coordinated by King's College London, several leading cultural, creative and educational organisations are taking part in Shakespeare400: a nationwide celebration of Shakespeare's legacy during this quarter centenary year. Here, we pick some of our favourites.
Shakespeare in Ten Acts
This landmark exhibition, taking part at the British Library's PACCAR Gallery, explores 400 years of Shakespeare's stage history, from the first productions of Shakespeare's plays to their modern day staging, in an exploration of the way that the bard's work has been transformed over the years for theatre-goers. Shakespeare in Ten Acts features over 200 rare items, including the only surviving play-script in Shakespeare’s hand. Let's hope you can read his writing.
PACCAR Gallery, The British Library, Fri 15 Apr–Tue 6 Sep, Prices Vary.
Antic Disposition: Henry V
This critically-acclaimed production of Henry V will tour around some of the finest cathedrals and churches in the UK, eventually concluding in Stratford-upon-Avon's Holy Trinity – the place where Shakespeare was baptised and buried. Prior to the cathedral tour, this tale of the English and French war will be performed at the Elizabethan setting of Middle Temple Hall.
Middle Temple Hall, Sat 26 Mar–Wed 6 April, Prices Vary & Various Venues, UK, Mon 18–Fri 29 April, Prices Vary.
Midnight Matinee: Much Ado About Nothing
Yep, you read that right: this performance of Shakespeare's wit-filled comedy is being performed at midnight at the bankside Rose Playhouse. This unique performance of Much Ado About Nothing takes place between Fri 22 and Sat 23 April, 'to mark exactly 400 years since Shakespeare took his last breath'. It will last for just 45 minutes, with just a series of the play's highlights being performed (the full thing is long. Real long).
Rose Theatre, Fri 22 Apr, £12 (£10).
The Complete Walk
Take a walk along the banks of the Thames between Westminster and Tower Bridge, where 37 screens are playing a series of specially-made 10-minute films, exploring an aspect of one of Shakespeare's plays. Some world-famous actors are involved, including Peter Capaldi, Aidan Gillen and James Norton, and as if that wasn't enough, the films also feature scenes shot in the locations Shakespeare imagined at the time of writing (you know, Cleopatra by the Pyramids, that kind of thing). The Complete Walk spans approximately 2.5 miles, so bring your walking shoes and a can-do attitude.
Sat 23–Sun 24 Apr, River Thames, Free.
One for families, this special musical version of Midsummer Night's Dream from FUNharmonics has a 'magical mix of words and music'. Throughout the day, children can take part in a series of on-theme interactive activities, and there's even a chance for them to try their hand at playing a variety of different orchestral instruments. Suitable for ages 2–5.
Sun 5 Jun, Royal Festival Hall, £10–£18.
World Shakespeare Conference
The International Shakespeare Association hosts this seven-day conference, on the theme 'Creating and Re-Creating Shakespeare'. This is the tenth World Shakespeare Conference, and will feature talks and discussions from a host of international delegates.
Sun 31 Aug–Sat 6 Aug, Various Venues, London and Stratford, Prices Vary.