2014 marks the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, well technically 23rd April 2014 does, and England is putting on a year-long celebration of all things Shakespeare to mark the occasion.
Here are our top 5 ways to celebrate Shakespeare’s 450th birthday in London in 2014
See a Shakespearean Play
Still the most famous playwright the world has ever produced, the stories of Shakespeare’s plays have been credited to be the inspiration for many modern day plays, films and books. It will likely come as no surprise that you will be spoilt for choice with options of plays to see and venues to see them in during the year of this milestone anniversary.
For the most authentic experience, although not necessarily the most comfortable, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre has a line-up of 8 Shakespearean Plays over its April to October season, including the first performance of a two-year world tour of Hamlet on the 23rd April. Other Shakespeare plays at The Globe in 2014 include: Much Ado About Nothing, King Lear, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Antony & Cleopatra and Julius Caesar.
An equally unique theatre, although quite different, is the Don Mar Warehouse, where Coriolanus is playing until 13th February 2014.
If you are looking for an option suitable for children, the Regent Park Open Air theatre is staging a re-imagining of Twelfth Night that is advertised as suitable for children as young as six.
Visit Shakespearian Historic Sites
The most well-known of London sites associated with Mr Shakespeare, the Globe Theatre in Southbank, offers more than just a venue to enjoy some quality Shakespearean Theatre. Whilst not the original venue (it burnt down in 1613), this 1993 reconstruction has been designed to as closely replicate the original as possible, and is located only 750 metres from the original site. The venue is open all year round with an exhibition exploring Shakespeare’s life, his work, his time in London and The original Globe Theatre where he worked. A tour is also available.
Pre-dating The Globe, was The Rose, the first purpose-built theatre in London’s Bankside. This is where Shakespeare learnt his craft and is now an archaeological site open every Saturday with an exhibition and tours.
Unlike The Globe and The Rose, Middletemple hall is an original building that has remained almost un-altered. Whilst not a theatre, this is the venue where the first performance of Twelfth Night took place – with Queen Elizabeth I in attendance.
London Walks also offer a walking tour every Wednesday and Sunday of Shakespeare’s and Dickens’ London, taking in Elizabethan architecture and providing interesting insights into the London of this time.
Take a Day Trip to Shakespeare’s Birth Place
The picturesque town of Stratford-Upon-Avon is delightful to visit in its own right, but it is also the birthplace of William Shakespeare, so is brimming with historically significant sites – and they are very proud of this heritage, so are sure to be celebrating all things Shakespeare throughout the year. Most notably on the weekend of 26-27 April with a weekend of Shakespeare inspired festivities, including special performances by the Royal Shakespeare Company.
There are day tours from London that take in the sights of Stratford-Upon-Avon and nearby attractions, or it is also very easy to catch a train or bus from London to explore in your own time – all of the key sites aside from maybe Anne Hathaway’s house, are in very walk-able distance. Like many other cities, there is also a hop-on-hop off tour providing interesting information and talking you to the further out sites.
Visit the V&A to see Shakespeare: Our Greatest Living Playwright
The Victoria & Albert Museum is very easily arguably the world’s best museum dedicated to art and culture. From 8th February to 28th September the V&A will be hosting this special exhibition dedicated to the worldwide influence and popularity of Shakespeare’s work.
Have a Drink in a Shakespeare Inspired Pub
Having a drink in an English pub is not a tradition stemming from Shakespeare’s time specifically, although this was still very much part of the culture of his day. London is home to many pubs with links to or names inspired by Shakespeare. These include:
- The 18th century ‘The Shakespeare’s Head’ in Soho, originally owned by distant relatives of William
- Pubs called ‘The Shakespeare’ in Victoria, Bethnal Green, Newington and Clerkenwell that are unrelated aside from the name, and, well that’s enough for us
- The George Inn, which dates back to the time when Shakespeare lived and worked, and most likely drank, in the area
Sure, so none of these have any concrete direct relation to Shakespeare or his work, but they are traditional English pubs, and we’re sure after a pint or two you will be happy to start trying your tongue at talking like Shakespeare – go on, we promise you it’s fun!