As we celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death this year, there are more than the usual amount of Shakespearean activities in London this summer.
One of the most interesting is Henry V at the Open Air Theatre in Regents Park with Michelle Terry in the title role; as the Financial Times put it, “[I]t’s hard to tell which was reverberating more strongly as we watched Robert hastie’s revival in Regent’s Park: the fact that it featured extensive cross-casting including an actress as King Henry, or that this play about, er, England’s engagement in Europe was opening the evening before the British referendum on the EU. Well, theatrically at any rate the X belongs firmly in the ‘Remain’ box”. It only runs til 9 July so make haste!
We would definitely also go for Ralph Fienne’s chilling Richard III at the Almeida, one of the mainstays of the off-West End theatres, right on Upper Street in Islington. Vanessa Redgrave is Queen Margaret!
A potentially exciting performance is likely at Glyndebourne, the internationally famous opera house in the country just an hour away from London, which is putting on 2 operas with Shakespearean links this season. The first is Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict which is based on two young characters from Much Ado About Nothing. A new Glyndebourne production, it is directed by Laurent Pelly, one of France’s most sought-after directors of both theatre and opera, with performances from 23 July to 27 August, and with a cast including French soprano Stephanie d’Oustrac who did a wonderful Carmen (another French opera) at Glyndebourne last year. We are very excited about this performance – as we detail in “Summer 2016 – top 5 summer operas to die for”.
The second Shakespeare production at Glyndebourne this summer is the return of Peter Hall’s enduringly popular 1980 production of Benjamin Britten’s version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for its first revival in ten years, with performances on 11-28 August. It would be a lovely mid-summer thing to catch!
For those not yet in the know, Glydebourne runs a popular returns club as tickets can get sold out quite early. For those forward-looking souls, Glydebourne is also gearing up for the world premiere of a new production of Hamlet composed by Brett Dean.
By special permission of the Queens, a series of performance of A midsummer night’s dream at the Moat Gardens of Windsor Castle in August is not to be missed. Bring a rug and enjoy!
Windsor Castle is celebrating its association (the Merry Wives of Windsor was set there and was performed in front of Elizabeth I!) with a Shakespeare at the Royal Library exhibition that lasts until early 2017.
Shakespeare’s first folio, of course, is at the British Library which is very convenient if one is travelling on the Eurostar to Paris. It is hosting a “Shakespeare in ten acts” exhibition until early September.
Apparently, when Shakespeare was active as an author, writing about London was in vogue. Ben Jonson, among others, was famous for his “city comedies”. Although Shakespeare never contributed to this popular genre, London appears as a setting in several of the history plays, such as the two parts of Henry IV, where Falstaff’s home base, the Boar’s Head Inn, is located in Eastcheap. In a later historical period, but an earlier play, Richard III has his brother Clarence and his nephews murdered in the Tower of London. In the seldom-performed Henry VIII, the trial of Katherine takes place in Blackfriars.
So, go to London – with Madeleine – this summer!
P.S.Shakespeare400 has a detailed calendar of events.