April 2016 is the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare, aka the Bard of Avon and arguably history’s greatest dramatist. It’s also the cue for a glut of new exhibitions, immersive experiences and even cycling tours across Britain.
From April to September, London’s Shakespeare400 season promises an array of exhibitions, performances and participatory events courtesy of institutions like the National Theatre and Royal Opera House.
At the Barbican Cinema, view classic archived performances of the Bard’s plays, or try the British Library’s major ‘Shakespeare in Ten Acts’ exhibition, collating significant stagings from Shakespeare’s first Hamlet production to a digital-age deconstruction. Visitors can also inspect the only surviving play script in Shakespeare’s hand.
And you can’t experience the anniversary without a visit to Shakespeare’s Globe, located on London’s South Bank. Over the weekend of 23 – 24 April, specially created short films of each of Shakespeare’s plays, featuring some of Britain’s best-known actors, will be shown on screens along the banks of the Thames. Dubbed The Complete Walk, the project will extend from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge and will be produced with support from the British Council, as part of its 2016 Shakespeare Lives programme, and the Mayor of London.
The anniversary weekend will also mark the return of the unprecedented world tour of Hamlet, which will play on the Globe stage for four final performances, after an extraordinary two years performing in every country in the world.
Shakespeare fans should head over to the City of London to celebrate the anniversary, where they will also be able to see the rarely displayed deed for a property purchased by William Shakespeare in 1613, at the City of London Heritage Gallery between 9 January and 31 March. It is one of only six surviving documents to carry his signature, and will be displayed alongside Guildhall Library’s First Folio and documents, which bring the story of London’s playhouses to life. On 9 April the gallery will be hosting a day dedicated to the playwright, with a focus on Clerkenwell’s Jacobean Playhouse and the theatrical people of Clerkenwell. Visitors will be able to explore the history of the Queen’s Servants and the Red Bull Theatre through talks, document viewings, performances, and an afternoon walking tour.
Follow the day with a visit to Keats House, which will be exploring the relationship between the two poets and will chart Shakespeare’s influence on Keats’ life and work from 9 April – October. The story will be outlined through objects, prints, and books, with the trail providing a rare opportunity to see Keats’ own annotated copies of Shakespearean works.
Toast the Bard in London courtesy of St. James’ Court hotel, whose expert mixologists will give a Shakespearean twist to 12 different cocktails during each month of 2016. On offer in the Hamptons Bar and a picturesque courtyard, those libations are to include March’s Othello: a ‘strong and serious drink of Bacardi, Maraschino liqueur and grapefruit juice.’