THE ANNUAL Shakespeare birthday celebrations will see four days of festivities in Stratford.
The Bard’s 451st birthday will be marked by everything from song and dance to coffee and cake from April 23 to 26.
The annual parade on Saturday April 25 – the 123rd annual parade will as ever be led by students from Shakespeare’s old school King Edward VI.
Starting from the Town Hall at 10.30am, the procession will follow the historic spine symbolising Shakespeare’s life journey from cradle to grave. The parade’s route is being extended this year to include Wood Street, Windsor Street and Henley Street, passing by Shakespeare’s Birthplace on Henley Street and his schoolroom on Church Street, culminating with the traditional laying of flowers at Shakespeare’s grave at Holy Trinity Church.
And the enormous horse-drawn birthday cake, freshly decorated by pupils from the Willows Primary School with the help of artist Barbara Fidoe and Escape Community Arts, will return for the second year. The ‘icing’ design is inspired by the 600th anniversary of the battle of Agincourt.
Everyone will have a chance to enjoy free birthday cake – either by taking part in the shop window cupcake trail or by visiting Stratford College’s stall on Waterside where students will be handing out cupcakes.
Townspeople and visitors will also be able to enjoy a day of free events and entertainment throughout the town centre – including music, dancing, street theatre and acting workshops.
The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) will offer a range of free activities for the whole family in and around its theatres on Saturday, including live music, storytelling sessions, stage fighting workshops and the chance to discover how fake scars and bruises are created.
Stratford residents (CV37 – proof of residency required) can enjoy free entry to all four Shakespeare family homes and gardens, and Harvard House on the Saturday.
Festivities begin on Thursday April 23 at 11am – with Coffee, Cake and Sonnets at Holy Trinity Church – performed by the church’s in-house theatre group Trinity Players.
The following day, Dame Harriet Walter will give the Shakespeare Birthday Lecture at the Shakespeare Centre. Co-hosted by the Shakespeare Institute, the University of Birmingham and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (SBT), it starts at 4pm.
Tickets, priced £10 (£8 concession), are available from SBT on 01789 204016.
Building on the 2014 launch of Singing Shakespeare – a three year global project to inspire choirs from all over the world to perform new and existing musical settings of Shakespeare, SBT presents the Birthday Celebrations Concert at Stratford ArtsHouse on Friday April 24 at 7pm. Shakespeare’s works are being celebrated with a young people’s concert, presenting new material by composer Toby Young, and performed by local primary schoolchildren. Tickets, priced £6 (£3 children) are from the box office online and by phone.
And The Guild Chapel plays host to a Singing Shakespeare Concert on Saturday evening, starting at 7.30pm. London-based choir Khymerikal will present a concert of works by British composers, with song settings of Shakespeare’s text, poetry and music inspired by Hamlet and The Tempest. Tickets are £10 (£8 concession) available from SBT on 01789 204016.
On Sunday April 26, the annual Shakespeare Service at Holy Trinity Church will commence at 11am with a special sermon given by Rev David Hoyle, Dean of Bristol Cathedral, and will include music and verse from Shakespeare’s plays, performed by members of the RSC.
The Birthday Celebrations will come to an end with a special musical concert, organised by the RSC, on the Sunday.
The Birthday Bash will feature music written for previous RSC productions and the forthcoming summer season, interspersed with speeches and extracts from Shakespeare performed by actors who have a close association with the company.
The winning entry from the RSC’s current Shakespeare’s Birthday Song Competition will get its first public performance at the Bash, which starts at 4pm.
Tickets for the Bash are £16-£35 and available from www.rsc.org.uk or 0844 800 1110.
Visit www.shakespearescelebrations.com for further details on the Shakespeare birthday celebrations.
Looking forward to birthday number 451. Photo courtesy of SBT. (s)