ALL the world’s a stage – and Stratford will be at the centre of it this weekend.
The town is preparing for the biggest ever celebration of its most famous son when it marks the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare.
Thousands will descend on Stratford, including royalty and some of the biggest names in film and theatre circles, to pay tribute to the world’s greatest ever wordsmith.
Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall will be in town on Saturday (April 23) visiting the Bard’s final home New Place, and also Holy Trinity Church, where he was baptised and where he is buried.
In the evening, the Prince, who is also president of the RSC, and the Duchess, will attend the all star Shakespeare Live!
event at the RST, which is set to be screened live on BBC Two and in cinemas around the world, from 8.30pm.
The royal couple, and Stratfordians who secured free tickets through a ballot, are promised a variety show of words and music put together by RSC artistic director Greg Doran.
Presented by former Doctor Who star and renowned Shakesperean David Tennant, the line-up includes a host of famous faces including Dame Judi Dench, Dame Helen Mirren, Sir Ian McKellen, David Suchet and Benedict Cumberbatch,
The diverse bill also includes everyone from Al Murray to Alison Moyet, the cast of Horrible Histories to Stratford’s own Orchestra of the Swan.
Thousands are set line the streets for the annual birthday parade on Saturday, and organisers are promising an event to remember.
Around 10,000 Shakespeare masks – based on a newly commissioned portrait of the Bard – will be handed out to visitors from 9.30am, prior to the main birthday parade, which takes place at 10.30am.
During the traditional quill and flag unfurling ceremonies, the crowd will then be invited to put on their masks and give three cheers for Shakespeare.
People will also get the first opportunity to see where the bard’s genius was nurtured when the doors to his former schoolroom are opened to the public for the first time.
The £1.8million transformation of Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall at KES will now allow visitors a glimpse of the Bard’s formative years – shedding light on his life as a schoolboy and showing how his schooling, coupled with the opportunity to see the finest actors of his day performing in the Guildhall, inspired him to become a playwright.
TV and radio airwaves are also set to hogged by Shakespeare – from Countryfile’s sheepish visit to Stratford, to Dame Judi Dench’s following in the Bard’s footsteps to Fordwich in Kent where it is believed he performed with his players in 1605.
And BBC Radio 3 will be broadcasting live from a pop up studio in The Other Place from Friday (April 22) until Sunday (April 24).
Free tickets for events in the Studio Theatre, including In Tune, Record Review and Words and Music can be booked.
Coins commemorating the 400th anniversary have also been minted.
The three £2 Royal Mint coins, designed by sculptor John Bergdahl with help from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, will be available in tills at the Birthplace gift shop on Henley Street from Friday – before the rest of the country.