Shakespeare 400: end of year


One of my resolutions this year was to go to the Globe, as well as to see more Shakespeare. 2016 seemed the perfect time for this, with it being the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death. William Shakespeare was born in 1564 and died in 1616 in Stratford-upon-Avon – it is likely that he actually died on his 52nd birthday (23rd April), though there is no precise record of his date of birth. He moved to London at some point between 1585 & 1592, and over the course of his career he wrote 38 plays and 154 sonnets, amongst other works (including narrative poems).

At the beginning of the year, I had seen 8 different Shakespeare plays (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hamlet, Henry V, King Lear, Richard III, The Taming of the Shrew, The Winter’s Tale and Twelfth Night). In 2016 I added 10 to this total (As You Like It, Cymbeline – as Imogen, King John, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Macbeth, Much Ado About Nothing, Richard II, Romeo & Juliet, The Comedy of Errors and Titus Andronicus), as well as seeing 6 of the same plays in new productions. So now I’ve seen 18 different plays (& 26 different productions). The entire list is detailed on my ‘Shakespeare’ page.

The cast of Imogen
Photo credit: Tristam Kenton

What helped massively this year was finally getting to the Globe for Emma Rice’s inaugural summer as artistic director (the Wonder Season); I just about saw every production in there this summer, and most of them rank amongst my favourite shows of the year. I’m incredibly excited about the forthcoming Summer of Love, and I have my debit card poised to book for each show (list). These tickets are made all the hotter with the shock announcement of the resignation of the visionary Emma Rice in October. So for next year at least I’ll be able to pursue my Shakespeare in London easily, but after that… Who knows? (Especially if my nightmare premonition of Kenneth Branagh taking the job comes true.) Though I do hope to finally make it up to Stratford-upon-Avon next year, and maybe make it an annual thing from then on, as well as frequenting the Rose Playhouse & the RSC’s Barbican residencies.

Margaret Ann Bain, Tibu Fortes, Lucy Thackaray and Alex Tregear in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Photo credit: Steve Tanner

Of all the unseen plays, the ones I’d most like to see are Troilus & Cressida, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Henry VIII. It’s a bit of a range, but they all seem to be pretty rarely performed and that intrigues me – plus I have outside interests in each, from a childhood love of Greek mythology, to enduring enthusiasm for Victorian paintings & the Tudor dynasty. I do also hope to see Othello at the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse as part of Wonder Noir, Julius Caesar and/or Anthony & Cleopatra at Stratford – and I have Antic Disposition’s Henry V already lined up at Southwark Cathedral (yes, it will be my third production of the play, but I’ve been meaning to go to that cathedral for years). And if any other theatre companies can put on some more Shakespeare in churches that would be most welcome!

“Give me your hands if we be friends, and Robin will restore amends.”


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