With just over one year to go, Shakespeare’s England is gearing up for 23 April 2016 when the region celebrates 400 years of William Shakespeare’s legacy. Next year commemorates 400 years since the death of the world famous playwright and this special anniversary year is a unique opportunity to visit his home of Stratford-upon-Avon. Shakespeare’s England will celebrate his legacy with a range of exciting new exhibitions and events including a new immersive theatrical experience at the Royal Shakespeare Company; a reimagining of Shakespeare’s final home, New Place, and Shakespeare’s Schoolroom at King Edward VI School will open for the first time to the general public.
The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust is transforming New Place, the site of Shakespeare’s home for the last 19 years of his life, to create a new heritage landmark where visitors can discover Shakespeare at the height of his success. The project will be the single most significant Shakespearian project anywhere in the world to commemorate his legacy. Shakespeare wrote 26 of his best-loved plays as owner of New Place. His former home has attracted literary fans since the 17th century, long before his Birthplace was rescued for the benefit of the nation. Unfortunately, New Place was demolished in 1759 by its then owner, Reverend Francis Gastrell, who was annoyed by visiting Shakespeare enthusiasts. The re-imagined New Place is scheduled to open on 23 April.
The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) will open a major new exhibition immersing visitors in its history and how it makes its world-famous productions. There will also be tours around its extensive costume store, and a programme of plays by Shakespeare and other writers, including King Lear with Antony Sher in the title role. Work has started on a major project which will see the restoration of the Grade II listed Swan Wing. The 1879 wing forms the entrance of the current Swan Theatre and was built as part of the original Shakespeare Memorial Theatre. Work has also begun to reinstate the RSC iconic studio theatre, The Other Place. Originally built in 1973, The Other Place was home to the RSC’s developmental and new work. The theatre closed in 2006 but will re-open next year and feature a 200-seat flexible studio theatre, two new rehearsal rooms and a new home for the Costume Store.
King Edward VI School in Stratford-upon-Avon aims to open Shakespeare’s Schoolroom & Guildhall to the public on 23 April. The 15th century building, last renovated in the 1890s, will undergo improvements to its roof, lighting and heating, before a light touch interpretive design allows the Trustees of the School to open the building to the public. The Guildhall was built in 1418-20 and is famous as the place where William Shakespeare was educated and where he first witnessed professional theatre. It served as the centre of civic life and governance in Stratford for over 400 years and was the building in which Shakespeare’s father, John, served as the town’s bailiff. Shakespeare’s Schoolroom, on the upper floor, is still used to teach students at the school today. An immersive, atmospheric experience will plunge visitors into life in Stratford-upon-Avon in the 16th Century.