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9 ways to celebrate Shakespeare’s 455th birthday

Andrzej Lukowski

William Shakespeare turns a very respectable 455 years today. That marks the start of the London Shakespeare season, as the Globe opens its outdoor theatre for the year. Here's what’s going on with the Bard in 2019.

One big birthday bash

Britain’s greatest actor Mark Rylance may not believe Shakespeare existed (it’s a long story, look it up), but the former Globe boss is, nonetheless, a huge fan. In 2019, he and director Claire van Kampen bring back ‘Shakespeare Within the Abbey’, in which 22 actors disperse throughout Westminster Abbey and perform bits of Shakespeare’s plays, poems and songs for wandering audiences to discover.

Westminster Abbey. Thu Apr 25-Sat Apr 27. £38.


Two Hamlets (one drunk)

There’s not been a big-name ‘Hamlet’ since Andrew Scott in 2017, which gives the little guys room to take a stab at the Greatest Play Ever Written for once. This year, the serial jokers at Sh!t-faced Shakespeare will be tackling it with a different cast member pissed per night over a Leicester Square Theatre, while on a literally more sober note, Iris Theatre will do an outdoor promenade take in the grounds of the Actors’ Church in Covent Garden.

Leicester Square TheatreJun 19-Sep 14. From £16.25.

St Paul’s (The Actors’ Church). Jun 19-Jul 27. From £15.


Three Henrys

The main event in Michelle Terry’s second season in charge of the Globe is a single rep company tackling Shakespeare’s ‘Henry IV Part 1’, ‘Henry IV Part 2’ and ‘Henry V’. Expect familiar stories told by a diverse company, with Terry herself taking on the role of Hotspur in ‘Henry IV Part 1’.

Shakespeare’s Globe. Tue Apr 23-Oct 11. £5-£47.


Four versions of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

Why are there four major productions of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ happening in London this summer? Dunno. Maybe something to do with Brexit and people wanting a lighter offering? In any case, fans of Shakespeare’s magical comedy can go absolutely nuts in 2019, with the Bridge, the Globe and the Open Air Theatre all tackling it, plus a production touring London’s leafiest outdoor squares.

Bridge Theatre. Jun 3-Aug 31. £15-£69.50.

Shakespeare in the Squares. Jun 19-Oct 11. Prices and locations vary.

Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre. Jun 28-Jul 27. £12.50-£55.

Shakespeare’s Globe. Jun 28-Oct 13. £5-£47.


And finally: ‘& Juliet’

What would a list of Shakespeare plays be without including an unofficial musical sequel to ‘Romeo & Juliet’ in which our heroine heads off on an empowering road trip to Paris in lieu of topping herself? Okay, okay, there is a reasonable chance that ‘& Juliet’, a vehicle for the prodigious hits of pop powerhouse Max Martin, will not have that much to do with the work of William Shakespeare. However, the fact that ‘& Juliet’ is an even remotely viable premise for a musical is confirmation that, four-and-half-centuries on, the man from Stratford looms as large over our culture as ever. Also, it looks hella fun. 

Shaftesbury Theatre. Nov 2-Mar 28 2020. £22.50-£110.

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