Shakespeare Oxford 2016
"Shakespeare Oxford 2016 organisers are challenging the city to put on every single one of the Bard’s plays."
Stratford-on-Avon may be pulling out the stops this year, but Oxford is also holding its very own Shakespeare celebrations and in April, the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death, a feast of events is set to complement those of its Warwickshire neighbour.
Oxford boasts some of the world’s most eminent Shakespeare scholars. Much of what we know about our greatest playwright, and the world he lived in, is thanks to their work, while the University’s libraries and museums have a treasure trove of artefacts and manuscripts.
Shakespeare wanted – dead or alive
Rare treats have been planned this year. In April an exciting new exhibition, Shakespeare’s Dead, opens at the Bodleian’s Weston Library (22nd April), taking a fun and macabre look at death in Shakespeare’s time and in his plays. Living Shakespeare exhibits may also be found amongst the displays, where actors from Flintlock Theatre will be relaxing in character. See what happens if you present them with a red heart which matches their own.
The Weston Library will also be hosting a series of talks by leading experts on all things Shakespeare, the April highlight of which is Shakespeare and Magic, with Sir Jonathan Bate, speaking on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s funeral (25th April).
Lounge about with Literary Shakespeare
Shakespeare makes a high profile appearance at this year’s FT Weekend Oxford Literary Festival. The Blackwell’s Festival Marquee is the place to soak up the atmosphere, where the Shakespeare Lounge (sponsored by Oxford University Press) looks out over Oxford’s own Bridge of Sighs. Booklovers can relax with a coffee, browse a wide range of books and enjoy a variety of Shakespeare-related activities, including The Great Shakespeare Quiz (4th April) and Ask the Experts (8th April).
The play’s the thing
Shakespeare Oxford 2016 organisers are challenging the city to put on every single one of the Bard’s plays.
Shakespeare gets shaken, stirred – and even psycho-analysed – in some high profile productions, together with some downright irreverent interpretations of the Bard’s work.
So far, 22 out of the 37 plays have been adopted and in April, drama lovers can see King Lear at Oxford Playhouse, with renowned actor Michael Pennington in the lead.
Lear also makes an appearance (together with Titus Andronicus) in a musical performance of Elizabethan broadside ballads at Oxford Castle (27th April).
One of Oxford’s other claims to Shakespeare fame is the Painted Room and the Dark Lady. A hidden mediaeval gem, tucked away above Cornmarket Street, the Painted Room was once part of a tavern, The Crown, run by John Davenant, a theatre lover and friend of Shakespeare. It’s likely that Shakespeare stayed there, en route between Oxford and Stratford, and may have taken a shine to Davenant’s wife Jane, who some scholars believe may be the Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets. The Painted Room is rarely open to the public, but on 23rd & 24th April special guided tours will allow visitors a glimpse of this very special place, together with scenes from Othello performed in period costume by an all-male company of actors.
The food of love: musick old and new
Music lovers are in for a treat: Oxford echoes to the sound of sackbuts in April as singers and players recreate the music of the sixteenth century in the city’s ancient and iconic spaces. City Musick celebrates the world of Shakespeare’s London with original instruments, including songs and dance that the groundlings would have appreciated (23rd April). At the North Wall Theatre, Shakespeare at the Opera features show stoppers from a talented quartet (15th April).
Music from the plays is brought to life – and up to date – in Food of Love at SJE Arts, an exciting and enthusiastically non-traditional concert by a wide variety of musicians, including Brickwork Lizards, Flights of Helios and Kirsty Law (22nd April). This is an unmissable sneak preview before the launch of a new album and nationwide tour.
Poets’ and book corners
Poetry lovers can perform or listen to some of their favourite sonnets in a specially-created sound booth, courtesy of Creation Theatre, which first appears in the Weston Library and then tours to public libraries around the city (22nd April-7th May). Every month to the end of 2016, Blackwell’s will feature a Shakespeare Book of the Month, from new novels inspired by the most influential writer in history, to academic titles about his life and craft.
Events for younger audiences include a workshop on how to draw Romeo and Juliet, manga style at The Story Museum (30th April), while local cinema, the Ultimate Picture Palace is showing popular films inspired by Shakespeare’s plays. April’s programme features West Side Story (17th & 18th April) and Ten Things I Hate About You (24th & 25th April).
For more information on these and all events featured in April, visit www.shakespeareoxford2016.co.uk
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