Shakespeare 400 celebrates both his birthday and anniversary of his death.
This weekend’s annual Shakespeare birthday celebrations taking place in his birth town of Stratford-upon-Avon will feature, as its centrepiece, a one-night performance presented before an invited audience at the RSC’s Royal Shakespeare Theatre. The event is part of the Shakespeare 400 events commemorating the 400th anniversary of his death.
As previously reported, an audience that includes RSC President HRH The Prince of Wales and his wife the Duchess of Cornwall, will watch a gala featuring appearances by Dames Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Harriet Walter, Sirs Ian McKellen and Antony Sher, Benedict Cumberbatch, John Lithgow and many more. There will also be musical numbers from West Side Story, set to choreography by Will Tuckett, and Kiss Me Kate (Henry Goodman and Rufus Hound performing “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”), plus Rufus Wainwright singing Sonnet 29. The performance will be broadcast on BBC Two that evening and screened live to 368 cinemas in the U.K. and Europe by Picturehouse Entertainment.
Stratfords of the World also joing foreces to celebrate the annsiversary. A cross-promotional partnership established in the 1980s as a joint venture between Stratford in Connecticut, U.S. and Stratford in Ontario, Canada, the venture expanded to include the original British market town of that name, as well as Stratfords in New Zealand, Australia and others in Canada. They will send some 140 delegates to the Stratford-upon-Avon party.
Meanwhile in London, Shakespeare’s Globe will screen specially created short films of every single one of Shakespeare’s plays for free along the banks of the Thames, between Tower Bridge and Westminster Bridge. The project, titled The Complete Walk, includes footage shot in the real locations of the plays—from Athens to the Ardennes and the Tower of London to Kronborg Castle in Elsinore, Denmark. Each of the 37 screens will show one film on a loop between 10 AM and 10 PM on Saturday, April 23, and 10 AM and 8 PM on Sunday, April 24. The Globe intends to export the project to other cities around the world, including Madrid, Barcelona, Malaga, Navarre, Gdansk, Neuss, Carnuntum, Sibiu, Santa Barbara, Taipei and Liverpool. All of the films will ultimately be hosted on Globe Player, the Globe’s dedicated video-on-demand website.
The film casts include Simon Russell Beale, Dominic West, Ruth Wilson, James Norton, Peter Capaldi, Jonathan Pryce, Lindsay Duncan, Jamie Parker, Ben Miles, Eve Best, Alex Jennings, Clare Higgins, Paul Chahidi and John Light.
Also at the Globe over the birthday weekend: The Globe’s two-year Hamlet world tour returns home, having visited almost every country in the world and played 293 performances at 202 venues in 197 countries. The project ends with four final performances on the weekend of April 23-24. Artistic director Dominic Dromgoole, who directed the production and steps down from the post at the Globe after the final performance, comments, "It is a great delight to welcome home the Globe to Globe Hamlet company after their exhausting, exhilarating, life-changing journey around the world. Two years ago we set out on this tour on a hope and a prayer, and we have been endlessly amazed by the goodwill and generosity and joy we have encountered in all four corners of the earth. It has been an extraordinary education to play Hamlet like this, in a kaleidoscopic variety of places and permutations and to a vast range of different audiences."
A London actor completes a marathon run.
This weekend also sees the annual London marathon through the streets of the capital on Sunday morning April 24 — and it's going to be a double marathon for one London actor. Matthew Quinn, currently appearing in a revival of the Off-Broadway revue Forever Plaid at the St. James Studio, will go direct from the finishing line to do two shows that day!
Another West End name running will be Emma Williams—the Oliver-nominated star of Mrs. Henderson Presents—who told The Stage, "It’s going to be one heck of a challenge, and training while rehearsing and opening Mrs. Henderson, plus the Oliviers has been a lot of, shall we say, fun? Through my training I now have several hundred additional miles in my running shoes, more kit than my wardrobe can hold, more than £2,000 in sponsorship and a proclivity for ice baths.” She is not, as I understand, wearing her own (lack of) costume for the run as she does onstage.
The Flick and Funny Girl receive raves.
This week saw the London premiere of Annie Baker’s The Flick at the National’s Dorfman Theatre (where it opened officially April 19) and the transfer of the Menier Chocolate Factory’s production of Funny Girl to the the Savoy (where it officially opened April 20), with Sheridan Smith reprising her performance as Fanny Brice.
The Flick earned a run of five-star notices, including from The Guardian, The Stage and Whatsonstage. In The Guardian, Michael Billington dubbed it an “astonishing play” and concluded, “This is like no other play in London. It moves at its own unhurried pace and magically exposes the souls of lonely people in danger of being left behind in our new, digitised age.” But not everyone was entirely won over: In The Times, Ann Treneman confessed, “I seriously considered walking out at the interval. Oh, it was tempting. Ah, I thought, finally we know where all those famous pauses in Pinter’s plays go when they aren’t being used. They congregate here, to hang out with the star U.S. playwright Annie Baker, where they multiply in their pretentiousness.”
Funny Girl won Sheridan Smith a whole new set of rave reviews to join the ones she got when she originated the role of Fanny Brice in Michael Mayer’s new production last December. In The Times, Dominic Maxwell declared, ”You simply don’t see star quality like this too often. Not in the West End, not on Broadway, not anywhere. … Smith is hilarious, Smith is glorious, Smith is touching. So: Streisand, Schmeisand.”
In the news….
This week Playbill.com announced that the ongoing Broadway hit, An American in Paris, is heading back to Europe; it originated in Paris before moving to Broadway, and will now make its West End bow at the Dominion Theatre in March 2017, with Robert Fairchild and Leanne Cope reprising their Broadway roles.
Also heading to the West End, at last, after originally premiering at the National in 2012: Jeremy Herrin’s production of James Graham’s This House. The show will open at the Garrick Theatre in November, after being revived first as part two of this summer's season at Chichester. Graham is currently represented on Broadway by Finding Neverland for which he wrote the book and will, this summer, be represented by the transfer of the Donmar Warehouse production of Privacy to the Public. In This House, he goes behind the scenes of the 1974 British “hung” parliament, where neither of the parties had a clear majority to rule and had to broker deals with each other to make government work.
Finally, Anne Archer is to star in a London bow for The Trials of Jane Fonda, beginning a run at North London's Park Theatre from July 13. She previously did the show at the Edinburgh Festival in 2014.
For further news…
Stay tuned to Playbill.com—and follow me on Twitter here, @shentonstage, for rolling news updates as they happen.