Summing Up My Shakespeare Week

In mid-September, I went to Stratford-upon-Avon for a week’s worth of Shakespeare. I saw four plays, took a tour of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s theaters, interviewed two actors from the RSC, and interviewed the doyen of Shakespeare scholars, Stanley Wells.

It was an interesting week. Stratford-upon-Avon is a lovely little town, and I stayed at the Arden Hotel, which is right across the street from the RSC. The area around the RSC is delightful, with riverside gardens, and more swans and ducks than you can imagine. Here’s a picture from the RSC’s riverside cafĂ©:

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The RSC has two theaters: the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, which seats 1,040 people, and the Swan Theatre, which seats 460. The first play I saw, Titus Andronicus was in the Swan, and the other three were in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. While the latter theater is twice the size of the Swan, it doesn’t seem large, since both theaters have thrust stages, with the audience on three sides of the stage. No matter where you sit, you are very close to the action.

It was a tiring week, though. With four long plays – from 2:45 for Titus Andronicus to 3:35 for Hamlet (intermissions included) – these are long evenings of sustained attention. While I’m familiar with Shakespeare’s language, I still need to pay more attention than with, say, a movie or TV series, and four plays in four days proved taxing. But these were all excellent productions, and I’m especially looking forward to seeing Hamlet again.

Here are links to all the articles I have posted if you want to catch up with my Shakespeare week events:

  • On Monday, I saw Titus Andronicus for the second time. (I had seen it already in June.) Here’s my review.
  • On Tuesday, I saw another play for the second time: As You Like It. Read my review.
  • Wednesday was Hamlet day. Read my review of this excellent production. I’m looking forward to seeing it again in a month in Newcastle.
  • On Thursday morning, I met with Stanley Wells, the renowned Shakespeare scholar and editor. Read my interview with Professor Wells.
  • On Thursday evening, I saw All’s Well that Ends Well. Here’s my review.
  • Finally, on Friday morning, I met with Pippa Nixon and Alex Waldmann, of the RSC. We discussed what it’s like working within the RSC, and how actors negotiate playing different roles. Read my interview.

My next visit to Stratford will be early November to see the RSC’s production of Richard II, starring David Tenant. I’ll be seeing Hamlet before that in Newcastle, which is about two hours north of York, where I live.

If you’re interested in following my writings about Shakespeare – and there will be more – you can do so from this link.

Following this visit, my partner and I decided that we will move to Stratford-upon-Avon. Not only is there a lot of Shakespeare there, but it’s an attractive town. So, if you are in or near Stratford, and know of a house for rent (3+ bedrooms, near the centre of town), please get in touch.

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