The quintessential English town of Stratford-upon-Avon, set in the beauty of the Warwickshire countryside, is a destination for tourists who flock from far and wide to walk down cobbled streets towards the River Avon and soak up the atmosphere made rarer by the birth, 450 years ago of the great playwright, William Shakespeare.
By accident of birth, or as William Shakespeare himself would say “some vicious mole of nature …wherein they are not guilty, Since nature cannot choose his origin” the small town of Stratford-Upon-Avon was ever destined to side-step obscurity and be thrust upon the tourist trail thanks to a glover’s son, born in Henley Street, Stratford-upon-Avon in 1564. Shakespeare managed to avoid the plague, enjoy a free education at King Edward IV Grammar School and take on board such education and knowledge, that he was to entertain the whole world with his stories for the next 450 years and more!
Royal Shakespeare Theatre
As befitting a great writer, the Royal Shakespeare Theatre has become a theatre of world renown. Transformed in the last two years the theatre has been rebuilt brick by brick, with the use of the original stone, inside a new building fit for the next 450 years.
The resident company, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s offers performances on the main stage and in the adjoining Swan theatre. Visitors can also enjoy a fascinating backstage tour including an exciting ride to the top of the tower with majestic views over the Warwickshire – just beautiful and highly recommended if it’s a clear day.
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2013 Season
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s 2013 Season is, as always, jammed packed with a mixture of the old and new. It opens in January with The Winter’s Tale, followed by Hamlet, As You Like It and All’s Well That Ends Well.
In the smaller, but none-the-less impressive, The Swan Theatre, productions include the world premiere of new play The Empress, written by Tanika Gupta a story of Queen Victoria‘s growing attachment to one of her Indian manservants. Afterwards Shakespeare moves in with the dramatic Titus Andronicus, followed by a Jacobean comedy A Mad World My Masters and then another new play Candide is produced penned by RSC Playwright in Residence, Mark Ravenhill and written as a response to Voltaire’s famous novel.
What else is there in Stratford-upon-Avon?
As well as the magnificent theatres, visitors to the town can visit some fascinating buildings that featured directly in the life of Shakespeare. As well as visiting Shakespeare’s birth place on Henley Street and resting place at the Holy Trinity Church – within easy walk of each other in the town centre – there’s also the remarkably well-preserved Anne Hathaway’s cottage (Shakespeare wife’s childhood home) on Shottery Road which is about a mile away. This can be reached easily by car (parking is available), its then a short drive to Mary Arden’s (Shakespeare’s mother) childhood farm in the village of Wilmcote. However, the walk from the town is a pleasant one and Mary Arden’s Farm is approximately three miles from the centre. For those who are without a car and want a quicker mode of transport, Wilmcote railway station is situated directly opposite the Farm.
Stratford-Upon-Avon is a beautiful historic town and the perfect destination for a short break or theatre break. A wide range of excellent accommodation is available to suit all budgets from the 4 star style and sophistication of The Stratford Hotel and the cosy Tudor architecture of the Legacy Falcon to the 3 star comfort of the Best Western Grosvenor, a long list of B&Bs and the YHA Youth Hostel.
Simon Harding runs www.stratfordbreaks.com, one of a suite of sites that promote theatre breaks around the United Kingdon. He also recently wrote London Theatre and Theatre Breaks, a downloadable guide to getting the best out of London’s Theatreland.