This week we are celebrating the 450th anniversary of the world’s greatest ever playwright and after almost half a millennium the appetite for William Shakespeare’s passionate, hilarious, violent, historical and awe-inspiring works shows absolutely no sign of abating.
Here we take a forward glance at our top five Shakespeare productions coming up in London in the coming months, discovering that, from religiously faithful retellings to innovative site-specific adaptations, you can’t pigeonhole Shakespeare.
Shakespeare’s Globe’s 2014 season
Arguably the most famous place in London to watch the Bard’s work, Shakespeare’s Globe’s summer season opens this week and come rain or shine audiences will gather in their many layers to witness the magic of the outdoor amphitheatre.
From Clive Wood and Eve Best taking on passionate lovers Antony and Cleopatra to one of theatre’s fastest rising stars Blanche McIntrye making her Globe debut directing Shakespeare’s much-loved farce The Comedy Of Errors, 2014 looks set to be one of its strongest seasons yet. Proceedings kick off in bloody style with the revival of Lucy Bailey’s 2006 hit Titus Andronicus. Expect a healthy serving of gore and to leave exhilarated.
Martin Freeman stars as Richard III
We’d advise booking fast for Martin Freeman’s return to the stage in which he’ll take on the leading role of the Machiavellian king, under the direction of the stage-conquering Jamie Lloyd. Playing as part of the director’s second Trafalgar Transformed season from 1 July, little is currently known about this production. But as the season’s name suggests, Lloyd’s previous Shakespeare turn with the James McAvoy-led Macbeth saw the action transported to a dark, post-apocalyptic world, so expect a similarly inventive spin. The only hint we have so far is an acid-bright website, designed with a 90s rave vibe…
Lloyd himself has described the forthcoming production as “provocative” and said he hoped The Hobbit and Office star would “bring something unexpected and unique to this iconic role”. Visit www.trafalgartransformed.com to register your details to be the first to find out when tickets go on sale.
Sleepover with Macbeth
If sitting in an auditorium feels too conventional for you and you prefer a full breakfast to an interval ice cream, RIFT’s immersive tower block-set Macbeth is for you. The theatre company is inviting brave audiences to spend a whole 12 hours with the murderous title couple, joining the witches in an underground car park and experiencing a dinner party Macbeth-style. The really adventurous part of it is the fact that it takes place over night and you’ll be required to bed down in the knowledge any number of ghostly apparitions could awaken you from your slumber…
Running on Friday and Saturday nights from 20 June in a secret location – all they have said is it’ll take place in East London in a “brutalist architectural masterpiece” – audiences can choose from three packages from the most basic of digs to the deluxe option complete with “the softest bed in all of Borduria”. Visit the RIFT website for full details.
Royal Shakespeare Company continues Barbican residency
Following the David Tennant-led Richard II, the Royal Shakespeare Company will continue its relationship with the Barbican Theatre as part of a three year collaboration ensuring the capital is kept in healthy supply of the RSC’s acclaimed work.
Next up is the Gregory Doran-directed Henry IV Parts I & II, Shakespeare’s historical double bill about a fading king’s struggle to accept his extravagant son worthy as his successor. While London will have to wait until December for the plays to arrive, the prospect of seeing arguably one of the greatest living Shakespearean actors, Sir Antony Sher, in the role of the rogue knight Falstaff, will surely make it worth the wait.
Benedict Cumberbatch tackles Hamlet
While we’ve got an even longer wait to see Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch take the crown, no upcoming Shakespeare productions list would be complete without a mention for this hugely anticipated show coming to the Barbican in 2015.
One of the UK’s most popular actors, Cumberbatch will follow numerous critically acclaimed performances in productions including the National Theatre’s Frankenstein and After The Dance to play the much coveted role of the Danish prince. As an added bonus, Hamlet will be directed by recent Olivier Award winner and one of the industry’s fastest rising stars Lyndsey Turner.
With hit written all over it, Hamlet will be produced by The Book Of Mormon’s Sonia Friedman who described Cumberbatch as “one of the most gifted and exciting actors of his generation”. Who’d argue with that?
P.S. We couldn’t resist it…
Shakespeare In Love! Okay, it’s not strictly historically accurate and yes, it may not have been written by Will S himself, but we are uncontainably excited about this film to stage adaptation. Telling the story of an imagined romance between Shakespeare and a noblewoman who cures his writer’s block, the romantic comedy will play at the Noël Coward Theatre from 2 July. No star casting for this production – as Shakespeare said, “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves” – but the leading pair will be played by veteran stage actors Tom Bateman and Lucy Briggs-Owen, and has been adapted by Billy Elliott’s Lee Hall. We can’t but feel that the stars have aligned for this one…