Shakespeare in London: Where to Get Your Fix of the Bard
While we hesitate to say Shakespeare is having a resurgence—since, frankly, there’s never really been a lull in interest in his works—it is worth noting that the Bard is having an especially good year in London.
The current production of Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre (through October 31), starring the handsome and heavily cheek-boned Benedict Cumberbatch, has become the fastest-selling play in British history. All of London and beyond is ravenous for tickets to the famous production. Martin Freeman, Cumberbatch’s co-star in the TV series Sherlock, has said in the press that Cumberbatch “made Shakespeare accessible.”
The coming months are a particularly important time for the famed author, as 2016 marks 400 years since Shakespeare’s death, and the city is celebrating with aplomb. Hot on the heels of Hamlet, actress Romola Garai, perhaps best known for her role in Atonement, will be taking on the part of Isabella in Measure for Measure at the Young Vic, starting October 1 and running through November 14.
Back at the Barbican, the Royal Shakespeare Company is completing a residency at the east London theatre, which culminates in January with the much-anticipated “King and Country: Shakespeare’s Great Cycle of Kings.” Mad and egotistical monarchs make up much of the author’s oeuvre, and this series of theatrical performances will see Richard II, Henry IV (parts one and two) and Henry V staged in a single season.
Starting next year, the London Shakespeare Centre and Culture at King’s College are putting on Shakespeare400, a series of programs, performances, and other cultural activities celebrating the anniversary in London and elsewhere in the country. While in town, you can always visit The Globe, the writer’s historical theater. The popular Shakespeare in the City Walk takes visitors to his lesser-known haunts on the north bank of the Thames, with connections to his friends and family.
Of course, one of the best ways to honor the great Englishman is to make a pilgrimage to his birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon. The charming waterfront hamlet offers tours of the author’s childhood home, and in town, you can see a Royal Shakespeare Company production at the flagship theatre. With the river Avon lapping at the theatre walls, there’s no better setting for a soliloquy.
Bridget Arsenault is the associate editor, print and digital at Vanity Fair UK. and the co-director of the Bright Young Things Film Club. She covers the U.K. beat for Travel + Leisure; follow her on Twitter at @bridget_ruth.