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Will’s home town is great theatre

Costa Rica

The Bard is bigger than ever, and Stratford upon Avon can’t stop celebrating. Particularly in 2011, with the opening of a new stage. Now there’s even a Shakespeare walk linking Stratford and London. With our world famous playwright’ s 449th birthday approaching, I took a trip to Will’s home town where they keep finding new ways to entertain us. Photo: (c) RSC

All the world in a small town

Shakespeare is universal. His language is all about us, and we can all have a
walk-on part in his home town, alongside the stars flocking here to perform his
roles. You may spot Simon Callow queuing in a coffee shop, Judi Dench
wandering around the shops, Timothy West off on an errand. The curtain has fallen at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, which opened in 1933, while a
state-of-the-art theatre has replaced it, behind the famous brick façade.

Steam into Stratford.

What a fine way to start a day trip to Stratford, with breakfast in a restored
Pullman car on the ‘Shakespeare Express’ steam train, running down from
Birmingham Snow Hill station through the Warwickshire countryside.
They only run these trains, hauled by resplendent Great Western locomotives,
on Sundays in July and August, so it’s well worth planning ahead. The two
round trips a day give you the option of a full day in Stratford (10.25 from
Birmingham, and back at 4.56) or a shorter trip there and back. On the midday
train they serve full Sunday roast, with full silver service. And that most
English of culinary fixtures, high tea on the afternoon train back.

Low carbon Will

Park your car and forget about it. (Better still, come by train – a good
service runs from London Marylebone, and Birmingham, with connections from
all parts.) Then take the City Sightseeing Bus Tour: about an hour to link up all
the main sites.
It’s an ideal way to reach, for example Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, otherwise
quite a trudge. It’s a hop-on- hop -off service, so it’s up to you if you visit.
Recently they turned the farm next to Mary Arden’s house into a working
Elizabethan farm, with guides dressed for the part preparing food as Will would
have known it. They also do demonstrations of glove-making. (Will’s
dad’s trade) at Shakespeare’s Birthplace. If you don’t want to leave a carbon
footprint take the daily Shakespeare Walk. The RSC use actors for their weekly ‘The Walk’, Saturdays only.

The virtual reality's the thing

And I confess I had my doubts that something called Shakespearience. You get that by seeing a play, surely? But new
technology is there to be used, and this one hour virtual reality introduction is
really quite good. After a short documentary on of Shakespeare’s early life in
Stratford, they move you into a timbered playhouse where holograms of real
actors play out some of Shakespeare’s best bits, from Romeo and Juliet, to
The Tempest, on a real stage, with the great man himself as an approving
ghostly presence. The only effects are convincing gusts of wind, flashes of
lightning and claps of thunder. For an easy introduction to the sheer genius of
this man, I can’t think of a better way.

Fine board for the Bard

From the day Shakespeare was born, Stratford was never going to be a normal
town again. In how many places of 20,000 people would you find so many
good restaurants concentrated together.
The idea is that teams of experienced waiters, trained like Henry V’s
greyhounds in the slips, get you served, deliver your bill and have you out of
the door with only a gentle five-minute walk to the doors of the theatre well
before curtain up. Some of the best are in Sheep Street or Chapel Street. I
can recommend Edward Moon in Chapel Street (the name comes a chef in the
British colonial service in the 1900s noted for his traditional English recipes). I
had something wholesome and traditional with pork and parsley sauce that
Falstaff would have approved. 01789 267069

Shakespeare to go

As Shakespeare was so much a man of the countryside, how fitting to end a
visit than by sampling the start of his first exit to London, around 1585. The
Shakespeare’s Way Association has waymarked a route down past Oxford and
Blenheim Palace, to the Thames and all the way to the Globe Theatre. It’s as
good a guess as any at the route he took away from his family to spend most
of his productive years in the capital. No need to do all 140 miles. Follow the
little yellow arrows bearing the bard’s smiling face for a stroll along the first
few miles, up the tranquil valley of the river Stour to the village of Halford. As
you go, imagine him setting off with lunch on a stick over his shoulder, a
rhyme on his lips, and the world at his feet. Shakespeare’s Way guide from following web site.

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