Hello, all! We’re counting down the hours till Shakesday450, which is what I’m now calling Shakespeare’s 450th birthday. (MightyTinyBill finds my new terminology pedestrian, but he won’t complain about anything that boosts his profile even in the most infinitesimal way.) To tide my handful of readers over until the day arrives, here are some fun events happening in and around Stratford-upon-Avon that you can check out if you happen to be in the area, or are about to jump on a plane in the next two or three days…
Violent Fun for the Whole Family!
As part of the Birthday Celebrations on Saturday 26 April the RSC will offer a range of free activities for the whole family, including storytelling sessions, stage fighting workshops and the chance to discover how fake scars and bruises are created.
Yes, that’s right: if your grade-schoolers are interested in looking like they just got mugged, come on down! Or, if they’d rather, pop over to Hall’s Croft, where kids can get in the spirit of the Elizabethan age with an activity called Spots and Boils. Note that this isn’t some sort of cultural miscommunication, like a perfectly good dessert being named “spotted dick.” Nope, this actually involves having your children get painted with oozing plague sores.
Transform yourself into a plague victim with our face painters and learn all about the diseases that afflicted both rich and poor in Jacobean England.
Just look how much fun that kid is having! Being transformed! By a makeup artist dressed like the Angel of Death! Wake up the kids, Ma! We’re heading for the Old Country!
Hang Out with a Giant, Clothed Female Puppet, Because…Shakespeare!
If you’re not so sure about the sword-wielding and sackcloth, why not catch the People’s Pageant, which is also on April 26th? This year’s celebration will be led by a 20-foot-tall puppet of Lady Godiva (fully clothed–sorry, Shakespervs!). Why would a huge, clothed, marionette version of a famous, historical naked woman be the grand marshal for one of Shakespeare’s 450th birthday bashes, you ask? Why, because both Shakespeare and Godiva came from the English midlands, and because Lady Godiva was a woman…and, um…Shakespeare wrote about women.
I’m not kidding. Those are the reasons the organizers are giving for Puppet Lady Godiva’s appearance. See for yourself…
“There is a natural symbiosis between Godiva’s Odyssey and Shakespeare’s birthday celebrations – both were famous historic characters from the Midlands whose legends live on in our imaginations,” said Marion Morgan of Stratford Birthplace Trust and co-ordinator of the People’s Pageant.
“Godiva was a strong and principled character, the kind that Shakespeare wrote about, and the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s five properties – Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Nash’s House, Halls Croft, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage & Gardens and Mary Arden’s Farm – all have strong associations with the women in his life,” she added.
Yes, there’s always a reason to jump on the Shakespeare bandwagon. Got a giant puppet? Metal spikes on sticks? How about some fake blood and black pustules? Climb aboard! We’ll work you in somehow!
Strangers with Sonnets
But perhaps you’d prefer something more genteel. How about a Sonnet Walk? As of right now, you can travel up to London, where Shakespeare’s Globe will re-create for you the courtly art of sexual harassment, leading you around town and “accidentally” running into attention-starved actors spouting Shakespearean sonnets.
If you read that last sentence and thought “I like the idea of paying a professional to stalk me, but London seems too big to provide the suffocatingly creepy, surreal atmosphere I crave,” head over to the Sonnet Walk in Guildford, where, “armed with just a map and a good dollop of bonhomie,” you’ll find yourself “encountering Shakespearean actors in the least likely of places.”
The Guildford Shakespeare Company even includes a “warning” that proclaims, “Enjoyment of Sonnet Walks may be highly contagious, resulting in uncontrollable laughter and a desire to see more Shakespeare!”
Hah! How amusing! On second thought, we’ll be locking the door to our hotel room now. Please text us when the police have cleared the streets of you Shakesloonies…