Much Ado About Shakespeare

London theatre and the Bard’s birthday bash

by Margaret Barca

British-born Hollywood star Jude Law has had some impressive reviews for his role as king in Shakespeare’s Henry V, playing at the Noel Coward Theatre in London’s West End until 15 February. Dr Who’s David Tennant has been playing to sold-out houses as
Richard 11 at The Barbican. They’re just two of the big-ticket shows on in London’s 200 or so theatres.

In fact, once you’ve have booked your London apartment, start planning your theatre tickets because a trip to London seems hardly a trip to London unless you see a show. That could be a West End musical, the Royal Ballet, a pantomime or even fringe theatre, but in 2014, you should consider including something by, or about, Shakespeare because it’s a big year for the Bard.

26 April 2014 marks the 450th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth. The Royal Shakespeare Company, based at Stratford-upon-Avon, will start on the complete cycle of Shakespeare’s plays, which will take over six years, many touring to London and beyond. Shakespeare Week in April will be a feast of plays, events and birthday celebrations (

In London, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is a fascinating reproduction of the 1599 timber theatre built by Shakespeare’s playing company, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, which was destroyed by fire in 1613. The modern Globe stands only a few hundred metres from the original site, on the banks of the Thames.

The theatre is definitely atmospheric. The wooden benches are covered but the theatre is open to the elements and your view is likely to be obscured at some stage by one of the supporting pillars. If you’d like to be even more Elizabethan there are Yard Tickets (that’s standing room only – but they are only £5). If it rains, the show must go on (and you are not allowed pop up a brolly!).

There are no performances from October to April but during that time you can tour the theatre, visit an exhibition space, or see a production in the Globe’s just completed, handmade oak Jacobean (and indoor) Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. The theatre, lit by hundreds of candles during performances, will open in January 2014 with The Duchess of Malfi (originally performed by Shakespeare’s players). Eight Shakespeare plays are scheduled at the Globe itself this year, including Hamlet, Antony and Cleopatra, All’s Well that Ends Well and Titus Andronicus.

Elsewhere, King Lear will be at the National Theatre from mid January to 25 March. In May and June the Royal Ballet will be performing The Dream, based on A Midsummer Night’s Dream, at the Royal Opera House. Shakespeare in Love will be at the Noel Coward Theatre in July. At the Victoria & Albert (V&A) there’s a special installation, Shakespeare: Our Greatest Living Playwright, to mark the anniversary (


21 New Globe Walk, Bankside, London SE1 just near the Tate Modern)


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For these and general theatre tickets, check out and . Time Out has lively reviews and handy information on ticket deals (standby, last minute etc) as well as offering discount tickets


If you’re in London and hoping to get late or last minute tickets, try the excellent non-profit TKTS, Clocktower Building, beside the park in Leicester Square to buy half-price tickets (in person only) on the day of the performance (opera, dance, West End musicals and more) though they also have advance tickets for many shows.

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Southbank , London, United Kingdom