A feast of Shakespeare to mark anniversary

Scenes from Othello, with an all male company of actors PNL-161104-101126001

Scenes from Othello, with an all male company of actors PNL-161104-101126001

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Stratford upon Avon may be pulling out all the stops this year, but Oxford is also holding its very own Shakespeare commemorations and this month, the 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death, there is a feast of events.

Shakespeare Oxford 2016 celebrates his life, work and legacy through a festival of performances, talks, exhibitions, concerts, conferences, film showings, poetry and youth projects.

Oxford boasts some of the world’s most eminent Shakespeare scholars and much of what we know about our greatest playwright and the world he lived in is thanks to their work.

Opening today (Friday) at the Bodleian’s Weston Library is Shakespeare’s Dead, an exhibition taking a look at death in Shakespeare’s time and in his plays. Actors from Flintlock Theatre will be relaxing in character around the exhibition. The library is also hosting a series of talks by experts on the Bard. This month’s highlight is Shakespeare and Magic with Sir Jonathan Bate on Monday (April 25).

Shakespeare Oxford 2016 organisers challenged the city to put on every single one of the Bard’s plays and more than half will be shown. Michael Pennington takes the lead in King Lear at the Oxford Playhouse from Monday (April 25) through to Saturday 30. Tickets from £15, box office 01865 305305.

Over at the O2 Academy a hip hop version of Richard II may or may not have Shakespeare turning in his grave on Friday April 29.

One of Oxford’s other claims to Shakespeare fame is the Painted Room and the Dark Lady. A hidden mediaeval gem, tucked away above Cornmarket Street, the Painted Room was once part of a tavern, The Crown, run by John Davenant, a theatre lover and friend of Shakespeare. It’s likely Shakespeare stayed there, en route between Oxford and Stratford, and may have taken a shine to Davenant’s wife Jane, who some scholars believe may be the Dark Lady of Shakespeare’s sonnets. The Painted Room is rarely open to the public, but this weekend (April 23 and 24), special guided tours will allow visitors a glimpse of this special place, together with scenes from Othello (see picture).

Events for younger audiences include a workshop on how to draw Romeo and Juliet, manga style at The Story Museum on Saturday April 30.

For full details of all events mentioned go to www.shakespeareoxford2016.co.uk