York Shakespeare Project commemorates the 600th anniversary of Agincourt with an all-female production of Henry V

[Images by John Saunders]

York Shakespeare Project remembers both the Hundred Years War and the First World War by having the ‘Barnbow Lasses’ present Shakespeare’s Henry V.

The production is set in a munitions factory where the women’s enactment of Shakespeare’s most famous History play allows them to explore the meaning of war.

Featuring Claire Morley as King Henry, the all-female company is modelled on the Elizabethan tradition of a single gender ensemble.

As the male actors in Shakespeare’s own company adopted all of the roles – female or male – so too do ‘The Barnbow Lasses’.

The huge Barnbow factory near Leeds employed women and girls from all over Yorkshire, including York.

A job at Barnbow meant economic independence but with it came danger.

An explosion in December 1916 destroyed one of the factory sheds, leaving 35 dead and many more severely injured.

As this production coincides with the 600th anniversary of Henry V’s victory at Agincourt (1415) and commemorations of the First World War War (1914-18), it is also an opportunity for York to remember its own rather forgotten ‘heroes’, the munitionettes.

“I want to produce an evocative and exciting piece of theatre,” says director Maggie Smales (pictured above), “which also recognises the sacrifices that women made.”

Established in 2001, York Shakespeare Project is committed to performing all of Shakespeare’s known plays over a period of 20 years.

Their most recent production, Timon of Athens, featured as part of the York International Shakespeare Festival, and they have also recently enjoyed sell-out shows of Othello and Twelfth Night at York Theatre Royal.

Their 28th production, Henry V is performed at Upstage Theatre, 41 Monkgate, York YO31 7PB.

It runs from Wednesday 21 October to Saturday 31 October 2015.

Go here to book tickets.

Looking for a highly original Shakespeare ornament? This one-of-a-kind painted Shakespeare Dragon is being auctioned for charity in Norwich

[Images by Mark Benfield]

On display until 30 September at The Forum, Norwich, The Maddermarket Theatre Dragon depicts scenes and characters from 34 of Shakespeare’s plays.

20150624-IMG_5807-CopyrightMark Ivan Benfield
The work of John Stokes, a veteran theatre designer in his seventies, the dragon has been created in aid of Break Charity as part of a huge art trail in Norwich.

John has been a resident Designer or Scenic Artist at numerous theatres across the land – including, of course, the Maddermarket Theatre, Norwich.

Me and my Dragon
The Maddermarket Theatre Dragon is currently located in the lower courtyard at the theatre

The Shakespeare Dragon will be auctioned on Thursday 1 October, and there are pre bids being taken on the website now.

Clipped Dragons-182
Go here for more information or to place a bid.

This Wild in Art initiative was brought to Norwich by Break Charity and all the money raised at the auction will be invaluable for this small Norfolk Charity in helping change young lives.

A Midsummer Night’s Fantasy – Shakespeare’s fascinating fairies are explored in a suitably magical woodland photo essay by Freia Titland

New York-based Shakespearean actress Frei Titland writes:
“This project, entitled ‘Shakespeare’s Magical World’, sets out to explore the magical and ‘unnatural’ elements found in Shakespeare’s work.
“I gathered a team of incredibly talented individuals to help me bring my ideas to life.
“Dondre Stuetley and Patrick Berwise Jr. helped to create these magical images.
“The first installation explores the faeries in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
“Faeries during Shakespeare’s time weren’t always the friendly ones we meet in Midsummer.
“Therefore, I wanted to create an element of mystery along with jovial celebration.
“Another character makes an appearance in these images – Mother Nature.
“I think Mother Nature aids in orchestrating the events of the World and the Wild.
“We are also working on a ‘super short film’ for Midsummer.
“I would love to share that with you when it’s complete.”

Colorado Shakes presents a “ragtag” but powerful production of Shakespeare’s war epic Henry V

[Images by Jennifer Koskinen]

First impressions are important, and the Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s recent production of Henry V made quite the first impression.

As the audience settled, the curtain was up, letting them examine stage design. A ghost light stood front and center on the stage, illuminating a set that was reminiscent of an antique store. Arranged haphazardly on wooden scaffolding were chandeliers, chairs, crates, as well as more eclectic items – a baby carriage, a piano, a mannequin, and more.


An odd choice for depicting battle scenes and royal courts. The transformation began with the invocation to a “muse of fire”. As the Chorus (Sam Gregory) spoke, actors emerged and snapped to action, putting on costumes and arranging the paraphernalia into the English court.

The lights stayed on for the entire production, allowing us to watch scene changes and the occasional costume change (including make-up application). While at times it distracted from the scene on stage – Bardolph applying his nose make-up caught my eye especially – the raw style complemented the lines of the Chorus, and paid homage to Shakespeare’s original staging conditions in a novel way.


Overall, it worked really well. The actors’ performance matched the set design in every way. Benjamin Bonenfant managed to reconcile the contradictory aspects of King Harry – his furious war tactics were as believable as his awkward love antics.

As a play, Henry V demands a huge range from the cast – bickering troops, hilarious portrayals of the French, an endearing yet awkward love scene, genuine moments of sadness, and gruesome depictions of war.


This production gave the same authenticity to them all. In her introduction to the play, director Carolyn Howarth says, “All we can do, my ragtag team and I, is tell his story.” And they did.

Colorado Shakespeare is an annual summer festival hosted on the University of Colorado Boulder campus.
Go here for more information.

Shakespeare Magazine reader Cindy M Cohen tells us why she decided to adorn her skin with a bespoke Hamlet and Sons of Anarchy-themed tattoo

“To thine own self be true.” 

These are the words Polonius says to his departing son Laertes in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

And sure, it’s very good advice, but as my old English Literature teacher pointed out back in my days as a “liceo linguistico” pupil in Italy, it reveals the man’s rather selfish attitude as well.


This duality of the quote touched me deeply the first time I heard it. So when I decided I wanted a tattoo revolving around Shakespeare – the author who made me fall in love with the English language and whose plays I’ll never tire of seeing produced and re-envisioned – it was my first choice.

(Hamlet, if not my favourite play, is definitely in my top three)

However, given the vast popularity of the quote and its use (and misuse) in our everyday lives, I knew I didn’t want a simple basic lettering tattoo but something bigger, perhaps with a more traditional style.

Photo by Luca Braidotti

Photo by Luca Braidotti


One of my favourite TV shows has been Sons of Anarchy – from its very start to its Shakespeare-worthy ending.

If you’re not familiar with the show, it is Hamlet re-set in a motorcycle club.

One of the tattoos we see on the women of said club is a crow. So what better idea than to base my own tattoo on that one, to link the show to our own “upstart crow”?

Cindy tattoo full

I brought the original design and my idea to Luca Braidotti at Cold Street Tattoos in Udine, Italy.

He took care of all the alterations, re-designing the crow and adding the parchment with the quote.

After about four hours, a little bit of blood, a tad of bearable pain, and a bright red and swollen inside part of my forearm, my long desired Shakespeare-themed tattoo was done.

My very own original permanent tribute to the Bard, a reminder to keep true to myself and what I believe in, and my little homage to one of my favourite TV shows.

Photo by Luca Braidotti

Photo by Luca Braidotti

Currently based in Udine, Italy, Cindy is a 23-year-old student of Arts, Music, and Entertainment.

Find her on Twitter @itsCindyC

Check out the trailer and clips from brilliant Shakespeare comedy film BILL, arriving in UK cinemas Friday 18 September

The funniest Shakespeare film of the year is upon us.

The UK comedy heroes who brought us Horrible Histories have tackled the mystery of Shakespeare’s “lost years”.

Matthew Baynton as Bill Shakespeare in BILL

Matthew Baynton as Bill Shakespeare in BILL


The result is BILL, a Shakespeare film that pulls off the neat trick of being brilliantly silly while packing in enough literary and historical references to satisfy the most ardent of Shakespeareans.

Quite possibly the most entertaining Bard film since Shakespeare in Love, it’s also a razor sharp parody of Tudor costume dramas like the Elizabeth films.

Helen McCrory as Queen Elizabeth I in BILL

Helen McCrory as Queen Elizabeth I in BILL


But don’t take our word for it. Check out the trailer and four clips below for a taste of BILL’s many mirthful moments.

We’ve also added cinema links at the end, so you can book your tickets right now!


“People will remember the name Shakespeare… twenty years from now!”


Richard Hawkins versus King Philip of Spain

“Do look me up if ever one of your Armadas pans out…”


Shakespeare gets in a spot of bother at the meat market

“No problem. Just a salad that needs… addressing”


Queen Elizabeth and the King of Spain

“I came straight here. No funny business”


Marlowe meets Walsingham

“What are you doing in a pie?”

BILL (94 minutes, Cert: PG) is released in the UK on Friday 18 September.

Go here to book tickets for BILL at Cineworld Cinemas.

Go here to book tickets for BILL at Odeon Cinemas.

Go here to book tickets for BILL at Vue Cinemas.

Go here to book tickets for BILL at Showcase Cinemas.

Shakespeare Magazine is promoting one of our favourite apps, the excellent and ever-so-useful Shakespeare300


New York Times bestselling author James Reese, after 15 years of publishing for adults and young adults (including 5 books published in 12 languages), offers students and theatregoers alike a unique take on all Shakespeare’s plays, presented in concise (300 word) introductions, synopses and infographics in his new app, Shakespeare300.


Shakespeare300 provides:

• Portable insight into Shakespeare’s plays.

• Original content, including introductions and synopses.

• Colourful charts, infographics and a wealth of extras: Shakespearean Neologisms, Insults and a detailed Timeline.


Although Shakespeare300 is designed to be concise (the “300” in its title refers to the 300-word limit set on each section of text), it doesn’t skimp on rich content.

Building on advanced degrees in Linguistics and Dramatic Literature, Reese brings fresh, no-nonsense insight to the saturated world of Shakespearean reference materials.

The result is an entertaining, fast and fun reference app… both scholarly and a bit cheeky.


Shakespeare300 is perfect for:

Anyone desiring a better understanding of Shakespeare’s remarkable (yet sometimes intimidating) canon.

Students seeking a fun and thorough study guide-on-the-go.

Theatregoers looking to brush up on their Shakespeare by quickly reviewing the Bard’s complex plots and characters prior to any production.


If you’re heading back to school, college or university – or if you’re planning to see Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet and want to brush up on the play beforehand – the Shakespeare300 app is currently on sale at a special low price!

Go here to get Shakespeare300 now.

Exhibition at Dr Johnson’s House in London celebrates Shakespeare and charts the 18th-century origins of Shakespearean ‘Bardolatry’

A new exhibition at Dr Johnson’s House in London will showcase a range of prints, portraits, books and ephemera. Never before displayed together, they chart the relationship between William Shakespeare (1564-1616) and Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), two of the most quoted Englishmen in the language.

The exterior of Dr Johnson’s House

The exterior of Dr Johnson’s House


Shakespeare in the 18th century: Johnson, Garrick and friends celebrates the 250th anniversary of Johnson’s critical edition of Shakespeare’s plays.

Johnson’s The Plays of William Shakespeare (1765) has been credited with firmly establishing a scholarly interest in Shakespeare, after almost a century during which works by the playwright had been radically amended and adapted.

Four years after its publication, enthusiasm for Shakespeare reached its apogee in the world’s first Shakespeare festival, the 1769 ‘Shakespeare Jubilee’ masterminded by Johnson’s great friend and former pupil, the actor David Garrick (1717-1779).

Over the succeeding centuries, national celebration of Shakespeare reached such a pitch it was popularly dubbed ‘Bardolatry’ – a trend that continues to this day.

Garrick as Shakespeare's Richard III

Garrick as Shakespeare’s Richard III


Johnson’s Shakespeare combined a survey of Shakespeare’s plays with analysis of critical editions to date, and its accompanying ‘Preface’ remains the cornerstone of Shakespeare criticism.

This exhibition at Dr Johnson’s House – the home in Gough Square where Johnson began this work, and also finished his great Dictionary (1755) – explores Johnson’s contributions, and those of members of his circle, to contemporary understanding and enjoyment of Shakespeare.

Their work built on earlier 18th-century critical editions of Shakespeare by scholars such as Nicholas Rowe (1709), Alexander Pope (1725), Lewis Theobold (1726), Thomas Hammer (1743-44) and WilliamWarburton (1747).

Samuel Johnson’s The Plays of William Shakespeare, 1765

Samuel Johnson’s The Plays of William Shakespeare, 1765


The 18th century saw efforts by numerous editors to establish the authenticity of Shakespeare’s texts whilst, at the same time, theatre-goers enjoyed 18th-century adaptations with new scenes and endings devised by actors and theatre managers.

Garrick may have serenaded Shakespeare’s birthplace at the 1769 Jubilee, yet his own production of Romeo and Juliet freely adapted and ‘improved’ the bard’s original ending, allowing the ‘star-cross’d lovers’ one final farewell.

This was an established tradition extending back to dramatist Nahum Tate’s 1681 adaptation of King Lear, where Lear lives and Cordelia ascends to the throne, having married Edgar.

This happy ending was preferred to Shakespeare’s original tragic ending, which was not seen on stage again until the 1830s.

Dr Johnson’s edition of Shakespeare’s King Lear

Dr Johnson’s edition of Shakespeare’s King Lear


Clearly, Shakespeare appreciation was at times scholarly and sincere, but could also be irreverent and freely adapted to the tastes of the popular market.

Along with Johnson and Garrick, the exhibition also explores the often underestimated contribution of women to Shakespeare studies.

Items of note include Elizabeth Montagu’s seminal An Essay on the Writings and Genius of Shakespear, Compared with the Greek and French Dramatic Poets (1769), and Charlotte Lennox’s Shakespear Illustrated (1753), a comprehensive survey of the dramatist’s sources (both on loan from private collections).

These are exhibited alongside an oak chest (date unknown) which once belonged to David Garrick, and was used to store his stage costumes, and a creamware pottery jug (c.1770—80) decorated with an image of Garrick and one of Shakespeare (on loan from a private collection).

A selection of 18th-century prints represent many of the editors, writers and actors who contributed to Shakespeare scholarship in this period, in addition to an original Victorian oil painting by William Powell Frith (1887) which depicts a meeting between Dr Johnson and the celebrated actress Sarah Siddons.

The garret at Dr Johnson's House

The garret at Dr Johnson’s House


A complete first edition of Johnson’s The Plays of William Shakespeare (1765) will also be on display, complemented by volumes from the elaborately illustrated second edition (1770).

“The 18th century saw great change in the treatment of Shakespeare,” says Celine Luppo McDaid, Curator at Dr Johnson’s House.

“While theatre managers were catering to the tastes of their audience, who believed Shakespeare’s works often lacked any sense of poetic justice, scholarly editors like Johnson were returning the works of the Bard to what we recognise today.

“Johnson did a great deal to remove the ‘errours and corruptions’ that time and adaptation had allowed to creep in, and established a mode for modern literary criticism.”

Portrait of Shakespeare in Johnson’s 1765 edition

Portrait of Shakespeare in Johnson’s 1765 edition


The exhibition is accompanied by a lively events programme of tours, talks and performances.

Highlights include ‘Playing to the Crowd’, a new dramatic piece by multimedia theatre company Palimpsest, commissioned by the House especially for this exhibition. (Sundays 15 & 22 November, 3pm & 6pm)

Shakespeare in the 18th century: Johnson, Garrick and friends runs until Saturday 28 November 2015.

Entrance to the exhibition is FREE after usual admission to the House.

Go here for further details about the House, the exhibition and the events programme.