St Albans set to mark 400th anniversary of Bard’s death with city-wide Shakespeare Festival

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare - Credit: Archant

To celebrate 400 years of the Bard, a Shakespeare Festival is to be held in St Albans this spring.

OVO, the resident theatre company at the Maltings Arts Theatre, will be commemorating the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death with a celebration of the country’s greatest ever playwright.

It will run from March to July and take in all Shakespeare’s work in some form, through a variety of artistic mediums, including choral singing, symphony music, poetry and theatrical performances.

Most of the work will be performed at the Maltings Arts Theatre but a number of venues across the city will be involved, as will a number of local groups, societies and schools.

Opening the festival on March 11 will be the nationally renowned Propeller, the all-male professional Shakespeare company which seeks to find a more engaging way of expressing Shakespeare.

OVO itself will be presenting Hold off the Earth, an interpretation of Hamlet written by local author Stephen Cunningham, from March 29 to April 2; and As You Like It in May and June. The latter is a new production involving music and it has also been invited to perform at the Minack Theatre in Cornwall in the summer.

Other local companies involved include the Company of Ten, Ver Poets, St Albans Folk Club, Brocket Consort and Trestle. The festival has also attracted professional companies from London – Merely Theatre, Goat and Monkey and Pantaloons.

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On the actual anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth and death, 23 April, various scenes from the 37 plays will be played out at local landmarks in the city.

OVO founder and artistic director, Adam Nichols, said: “Our idea for a St Albans Shakespeare Festival came to us from an appreciation of the wide range of artistic talent there is in St Albans and to use this to commemorate the death of our greatest playwright seemed an ideal opportunity to strengthen the reputation of the city on the cultural map

Chair of OVO and festival organiser, David Widdowson, added: “We are absolutely delighted at the breadth and depth of talent we have attracted to the festival. Alongside traditional performances there will be some very innovative contributions and some which are audience interactive to make Shakespeare as accessible as possible.

The festival is supported by St Albans district council where Richard Shwe, head of community services, said “We are proud to support this initiative by OVO Theatre Company which has the potential to further establish the city’s strong cultural offering.

“The opportunity for local societies to perform alongside established professional companies and the breadth of artistic forms makes for a very exciting festival.”

A full programme of events can be found here.