Visiting Stratford and the RSC has been on my to do list for a long time. My nerdy love for Shakespeare has been around for a while since studying Romeo & Juliet in 4th year English, doing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Drama, and then for some reason I decided to treat myself to self studying three of his longest tragedies – Hamlet, Othello and King Lear – for my advanced higher dissertation. So I’m deep in my adoration and analysis of ol’ Shakespeare’s work. Having been to see Midsummer at the iconic Globe Theatre in London, I felt it was time to see the RSC in action and not just in the live screenings at the cinema (which I also love having the opportunity of).
It was to be a bit of a flying visit, with just over 24 hours in the town but we managed to get quite a lot done! From where Shakespeare was born to where he lies dead plus a bit of his work in between! Stratford is beyond gorgeous in its own right but the whole Shakespeare element is unavoidable. Justifiably so, it seems that it is a town obsessed and you literally can’t move two metres without seeing another statue or quotation. Certainly when you have an institution as iconic as the RSC aswell, it’s hard not to feel a little bit in love with the Bard’s work.
So, what did we get up to?
When we arrived we had a bit of time to kill so we wandered around the town which has so many adorably quaint Tudor streets, it feels like you’ve gone back in time. On our wanders we came across the Shakespeare’s Birthplace attraction and decided to give it a go. The wee exhibit is more about the time period and the Shakespeare family more so than his life exactly. After the exhibit you get to walk through the house he was born and grew up in, there are some costumed tour guides explaining what you’re looking at. I’ll be honest, we were pretty underwhelmed with this one given the £15 ticket price but it did help us kill an hour or so.
Our next stop was The Other Place which houses the RSC’s studio theatre, rehearsal spaces and costume store. We went on the Page to Stage tour of the facility and it was pretty nifty to check everything out. In particular, Mum and I loved the costume store as everything is beautifully lined on rails and organised by the time period of the costume, its awesome to see everything that is created for the RSC productions. Our tour guide David was lovely, he was chatting away and giving us all the goss. The Other Place is such an amazing environment and I’d happily just want to hang out there. David sent us on the short 5 minute walk up to the Holy Trinity church to complete our Shakespeare life cycle where we could visit his grave. It is inside a lovely wee church with gorgeous stained glass windows. You do have to pay a wee bit to see it but that was only £2/3 so nothing really to complain about there.
We were finally able to check in to our hotel so we headed back up town, walking alongside the river Avon. I wish it had been a bit warmer so we could have taken our time a bit more but it was nippy outside. On our way we popped into the RSC to go up their tower (only £1 when you have a tour ticket from the same day). Since it was so cheap we thought why not? Even though I was a bit sceptical given that it’s a wee residential town, but the view is actually pretty lovely with the river shining.
After a quick change, we headed back down to the RSC to have the pre-theatre dinner at their Rooftop Restaurant which is really nice. The pre theatre menu was only £26 for three courses, and dear god the food was spectacular. I had a caramelised onion and goats cheese tartlet to start, confit duck for my main and an apple and caramel cake for dessert (they all tasted a lot better than the photos look, I promise). Really great value for money and also super convenient if you’re going to a show that night – I would definitely recommend! A nice little moment happened in the restaurant too. In my head I associate Stratford and Shakespeare with my high school drama teacher (who I love). While we were having our dinner they played Norah Jones’ Come Away with Me which reminds me of Mrs A too because she would play it as our focus song before big performances so I really felt like she was with me.
With all this chat about the RSC, you’re probably thinking, my god Katie, when are you ever gonna tell us about an actual play? Well, we went to see Twelfth Night featuring Adrian Edmunson and Kara Tointon. Both of who were fabulous although the star for me was Sarah Twomey as Fabia, she was just so captivating and had wonderful comic timing. I will be honest this is actually one of his plays that I’m not that familiar with so I was going into it with no expectations other than it was a Shakespeare comedy which means mistaken identities, love triangles and that it’ll end with a wedding. It’s true what they say about the RSC that that proper RP voice training results in a whole lot of spitting so be careful you’re not in the stalls splash zone when you go (lol, I kid). We even had a wee show stop in act 2 because even the RSC can have automation struggles, after all it is live theatre dear!
After a much needed rest, we grabbed some breakfast at a local pâtisserie called Hobson’s where we had the most delicious cream tea, which was almost too sweet. The scones were soft and warm and the jam, lemon curd and clotted cream were just perfect.
And just when you thought we couldn’t get any more of the RSC, we headed back one last time for the backstage tour! This tour took you around the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and the Swan Theatre in the main RSC building. It was really awesome to look around backstage, our pal David was our tour guide again and was fab again. He likes to push the boundaries by giving you some bonus features at the end of the tour so we got to see this gorgeous Romeo sculpture made out of hanging metal stars – a new goal feature for my dream home. After the tour we popped up to the train station to head to London and so our brief jaunt in Stratford upon Avon ended! Blog post about our few days in London can be found here!
I will say Stratford is an absolutely lovely place, even if you’re not theatre obsessed like we are and I would love to have some more time there so I could just chill. I would definitely say Stratford would be ideal for a long weekend in the summer when it’s a bit warmer so you can hang outside and enjoy the riverside. P.s. if you didn’t notice, I loved the RSC.