Shakespeare was celebrated with a host of events across the country this weekend, marking 400 years since the playwright's death.
Performances were televised on the BBC, excerpts from the author's plays were aired on screens across London and bookshops held dramatic readings and offered promotions on Shakespeare plays and related titles to mark the event.
Following the Shakespeare bonanza, which has been building for several weeks, Shakespeare-related books rising up the charts include Bill Bryson’s Shakespeare: The World as a Stage (William Collins) which charted in 75th place last week having sold 2,441 copies, Shakespeare colouring book Escape to Shakespeare’s World (Puffin Classics), which sold 237 copies last week, after publishing earlier this month and 606: The Year of Lear by James Shapiro (Faber), which sold 772 copies last week after its release in paperback.
Booksellers held “Shakespeare Saturday” as part of the Booksellers Association’s Bard is My Bag campaign.
Sarah Rees, owner of independent Cover to Cover in Swansea brought a trained professional actor, Adrian Metcalfe, into the store last Friday (22nd April), who took requests to read excerpts of Shakespeare from visitors to the bookshop.
Rees said: “We even took him round local cafes to ask for requests – the most popular was the Friends, Romans, countrymen (from Julius Caesar) and passages from Romeo and Juliet – it was one of the most bonkers things we have ever done but it was lots of fun. Shakespeare-related books have also been selling very well –the most popular have been Shakespeare’s Little Book of Wisdom by Steve King (William Collins), Bill Bryson’s Shakespeare: The World as a Stage (Williams Collins) and Smidgen of Shakespeare by Geoff Spiteri (Portico).
On the BBC, theatrical heavyweights Ian McKellen, Judi Dench and Helen Mirren featured as part of the BBC's televised celebration of the bard Shakespeare Live!, a night from the RSC showcasing the UK’s performing arts across the gamut, as inspired by Shakespeare. Al Murray played Bottom to Judi Dench’s Titania in a bawdy scene from a Midsummer Night’s Dream and the cast of Horrible Histories, including Benedict Cumberbatch and Tim Minchin, also provided light relief to such cultured entertainment as ballet Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. Akala, of The Hip-hop Shakespeare Company ('THSC’), meanwhile, explored the connections between rap and Shakespeare in sharp relief musically to opera Berlioz’s Beatrice and Benedick. The show was presented by Richard Tennant and Catherine Tate and among the live audience royalty the Duchess of Cornwall and the Prince of Wales, who, in addition to visiting Shakespeare’s home in Stratford on Saturday, made a surprise appearance in a sketch from Hamlet during the live show.
Shakespeare's Globe theatre marked the anniversary with The Complete Walk, a 2.5 mile (4k) route from Westminster Bridge to Tower Bridge punctuated by 37 specially-made 10-minute films, played on 37 different screens on loop, along the way: one for each of Shakespeare’s plays. The scenes were combined with excerpts from the BFI’s Silent Shakespeare series and from the Globe’s filmed stage productions.
The British Library also marked ‘Shakespeare in Ten Acts’ - the exhibition gives the public access to over 200 unique artefacts, with items on display including the only surviving play-script in Shakespeare’s hand, an authentic Shakespeare signature, the earliest printed edition of Hamlet from 1603 and Shakespeare’s First Folio, which is open until 6th September 2016.
Also at the British Library, Scribe UK teamed up with the East London Liquor Company to toast the Bard by hosting a pop-up bar of Shakespeare-themed cocktails from Shakespeare, Not Stirred: cocktails for your everyday dramas by Caroline Bicks and Michelle Ephraim.
Saturday also marked World Book Night which saw thousands of book lovers around the UK giving away 187,500 copies of 15 titles printed for World Book Night, as they try to reach the 36% of the population who don’t read for pleasure.
To mark the event, Amazon was also offering 20% off selected Kindle e-readers.