Boasting both The Swan and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon has a handful of good theatres if you’re interested in seeing a show during your stay. Our guide directs you as to where to go depending on the kind of production you’re looking for, whether it’s Shakespeare, Webster, Oscar Wilde or Tennessee Williams.
Visiting the Royal Shakespeare Theatre to see a play from history’s most famous writer is one to tick off the bucket list. Along with The Globe in London, they’re one of the best places in the world to watch Shakespeare. The Stratford theatre itself is set in a stunning building on the banks of the River Avon, surrounded by the Bancroft Gardens. The waterside Grade II-listed building is also the home of The Swan Theatre too, but we’ll get on to that later.
It’s the stomping ground of the internationally revered Royal Shakespeare Company, who tour their productions around the world, selling out theatres everywhere they go. There’s no place like home though. Their Royal Shakespeare Theatre is really rather impressive, with more than 1,000 seats surrounding three sides of a thrust stage, which extends out into the audience. It’s how Shakespeare’s plays would often have been performed in Elizabethan and Jacobean times, bringing the audience closer to the action and making for a much more intimate experience.
Head to the RSC website to see what’s on during your stay or to arrange your stay around what shows are on. You can book your tickets using their online box office or by giving them a call.
The Swan is built onto the side of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, in the Victorian Gothic building that used to be the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre. It was devastated by a fire in 1926, but The Swan has proven to be a more than adequate replacement. It’s smaller than the Royal Shakespeare Theatre – seating just 426 people around a thrust stage – and is a particularly popular venue for actors, directors and theatregoers who revel in the more intimate setting.
It’s at The Swan where you can see productions from Shakespeare’s contemporaries such as Christopher Marlowe, John Webster and Thomas Middleton, as well as Restoration period playwrights and 20th century writers, such as Chekhov, Ibsen and Tennessee Williams.
The third and final theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon that’s owned and operated by the RSC is The Other Place. You’ll find it about a hundred yards or so down the road from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. It’s a 200-seat studio theatre that specialises in small-scale productions, which vary from experimental takes on classical plays to original works from contemporary writers.
They also conduct a ‘From Page to Stage’ theatre tour that gives you an in-depth view of their production process. Plus, they give you the unique opportunity to see more than 30,000 theatre costumes that have been used by the RSC for over half a century.
An honourable mention has to go to the oldest theatre space in Stratford-upon-Avon. The Attic Theatre can be found in Cox’s Yard, a 15th century timber yard with original oak beams and eaves still on show in the auditorium today. The Attic has been named the top fringe theatre in Stratford, but that’s no real surprise because it’s also the home of the incredibly talented, award-winning Tread the Boards Theatre Company.
To give you an idea of the company’s exceptional range, past productions that earned high praise include Frankenstein, Macbeth, Pride and Prejudice, Peter Pan, Alice in Wonderland, Noel Coward’s Present Laughter and The Importance of Being Earnest.
Whether you're in Stratford-upon-Avon to soak up the culture and history of the town where William Shakespeare was born, or to enjoy the bucolic Warwickshire countryside, one of our Stratford hotels will suit you down to the ground.
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