Celebrities, history and excitement for Warwick Shakespeare festival

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Excitement is spreading at St Mary’s church after details of its Shakespeare celebrations were announced to bring in actors, historic texts and song over two months.

Shakespeare 400: History Heritage and Faith will run from April 21, running until the end of June in the first venture of its kind at the church.

Excited organisers have already announced they will bring Shakespeare’s First Folio, an early edition of the King James Bible and screen star Dame Judi Dench to the town.

And after a year of planning, they have released details of what the town can expect from the festival to mark the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death.

Events will be opened by the Dame Judi in what curator Alycia Smith-Howard said was an ideal way to launch the exciting venture.

“The iconic texts are pillars of Western society and we are lucky and very excited to be able to host them,” she said.

“Dame Judi was delighted to take part. It was very easy to get her on board and she has so much insight to give on both texts, it will be fantastic.”

The church will also screen four films in the main building for the first time. And a screening of Henry V will also welcome actors Michael Maloney and Stewart McGill to talk about their roles.

May will see a lecture by expert Alison Weir on the myths surrounding Richard III.

An Elizabethan Weekend will be held with Kenilworth Castle to celebrate links with the queen and Robert Dudley.

This is the first time we have tried something like this and we are very excited

Vaughan Roberts

Playbox Theatre will bring Henry VI to the church over two shows in what vicar Vaughan Roberts described as another exciting addition.

“We are very much looking forward to welcoming Playbox back, we had them here for an Easter performance and it was remarkable,” he said.

“We are also delighted to host our Elizabethan Weekend. We all share the history of Dudley and Elizabeth which will be a very celebrated point.

“This is the first time we have tried something like this and we are very excited. People have been very keen and we hope it marks the start of something special.”

There will also be a panel discussion on women and the bible and an evening of Shakespearian song by the Di Capo Chamber Choir.

The festival will be rounded off with an event for young people in the form of a Sonnet Slam in the church’s crypt.

Youngsters can read their work, or a sonnet with Young Poet Laureate Harry Jenkins.

The festival won a £10,000 grant from Warwickshire County Council and ticket sales will help cover costs required to bring it all together.

Contact events@stmaryswarwick.org.uk or the church on 01926 403940 for tickets.

What’s On When:

April 21 - Dame Judi Dench in Conversation, A Passionate Faith, 8pm

April 22 - FILM Shakespeare in Love, 7.30pm

May 11 - Alison Weir talks on Richard III:The Man and the Myth. 7.30pm

May 17 - FILM Henry V - with pre-screening discussion by actors Michael Maloney and Stewart McGill. 7pm

May 19-21 - Games & Thrones: Henry V I, part 1 & 2 by Playbox Theatre, 7:30pm

May 28-30 Good Queen Bess Fest - Elizabethan Weekend, partnered with Kenilworth Castle, Lord Leycester Hospital and Charlecote Park

June 4 - An Evening of Shakespeare in Song with Da Capo choir and guest readers, Amanda Root and Anton Lesser, 7:30pm

June 9 - Women, The Bible & Shakespeare. Panel discussion with Rosalind Miles, Revd Canon Joanna Collicutt, Revd Emma Percy, Cathy Ross and Alycia Smith-Howard. 7:30pm

June 11 - FILM Elizabeth 7.30pm

(Romeo and Juliette film screening and Sonnet Slam dates are yet to be announced)