English Pupils Visit Shakespeare's Hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon | Epsom College
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English Pupils Visit Shakespeare’s Hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon

On a chilly October morning, 40 bleary-eyed U4s and three enthusiastic English teachers met to begin a three-day pilgrimage to Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon. This trip was in anticipation of the U4s’ next foray into the Bard’s work with The Merchant of Venice in the Lent Term.

Our first stop was Shakespeare’s birthplace where we learnt about truckle beds and glove making and were amused to hear that, as well as Mayor of Stratford, Shakespeare’s father also held the prestigious role of official ale taster in the town.

This fascinating visit culminated in a hilarious re-enactment of the play within a play from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with Kevin and Charlie in the titular roles of Pyramus and Thisbe.

After a self-guided walking tour of some of the major sights of Stratford and a delicious meal at Bella Italia, we retired to our beds at the Premier Inn to be restored and ready for a busy new day ahead.

Our second day in Stratford dawned with a morning of workshops to introduce the pupils to the plot, context and language of The Merchant of Venice. After lunch, we made our way to the RSC’s The Other Place in which we were very lucky to experience an Audition Tour, giving us an insight into the four year process of an RSC production from the initial ideas to opening night, as well as access to rehearsal spaces and the cavernous costume hire store. Some of our group were even lucky enough to try on a few costumes, including David Tenant’s crown from Richard II.

After another walking tour around Stratford, we excitedly assembled outside the RSC’s Swan Theatre for our own taste of an RSC production of a brand new play A Museum in Baghdad by Hannah Khalil. We were all delighted by the intimate space of this theatre which seats 426 around three sides of a deep thrust stage, meaning that every seat has a clear view of the action.

Although the dual time periods made the plot a little confusing, this did not put off the U4s who were keen to ask questions during the interval to determine the key themes and ideas of the play. As luck would have it, we had chosen the press night for our visit and the U4s added their own reviews to those of the theatre critics in their trip booklets over breakfast the next morning.

Finally, after a misty Wednesday morning visit to Anne Hathaway’s cottage, where the U4s impressed the guides with their new found Shakespearian knowledge, we made the final stop on our tour to Holy Trinity Church to pay our respects to the Bard’s final resting place.

The U4s were enthusiastic, interested and excellent company throughout our visit. Special thanks must go to Ms St Clair-Ford for organising such a fantastic trip; a great start to half-term which left both teachers and pupils eager to shortly delve into the delights of The Merchant of Venice.

By Mrs Emily Gwynne, Head of English