Unveiled: the programme for York International Shakespeare Festival - plays, talks, walks and workshops

York becomes a buzzing centre of Shakespearean play and thought as the third York International Shakespeare Festival presents two weeks of Shakespeare from around the world in a rich variety of creative forms from May 9 to 19.

Friday, 26th April 2019, 1:01 pm
Updated Friday, 26th April 2019, 1:09 pm
York International Shakespeare Festival runs from May 9 to 19
York International Shakespeare Festival runs from May 9 to 19

The festival runs in alternate years as a collaboration between York Theatre Royal, Parrabbola and the University of York.

Festival directors Philip Parr, Judith Buchanan, Damian Cruden and Tom Bird said: “Our programme celebrates the international reach of the creativity that has been inspired by the work of an early modern playwright from a small English town. The experimentation and playful re-appropriation here both honours and challenges the work that has inspired it."

New among festival venues this year is the Dogrose Theatre, a new pop-up space especially created to showcase emerging and alternative takes on Shakespeare from York and further afield.

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Hidden in the rafters of Thomas Herbert House (at 14 Pavement), the Dogrose will play host to alchemists, fairies and dying kings with events that mix music, comedy and performance to surprise and entertain.


Riding Lights Theatre Company streamline All’s Well That Ends Well (Friargate Theatre, 9 – 19 May) into a sharp 90 minutes of breathless trips across Europe, chasing true love, honour, Italian girls and solutions to a couple of frankly impossible tasks. Directed by Paul Burbridge.

Shakespeare wrote 37 plays with 1,191 individual characters: 1,044 men but only 147 women. Feast: A Play In One Cooking (Friargate Theatre, 11 & 12 May) is a show about six of those women, the first play by London-based Romanian theatre maker Olivia Negrean, making its York debut after being performed across Europe.

Bronzehead aim their transformative approach at The Alchemist (Dogrose Theatre, 11 – 15 May), Ben Jonson’s scabrous farce of grifters and the fools who believe them.

In Boris Rex (Dogrose Theatre, 12 May), Falling Sparrow Theatre Company bring you the story of Boris Johnson as a Shakespearean tragi-comedy. A murky tale of ambition, backstabbing and national catastrophe, fusing original verse with newly-penned pentameters, spoken word, comedy and rap.

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Dogrose Theatre, 13 May) York theatre-maker Miss Trout brings her distinctive style and unusual props and invites you to immerse yourself in a visual storytelling spectacle of poetry, drama and sparkle. Perfect for children aged 2+ and their families.

Much Ado About Nothing (York Theatre Royal, 14 – 18 May) has Northern Broadsides bringing its unique style to Shakespeare’s glorious romantic comedy.

Love Deadline (Desdemona) (York Theatre Royal Studio, 14 & 15 May) is a one-woman performance by Ji Young Choi that reimagines Othello in Korea. It premiered in New York last year. Performed in English.

Multi award-winning children’s theatre company Collar & Cuffs present a musical sensory telling of The Tempest called Be Not Afeard (York Theatre Royal Studio, 15 May), suitable for 0-7 year olds and fully inclusive for those with special needs.

Hamlet: An Experience (Friargate Theatre, 15 & 16 May) is Brite Theater’s bold reinvention of Hamlet, directed by Kolbrun Bjort Sigfusdottir in which Emily Carding plays Hamlet and the audience are the players arriving at Elsinore, becoming immersed in the story like never before.

Having returned from secular pilgrimage to Auschwitz and taking Measure for Measure as their starting point, second year drama and theatre students from York St John University ask themselves, ‘How will we remember when all the witnesses are gone’ in Truth Be Truth To Th’End of Reck’ning (Quad South Hall, York St John University, 16 May).

In Outrageous Fortune (Hamlet: As Told By Gertrude) (York Theatre Royal Studio, 16 May) Performance storyteller Debs Newbold places Shakespeare’s iconic text under a 21st century lens to offer an alternative perspective; putting a woman front and centre in this notorious story of male revenge.

The Buds of May Be by Clubfest (Dogrose Theatre, 16 May) Petra Reid recasts the Bard’s rhyme schemes in a response that skewers reproduction, celebrity and consumption. Voice intertwines with the gentle wind sounds of the flute to awake the darling buds of May. Let’s get fizzical – metafizzical!

The all-female troupe in festival favourites and the world’s first cycling theatre company The HandleBards present a bicycle-powered production of The Tempest (Merchant Adventurers Hall, 16 May), guaranteed to be like no other.

Inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Poland’s Teatr Strefa Otwarta return to York with Bez-Sennosc (York Theatre Royal Studio, 17 & 18 May). Drawing on traditions of Shakespearean theatre, Anna Rakowska and Piotr Misztela, take on a multitude of characters and invite the audience to shape the action. Performed in Polish and English.

Canadian comedian and actor Gillian English brings two shows of stand-up comedy, strong language and Shakespeare – She Wolf (York Theatre Royal Studio, 17 May), about the way we view women in positions of power, and 10 Things I Hate About Taming of the Shrew (York Theatre Royal Studio, 18 May).

Student company Open Barn’s The Winter’s Tale (Dogrose Theatre, 17 & 18 May) focuses on the darker elements of Shakespeare’s problem play to bring the suffering of women in a patriarchal world to the forefront.

George Crocker joins the village drama club to liven up his dull life. He’s hoping for panto but the director has his sights set on Shakespeare’s Henry V. Mark Carey plays 17 colourful characters in Into The Breach (Dogrose Theatre, 18 May),a heart-warming tale of one man’s battle with Shakespeare and his own confidence.

The Sacred King: Shakespeare’s Richard II at Pontefract (film screening, Dogrose Theatre, 19 May) has Mark Burghagen performing the moving prison speech from Richard II, filmed at the historic site of the king’s death at Pontefract Castle. Features music written by Renaissance composer John Dowland and performed by John Potter and lutenist Jacob Heringman.

Thirty-seven plays enter, one play leaves in Battle of the Bard (Dogrose Theatre, 19 May). York actors champion their favourites for the title of Shakespeare’s Best Play. The audience decides.


Sonnet Walks: The Wedding. New sonnets, new performers and a wedding theme – the popular York Shakespeare Project Sonnet Walks are back. Led by a guide, you will meet an array of characters, each with a story to tell. Lasts around an hour. Meet at YTR Patio, 10 – 18 May. Evenings 6 and 6.20pm. Sat matinees 12pm and 12.15pm. No walks Sun 12 and Mon 13 May.

In Conversation with Erica Whyman. The Deputy Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company discusses her inclusive productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Play for the Nation and Romeo and Juliet which incorporates 60 young people into its prologue. At the Bowland Auditorium, Berrick Saul Building, University of York, 17 May, 5.45pm.

Caesar Must Die, 2012 film by Paolo Taviani and Vittorio Taviani who spent six months following rehearsals for a production of Julius Caesar by inmates of the Roman maximum security prison Rebibbia. City Screen, 13 May, 6pm.

Shakespeare & Co On The Page and On The Stage. An invitation to the closing address to be given by Ben Crystal. Humanities Research Centre, University of York, 18 May, 4.15pm.


Sonnet-writing Workshop (Dogrose Theatre, 11 May) led by Henry Raby, artistic director of Say Owt. Open to anyone of any experience.

Schools Workshops. A YorkShakes schools workshops programme will be running in the Humanities Research Centre, University of York with play-specific workshops on offer for different age groups on Much Ado About Nothing and Othello.

Early modern printing workshop. Explore the sometimes vexed ways in which Shakespeare’s plays became books. A practical letterpress workshop housed at Thin Ice Press on-site printing studio. The result will be a unique Shakespeare print to take home. Places are limited to eight, book by emailing [email protected]

Artist-in-residence Lynne O’Dowd will be recording and responding to the performances of actors inhabiting Shakespeare’s powerful stories. The resulting work will be displayed at York Theatre Royal foyer in an exhibition that will evolve across the week.

Tickets for most festival events can be booked via York Theatre Royal box office: 01904 623568 or visit www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk