‘Shakespeares’ bow out after last annual parade

‘It’s quite sad. It’s been a real privilege to be part of this’

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John and Monica Evans — aka Mr and Mrs Shakespeare — who will retire from their roles after this year’s Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations. Photo: Mark Williamson (S32/4/16/15)

A COUPLE who have dressed up as Master and Mistress Shakespeare for the annual Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations for 27 years, will retire after the parade marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death on Saturday, 23rd April.

John and Monica Evans, from Napton-on-the-Hill, who are getting close to 80, said: “We feel it’s time for somebody else to take over.

“It has been an honour for us to represent Stratford as Master and Mistress Shakespeare for so many years.”

It all started when they dressed as characters from different Shakespeare plays for the annual parades since 1988.

A group of friends would go to the wardrobe department of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and during the parade they would each be at different flagpoles in the town centre, to unfurl the flags.

John has been characters including Richard II, Henry VI and Julius Caesar.

Whereas Monica has played a variety of characters, including Queen Elizabeth I several times. In 1999, John played the role as Shakespeare for the first time in the parade.

The couple arrived at the RSC’s wardrobe department on the morning of the parade, to discover the Shakespeare costume was too small for the man who was due to play Shakespeare.

It took off from there and over the years, the couple have been involved in promoting around 35 to 40 events dressed as William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway, with the South Warwickshire Tourist Board.

The events included officially opening the Chiltern Railway line from Birmingham to London Marylebone stations, being representatives at all five Shakespeare properties in the area, National Trust’s Charlecote Park and Birmingham’s NEC, as well as opening roads, housing developments, hotels and B&Bs.

The couple own their costumes, Monica’s was specially made by one of her former colleagues of the RSC, and John’s costume was made by Monica.

The couple usually lead the parade, but this year they will be taking on a more low-key role by walking in the main parade dressed in black, as the occasion is marking Shakespeare’s death.

John said: “It’s been a very enjoyable and very privileged time to have done this. We feel very grateful we have met so many people.”

Monica added: “It’s quite sad to say it’s going to be our last parade. Shakespeare has been very much part of my life since I was a young girl.

“It has been a real privilege to be a part of this.”

The Stratford-upon-Avon Herald’s 48-page souvenir Shakespeare 400 supplement is on sale now, priced just £1, and don’t miss next week’s Herald for our 12-page pullout from this weekend’s celebrations.