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Dame Judi Dench and Sir Kenneth Branagh to visit Stratford for statue unveiling

WILLIAM Shakespeare will be back in town this spring and his restored statue will be unveiled outside Stratford Town Hall by international stars, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Kenneth Branagh.

The statue has been taken away to be restored in London - a fundraising project called Shakespeare's Coming Home is taking place next month to help pay for the work - but will be back this April, with the two actors ready to unveil the fresh-looking William on the day before the Bard’s birthday celebrations on Saturday, 23rd April.

The restoration of the David Garrick statue will almost be a step back in time when Dame Judi and Sir Ken emulate the renowned English actor, who was the most famous actor of his day, and who donated the statue to Stratford Town Council in 1769.

From left Dame Judy Dench with partner David Mills and Robin Page from the The Countryside Restoration Trust. Picture: Keith Heppell. (54990875)
From left Dame Judy Dench with partner David Mills and Robin Page from the The Countryside Restoration Trust. Picture: Keith Heppell. (54990875)

In return for his extreme generosity, Garrick was bestowed with the freedom of the town and history will repeat itself on 22nd April when Judi and Ken will have the freedom of Stratford conferred to them by the current town council in gratitude to the two actors for accepting the invitation to unveil the statue of the world’s greatest playwright.

Sarah Summers, town clerk at Stratford Town Council, said: “The statue was in urgent need of repair after 250 years and will be returned to the town hall shortly before the Shakespeare Birthday Celebrations take place. When the statue was removed for restoration, the contractors found three bones underneath it which we sent for analysis. They turned out to be mutton bones so we think it could have been the remains of the workman’s lunch who put the statue in the niche in the first place.”

Kenneth Branagh (54990882)
Kenneth Branagh (54990882)

Raising money for the restoration of the statue

Tickets are on sale for the readings of Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, providing the chance to hear some of the country’s finest actors in action.

David Troughton and family, Dame Harriet Walter and Dame Janet Suzman have all confirmed they will be reading as part of Shakespeare’s Coming Home, as will Sarah Douglas, Phillip Breen, Andrew French and Prof Sir Stanley Wells.

There also a chance to hear the current RSC cast of Much Ado About Nothing, the Bishop of Warwick and lots of Stratford’s theatre groups, politicians and residents.

And tickets are just £5 each.

The current line-up includes:

  • Twelfth Night (led by actors Malcolm McKee, Paul Greenwood, and Clare Nielson)
  • Othello (led by actor Andrew French)
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor (led by the Lord Lieutenant of Warwickshire, and the Archers actors)
  • Much Ado About Nothing (led by members of the Royal Shakespeare Company)
  • Richard II (St Andrew’s Church, Shottery, and actor John Heffernan)
  • Richard III (David Troughton as Richard III, and his family)
  • King John (The Stratford Society)
  • Antony and Cleopatra (led by Dame Janet Suzman as Cleopatra)
  • As You Like It (with Dame Harriet Walter as Rosalind and Guy Paul as Orlando)
  • Hamlet (led by actor Scott Handy and The Shakespeare Institute)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream (led by The Music Café, and Hollywood actor Sarah Douglas)
  • Henry IV Part One (led by actor Robert Lister)
  • All is True (Henry VIII) (led by local actor, Richard Evans, and the Bishops of Coventry & Warwick)
  • Romeo and Juliet (Playbox Theatre)
  • The Comedy of Errors (led by director Phillip Breen)

All of the money raised through the readings, which take place from 1st-12th March, will help pay for the work to restore the statue of William Shakespeare which was donated to the town by David Garrick.

There are plenty of other readings to choose from; visit www.ticketsource.co.uk/shakespeares-coming-home for the full running order, dates and to buy tickets.

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