Lost & Found: Stratford-upon-Avon
21 June 2008

Stratford-upon-Avon is a cute Cotswold town which revolves around its most famous ex-resident, William Shakespeare.

To do and visit:

The Merchant of Venice:

The highlight of our trip was attending this amazing performance by the Royal Shakespeare Company in the Courtyard Theatre, an Elizabethan style horseshoe shaped stage. I was only vaguely familiar with the play, so I could really appreciate how Elizabethan audiences would have reacted to the drama of this storyline, for at times I too felt like clapping or jeering or gasping. The cast were universally brilliant, clearly projecting their voices to the upper galleries, using the theatre-in-the-round to full effect in their movements and playing the audience participation for comic value. My standing ovation goes to Angus Wright for his astounding interpretation of Shylock - he turned the Jewish money-lender from a mere one-dimensional villain to a sympathetic father and admirably shrewd businessman, such that I was outraged that he was thwarted from obtaining his pound of flesh!

Shakespeare's grave: I had expected Shakespeare's grave to be a single mossy stone headstone but it's almost a royal tomb, in a roped off area just in front of the altar under some brilliant stained glass. Despite the tourists, the church is calm and restful and contains beautifully carved wooden archways and choir stalls.

Shakespeare's Birthplace, Halls Croft, New Place/Nash House: In amongst the cute Tudor style houses in town (including a 17th century Pizza Hut) are several building associated with its most favourite son. Each of the buildings contains exhibitions inside, but we decided against entering as it seemed to be full of historical furniture.

Farmers' Market: Every first and third Saturday of the month there is a farmers' market in the traditional market area on Rother Street. The stalls are mostly made up of meat and cheese, but also contain bread and cakes, honey and vegetables. It's nice to see the town's predominantly white-haired citizens pottering with their tartan trolleys supporting local businesses.

Eat at:

The Dirty Duck/Black Swan

: Strangely, this riverside pub is called The Dirty Duck on one side, and the Black Swan on the other side. It's apparently the favourite haunt of RSC actors and its walls are adorned with photographs and autographs of famous thespians who have tread the boards nearby. The food is passable pub grub at decent prices (burger, steak and ale pie, £8.45 each) interspersed with to-be-avoided ethnic diversions (hoi sin pork, thai curry).

Hathaway Tea Rooms

: A nice way to end a matinee performance at the RSC is with a cream tea. This olde worlde crooked little building is cute, but the cream tea left a lot to be desired: teabags served in utilitarian metal teapots, whipped cream out of a can, jam that came in packets, a stodgy cake and cold scones for £5.35. Not recommended.

The Little Sweet Shop

: Cute little sweet shop selling their own brand of tinned biscuits. However, our chocolate chip ones had a strange texture, like a damp floury bloom on top.

Stratford-upon-Avon is a 2.15 hour direct train from London Marylebone. Cheap Day Return £29.

Royal Shakespeare Company: The Courtyard Theatre, Southern Lane, Stratford-upon-Avon

T: +44 (0)1789 403444

Holy Trinity Church, Old Town,
Stratford upon Avon, CV37 6BG
T: +44 1789 266316

Shakespeare's Birthplace: Henley Street, Stratford upon Avon

T: +44 1789 204016

Halls Croft: Chapel Street, Stratford upon Avon

T: +44 1789 292325

New Place/Nash House: Chapel Street, Stratford upon Avon 

T: +44 1789 292325

The Dirty Duck/Black Swan: 44 Waterside, Warwick, CV37 6BA

T: +44 1789 297312

The Little Sweet Shop: 33 Henley St, Stratford-upon-Avon

T: +44 1789 296 996