During our first year we offered a programme of ’52 Things’ made with and for the city’s creative community to showcase the fantastic people and places in our city. You can find the full 52 here.

A few years ago a production of The Taming of the Shrew began with a hilarious party scene set in Cardiff, around St Mary Street and Chippy Lane.

This Shakespeare production by Everyman Theatre took place on a stage in Sophia Gardens. According to the text, the action takes place near an alehouse in merry old England but that didn’t matter. Right from the start, the company took Shakespeare’s play by the scruff of the neck to say something about the potential of Shakespearean performance while making a local joke about the nightlife on certain streets in Cardiff. I was completing my PhD at the time, investigating audience expectation in Shakespearean drama, so I was over the moon to see this inventive staging of Shakespeare.

There is a rich tradition of Shakespeare activity in Cardiff.

When the New Theatre opened its doors on 10 December, 1906 the first public performance was Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night. After the production Herbert Beerbohn Tree, who had just founded RADA, gave a speech saying: "God bless this house. May it be the nurse, the feeder and the moulder of the soul of Cardiff." 

More recently the value of arts and culture in Cardiff is being increasingly recognised, and Shakespeare has a role to play in this story. This year there have been a number of events across Wales to mark the 400th anniversary since Shakespeare’s death. 

As part of #Shakespeare400 the British Council teamed up with Chapter to deliver a range of Shakespeare-related film screenings and panel discussions under the title Celebrating Shakespeare. I went to see the Michael Fassbender Macbeth and stayed for the panel discussion on how Shakespeare’s Scottish play might help us to explore ideas of national identity in post–devolutionary Britain. This was a special event with Phil George, who had just been appointed Chair of the Arts Council of Wales, in conversation with Professor Andrew Murphy (University of St Andrews). Furthermore, the renowned theatre director Michael Bogdanov just happened to be in the audience, pushing us to consider how radical Shakespeare’s plays might be.

Cardiff’s second main anniversary activity is yet to come: the Welsh National Opera has a Shakespeare-themed programme this autumn at the Wales Millennium Centre featuring Verdi’s Macbeth, Tchaikowsky’s The Merchant of Venice and Cole Porter’s Kiss Me, Kate, which is based on Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew. If you haven’t heard of the Polish composer André Tchaikowsky, you may still have seen (part of) him perform, as he donated his skull to the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and it featured as Yorick’s skull in David Tennant’s Hamlet.

Cardiff University has also played its part in #Shakespeare400. A creative video on Shakespeare and time, featuring a time-lapse of the city and a reading of a sonnet, was made by a team of people from across the university.

Dr Ceri Sullivan launched a new project on Private Prayer in Shakespeare’s Histories, which investigates the way Shakespeare responded to the skills playgoers would have had in composing prayers, a kind of creative production in miniature. Finally, Michael Goodman, a PhD student, recently launched the fabulous Victorian Illustrated Shakespeare Archive.

Besides these offerings, there have also been a whole host of Shakespearean productions in Cardiff. The RSC brought A Midsummer Night’s Dream to the New Theatre and performed with school children from Rumney while the Sherman held As You Like It and Verdi’s Falstaff.

At the Cardiff Open Air Theatre Festival, there were productions of Romeo and Juliet by Everyman Theatre and Richard II by Everyman Youth Theatre. When I attended Richard II, the person next to me said she found Shakespeare too hard in school but that she goes to Everyman’s productions every year because they create such good Shakespeare. Everyman Theatre has a 74 year history and I think we can be justifiably proud of this successful Cardiff theatre company. Dr Darren Freebury-Jones, who recently completed his PhD at Cardiff University on early modern drama, has reviewed this year’s Everyman productions for Cardiff Shakespeare, a blog established in 2010 to share Shakespeare news and resources.

Other Shakespeare performances included those by Cardiff University’s drama society Act One (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), the Lord Chamberlain’s Men (Much Ado About Nothing), Omidaze (Henry VI), and Taking Flight Theatre (Romeo and Juliet).

Looking ahead, to celebrate its 40th anniversary year, National Youth Theatre of Wales 2016 will be performing Romeo and Juliet at the New Theatre on 9 and 10 September.

In November, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama will host a special adaptation of The Tempest ‘for voices, period instruments and magic lantern’.

The Shakespeare Schools Festival began in South Wales in 2000 and is now the UK’s largest youth drama festival; as well as several productions in Pontypridd, the festival will also bring A Midsummer Night’s Dream to Cardiff in November.

There are also often performances by the Cardiff Players, the Lisvane Players, as well as productions at Chapter and The Gate. Other productions may well have escaped under my radar, tweet me @DrJ_Gregory if you know of more upcoming Shakespeare plays across the city region.

All this activity means that we don’t need the story of Shakespeare’s Welsh grandmother to recognise Shakespeare’s importance for Wales’s capital.

When Cardiff University hosted a conference on Shakespeare and Wales back in 2010, the focus throughout the day tended to be on the history of Wales in Shakespeare’s plays but there is a living history of Shakespeare in Wales taking place today.

His plays are a renewable resource that can amuse as well as challenge us. Hopefully, Shakespeare will continue to entertain in Cardiff but also disrupt and make us think about the role of the arts in the city.

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