Celebrations begin for Shakespeare anniversary

British actor Ian McKellen poses for a photograph during a photo call in central London on April 22, 2016. McKellen will perform alongside Benedict Cumberbatch and Judi Dench in a celebration of Shakespeare's work at the playwright's hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo: AFP

A stellar line-up of actors and performers will be marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death at events across the UK this weekend.

David Tennant will host a BBC Two celebration on Saturday night live from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Performers will include Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen, Dame Helen Mirren and Benedict Cumberbatch.

The event will be attended by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall.

Other names on the bill include Rory Kinnear, Meera Syal, Joseph Fiennes, David Suchet, Simon Russell Beale, Roger Allam, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Harriet Walter, John Lithgow, Anne-Marie Duff and the cast of Horrible Histories.

As well as theatrical performances, the show - which begins on BBC Two at 20:30 BST - will feature hip-hop, blues, jazz, opera and classical music that has been inspired by Shakespeare's plays.

In London, Shakespeare's Globe will be screening short films of every one of Shakespeare's 37 plays on giant screens along the banks of the Thames, between Tower Bridge and Westminster.

Performers include Dame Judi Dench, Sir Ian McKellen, Dame Helen Mirren and Benedict Cumberbatch. Photo: AFP

The films feature actors delivering their lines in the locations where the plays are set - such as Cleopatra in Egypt, Julius Caesar in the Roman Forum and Hamlet at Elsinore.

Among the star names involved in the project, entitled The Complete Walk, are Gemma Arterton, Dominic West, Ruth Wilson, James Norton, Zawe Ashton and Peter Capaldi.

Dominic Dromgoole, the Globe's artistic director, who will stand down on Sunday, revealed on Friday that the short films had just all been given a "U" classification apart from one film, Pericles, which is a PG.

"That astonished us, we thought some of the others might be closer to the margins, so we'll have to put up signs around that saying it needs parental guidance," Mr Dromgoole said.

The weekend will also see the return of the Globe's worldwide tour of Hamlet, which has spent the last two years travelling to almost every country in the world.

US President Barack Obama, who is currently in the UK, is planning to visit London's Globe Theatre during the morning as part of the anniversary celebrations.

Later in the day, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will be in Stratford-upon-Avon, where the playwright was born.

They will visit the site of the playwright's adult home for 19 years - now being transformed into a tourist attraction called Shakespeare's New Place, and due to open to the public in July. They will also go to see his grave, situated at Holy Trinity Church.

And in the evening the royal couple will attend Shakespeare Live, which is being broadcast from Stratford-upon-Avon.

BBC Radio 3 will also be broadcasting a weekend of Shakespeare-inspired music and performance live from the Bard's hometown.

And some of Shakespeare's best known characters - including Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet and King Lear - will be featuring along a stretch of the River Thames in London.

Elsewhere, leading arts organisations across the UK will make available performances, analysis and talks.

All material will be streamed on Shakespeare Day Live, a digital pop-up channel which kicks off Shakespeare Lives, a six month online festival.

Photo: Reuters

Shakespeare: England's greatest storyteller

--Born in 1564, and the earliest record of his writing dates from 1592

--Wrote around 38 full plays including Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hamlet, King Lear and Macbeth

--Words including "assassination", "addiction", "generous" and "bedroom" had their first recorded uses in his plays

--Introduced phrases like "elbow room", "heart of gold" and "tower of strength" to the English language

--Acted as well as wrote, and owned a share in the original Globe theatre

--Died on 23 April 1616, aged 52