William Shakespeare puts Whatsonstage.com to shame in the birthday stakes. While we’ve been marking our 15th this month, today 23 April marks the Bard’s 448th. And, as part of the London 2012 programme of cultural events around this summer’s Olympics, the UK’s two main theatrical institutions that exist to fly the Shakespeare flag are outdoing themselves with this year’s celebrations in honour of “the world’s playwright”.

The Royal Shakespeare Company is the driving force behind the World Shakespeare Festival, billed as the world’s biggest ever Shakespeare festival, which accounts for more than one million tickets to over 70 productions - plus special events, exhibitions and broadcasts – staged in collaboration with over 70 partners.

The WSF, which continues until November 2012, launches today with a new sonnet – published below - specially commissioned from internationally renowned playwright (author of modern classics including Shopping and Fucking) and RSC writer in residence Mark Ravenhill.

A key part of the overall WSF schedule, on London’s Bankside today, Shakespeare’s Globe mounts its Globe to Globe season, in which 37 international companies present all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays in 37 different languages. To mark the first day, New Zealand’s Ngākau Toa theatre company, who open the programme with their take on Troilus and Cressida are perform a tradidtional haka dance on the stage of the Globe.

Meanwhile, to find out more about both events and how to get the best of the bard in London, make sure you grab a copy of the current “Shakespeare’s Coming Home” issue of Time Out magazine, which is out now.

The weekly magazine includes a top ten of some of the best international productions in the World Shakespeare Festival, which the Time Out team travelled the globe to find, as well as a travel back in time to what the capital was like in Shakespeare’s day. Online at Time Out, you’ll also find full Shakespeare London listings and a month-by-month festival calendar.

Also in the current Time Out magazine are all the other Regular sections and listings to help readers get the most out of the capital: The week in London, Shopping & Style, Food & Drink, Travel, Around Town & Kids, Art, Books, Clubbing, Cabaret, Dance, Film, DVD, Gay & Lesbian, Music, Classical, Time In, and Slice of Life.

The 19-25 April 2012 issue of Time Out magazine is on sale now in all good newsagents, priced £3.25.

To get Time Out delivered to your door, for as little as £5 for ten issues as part of a special introductory offer, click here.


A New Sonnet for Shakespeare by Mark Ravenhill, RSC Writer in Residence

I envy you. Your world was new, unmapped,
The language that you wrote in barely fixed;
You were Shagsbeer or Shaxpeer - whatever
Form your Will-full pen chose to take each day;
Great continents of human thought and heart
Were not yet owned by any national tongue
And were yours to chart, conquer, describe, sell:
You made an empire of our language in your Globe.
And now we rush to patent every cell
Of being: we brand ourselves with jingles,
Every word we speak or write is trade
And our little lives are ended with a deal.
You taught us language and there’s profit on’t
But still a greater possibility - to curse.