What a great month to be exploring London. As 2016 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death we’ve got a look at the month’s Shakespearean highlights, some flipping good fun and much more.
The first production of 2016 at The Rose Playhouse is Hamlet by William Shakespeare. Starring Chris Clynes as Hamlet and Suzie Marie as Ophelia, there are performances from 2 to 26 February. Directed by Diana Vucane, this production seeks to journey through Shakespeare’s well-known play, focusing on the perspective of a disturbed mind, thus defying the reality-based structure of time and space, recognising solely the inconceivable logic of a dream.
2016 is an important year for The Rose Playhouse as they are raising the funds for The Rose Revealed Project to complete the 1989 dig. It is also the year they will particularly remember Philip Henslowe, who died on Twelfth Night 1616.
Have you visited the stunning indoor Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at The Globe? This month would be a perfect time to enjoy a candlelit production of The Tempest in the recreated intimate seventeenth century theatre.
Inspired by English colonial adventures and brilliantly conjuring up a magic and supernatural world, The Tempest is Shakespeare’s late masterpiece of forgiveness, generosity and enlightenment. It’s on from 17 February until 22 April.
By Me William Shakespeare – A Life in Writing is a joint exhibition from The National Archives and King’s College London that brings six key Shakespeare documents together for the first time to provide a unique journey and fresh insights into Shakespeare’s life in London.
From 3 February to 29 May, at the Inigo Rooms at Somerset House, you can see Shakespeare’s Last Will and Testament and four of his six known signatures in existence – including his earliest and latest.
As an aside, also at Somerset House, is The Museum of Innocence. A free exhibition from 27 January until 3 April, this is a collaboration with Nobel Prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk creating a physical manifestation of his novel of the same name.
Shrove Tuesday is also Pancake Day and the date this year is Tuesday 9 February. We embrace the fun with races where teams have to carry a frying pan and flip a pancake while running to win. Spectators are always needed to cheer the teams and they are usually raising money for charity.
The one with the best ‘costumes’ though is The Inter Livery Pancake Races at The Guildhall in The City of London which starts at 12pm.
Capturing The City
Staying in The City of London, Capturing the City: Photography at the Bank of England is now open at the Bank of England Museum. Their fascinating historic photography collection includes the history of photography too with early salt paper prints from the 1840s through to images taken by Royal Photographic Society photographers in 2015.
The exhibition explores an alternative and sometimes surprising history of the Bank, its buildings and staff, while also creating a history of London from the Bank’s perspective. Images of Threadneedle Street’s hidden emergency operating theatre and Sir John Soane’s ‘lost’ Bank have convinced me this is definitely one to visit this month.
Nearby at the Museum of London, there’s another free exhibition but this time about the history of professional tattooing in London from the 17th century to today. Tattoo London is on until 8 May and reveals life inside four contemporary tattoo studios in the capital.
There’s an event on Monday 22 February – Tattoo London: Under The Skin – where you can meet the featured artists and hear talks at this after-hours adult evening.
Two Temple Place
Somewhere that’s worth visiting any time is Two Temple Place. It’s a fabulous late Victorian mansion built by William Waldorf Astor – once the world’s richest man, which explains the opulent interior.
The latest exhibition is about the beauty of Ancient Egypt and runs from 30 January to 24 April. Beyond Beauty: Transforming the Body in Ancient Egypt looks at the day-to-day routines of ancient Egyptians and the importance of appearance in the afterlife. Through artefacts spanning over four millennia, from 3,500 B.C. to 400 A.D., we can consider why Egyptians cared so much about transforming the way they looked and how our perceptions are influenced by the objects they left behind.
Performing for the Camera
Performing for the Camera is at Tate Modern from 18 February to 12 June 2016. It looks at the relationship between photography and performance, from the invention of photography in the 19th century to the selfie culture of today. The 500 images cover the humour and improvisation of posing for the camera, as well as photography as a serious art form.
Botticelli and Treasures from the Hamilton Collection
This major exhibition at The Courtauld Gallery features thirty of Botticelli’s drawings for Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’ alongside a selection of outstanding Renaissance illuminated manuscripts. Botticelli and Treasures from the Hamilton Collection is on from 18 February until 15 May 2016.
These drawings, dated to around 1480-95 and drawn on vellum, are rarely on display. They are accompanied by a selection of illuminated manuscripts, many from the time of Botticelli.
The Master Builder
For a theatre recommendation this month I’ve chosen The Master Builder at The Old Vic Theatre from 29 January to 19 March. Ralph Fiennes plays Halvard Solness, a master architect, who has spent his lifetime building the tallest spires in the land. But when Hilde, a radiant country girl, descends unexpectedly into his world, age is confronted by youth, and a series of revelations build to a vertiginous climax.
If you would like even more ideas for this month have a look at the Things to Do in London in February 2016 from Kensington House Hotel, our sister hotel.
There’s the 162nd university Boat Race on The Thames between Oxford and Cambridge on 27 March. In this annual competition Oxford is leading Cambridge 81 wins to 79 so it’s a close thing.
There’s more sport in The Velodrome in the Olympic Park when it’s the venue for the UCI Track Cycling Championships on 2 to 6 March.
The Fashion & Textile Museum has a new exhibition opening on 11 March. Art Textiles: Marian Clayden.
It’s a retrospective of luxurious art textiles in silk, velvet, cotton and felted wool by this internationally collected designer.
The Guildhall Art Gallery has a wonderful free photography exhibition on 4 March to 31 July. Unseen City: Photos by Martin Parr captures pomp, ceremony and unguarded moments in the City of London.
And for more light display joy in London, Shakespeare Son et Lumière is at The Guildhall on 4 and 5 March. It a free event with projections on The Guildhall building between 6.45pm and 8.45pm.
Do check out the latest offers as London Bridge Hotel has weekend rates from as low as £99. You can sign up for special offer alerts here. And when you can’t be at the hotel, you can try making the Quarter Bar’s cocktails with these recipes.
Laura Porter writes the About.com London Travel site and AboutLondonLaura.com and contributes to many other publications while sustaining an afternoon tea addiction to rival that of our Queen. You can find Laura on twitter as @AboutLondon and on Facebook as @AboutLondonLaura.