By Gregory Doran
Gregory Doran has been artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) since 2012. The Briton’s directorial projects have included more than 27 major Shakespeare productions and a season of Jacobean plays, which won an Olivier Award in 2002. His production of ‘Troilus and Cressida’ opens later this month.
I love the view from the top of the tower of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre (RST). It rises above two of the most beautiful Shakespeare theatres in the world: the RST and the Swan. From up here, middle England stretches out before you. Some 20km to the south-east, across the Vale of the Red Horse, looms Edgehill (site of the English civil war battle). To the south, 12km out of Stratford, the distinctive back of spooky Meon Hill (notorious for tales of witchcraft and murder) marks the edge of the Cotswold escarpment.
Where to live — outskirts of town
North of the RST tower, on the ridge of the Welcombe Hills stands an Ozymandian obelisk for a long-forgotten 19th-century politician. The obelisk, about 3km from the town centre, is about 120 feet high, pretty much the same height as the RST tower. William Shakespeare owned land in these hills and my house, a 1916 cottage, nestles on the edge of them. It is a great place to escape day-to-day pressures.
Where to sit and contemplate
To the south, the spire of Holy Trinity Church completes the ley line between obelisk, tower and church. This stone spire was added in 1763, nearly 200 years after Shakespeare’s birth, replacing the shorter wooden one that he would have known. I often come to sit in this beautiful church, nod to his funerary bust and pay my respects to the man who was baptised and buried here, and who has provided me with a passport through my life.
Where to learn about Shakespeare
Further west, at the top of Chapel Lane, is the site of New Place, the home Shakespeare bought in 1597. Recently it has been beautifully reimagined. The guides are extremely well informed and can tell you pretty much anything you might want to know about Mr WS — or you can just sit and breathe in the scent of the flowers in the Knot Garden. Here, playwright JB Priestley imagined all the characters from Twelfth Night flitting about. He said it was where you could imagine Shakespeare alive.
Where to drink tea
The Fourteas in Sheep Street is a great place for a mid-morning coffee or an afternoon cup of tea, with a delicious rock bun or fondant cupcake. It is run by a couple who used to work in stage management at the RSC and their flair for creating a 1940s-themed café combines grace and theatricality.
Where to eat dinner
In the 30-odd years I have spent with the RSC, and with my other half Antony Sher, the restaurant we visit most — apart from the famous Dirty Duck pub — is Sorrento. At this Italian restaurant tucked away up Ely Street, you are always welcomed with a smile. If Henrick, the Polish maître d’, knows we are coming, he ensures the fegato alla veneziana (liver and onions) is on the menu.
Where to exercise
If we want to walk that off, a stroll through the Seven Meadows stretch of the river Avon, out beyond Holy Trinity, and back on the Greenway (a former railway line) that runs alongside the racecourse, is an easy hour’s exercise.
‘Troilus and Cressida’ is at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon between October 12 and November 17
Photographs: Leo Goddard; Dreamstime; Alamy; James Kerr/The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust; Getty Images/iStockphoto