2017 Shakespeare Festival Program

William Shakespeare was rather fond of words with double meanings and in this year's festival theme we have struck gold with a title that has not one or two but three meanings for us to play with.

The directors of our community plays, the youth theatre ensemble and the combined schools performance will all explore varied techniques for lighting their actors on stage.

From fairy lights in the main street to black light effects at our Bard’s Banquet or lighting up the historic Stratford Courthouse Theatre we want to physically use as many lights as possible.

Through our Light/Dark art exhibition we can draw on the artist’s talents to physically utilise lights of all sorts in their pieces. Here there comes another interpretation of the word illuminate - the challenge for artists to decorate or embellish the works of Shakespeare.

Finally as theatre makers we can seek to illuminate the plays of Shakespeare for our audiences. Through education, interpretation and exploration the meaning of the texts will be revealed. We have dark twists on classic comedies, a light being turned on minor characters and playwrights imagining what happened next.

Click here to download your own printable version of the 2017 Festival Program


Saturday April 22, 6.00pm
The Stratford Courthouse & Segue Gallery, 66 Princes Highway, Stratford

Tickets: Free event, no booking required.

Come and celebrate the opening of our 2017 Shakespeare on the River Festival with us at the Stratford Courthouse Theatre and Segue Gallery. Enjoy the opening of the 2017 Art Exhibition 'Light & Dark', live performances, the announcement of the 2017 Sheila Malady Short Story Competition winners, and the presentation of the 2017 Janice Jones Youth Award.

shakespeare's birthday party in the park

Sunday, April 23, 10am
Apex Park, Startford

Tickets: Free event, no booking required

Children of all ages are invited to Stratford’s Medieval Apex Park for a Shakespearean Birthday Bash. Come and support Stratford’s Courthouse Kids as they perform snippets of some of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. Activities will include games, puzzles, a scavenger hunt and of course a giant birthday cake.

Soothplayers: Completely Improvised Shakespeare

Thursday, April 27, 7.30pm

Direct from their stellar season in the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Soothplayers return to merry olde Stratford with their show, Completely Improvised Shakespeare! 

Soothplayers take a title from the audience and improvise a play in Shakespearean style. They bring Shakespeare lovers and haters together for a fun night of laughter and amazement.

While all shows employ the distinctive themes and language of Shakespeare, every play is unique and created on the spot: no script, no planning! The ensemble features some Melbourne's most well-trained and talented improvisers, including graduates of Impro Melbourne, The Improv Conspiracy, and Chicago's IO Theatre.

Whether playing comedy, tragedy or history, Soothplayers promise an experience that is equal parts hilarity and wonder.

"Soothplayers' rowdy, hilarious performances are incredibly enjoyable and kind of astounding." The Age

"Highly entertaining and spontaneous comedy. Completely Improvised Shakespeare is a sure bet." Herald Sun

"Hysterical, ingenious and riveting." Shakespeare Oz
"Nothing short of awe inspiring. ★★★★"  The Music
"Left the audience in a state of exuberant delight. ★★★★1/2" Theatre people
"Captivating, hilarious and beautifully executed. ★★★★" Planet Arts


"light & dark"

Friday April 28, 7.30pm
Saturday April 29, 7.30pm
Thursday May 4, 7.30pm
Friday May 5, 7.30pm
Saturday May 6, 5pm

All shows performed at the Stratford Courthouse Theatre, 66 Princes Highway, Stratford

Tickets: Adults $25 // Concession $15

In a break with tradition our Community Players will present “Light & Dark” a night of two plays with opposing styles. First is a condensed adaptation of Shakespeare’s final tragedy “Coriolanus” Directed by Robert Leggett –

The arrogant and skillful Roman warrior Caius Martius earns the title of Coriolanus after a particularly brilliant victory in battle, and upon his return to Rome is primed to be made consul by the Senate. But Coriolanus does nothing to hide his disdain for the plebeians and democracy, and the people turn against him. Eventually banished from Rome, Coriolanus chooses to lead his own enemy’s army to kill the people he once served. After a change of heart, he attempts to broker a peace, but is betrayed and killed.

After intermission the audience will be treated to some light relief with an original work written by Sale local Jake Watson “Two”. Directed by Gavin Prior –

Shakespeare's lovers. Forever immortalised. Perfect. Expertly written. Impressive? Yeah.

Perfect? Hardly. What happened next? See four couples. Revised, revisited, rewritten.

What happened after the final bow?

bard's blacklight banquet

Saturday May 6, 7.30pm
Mechanics Hall, Hobson Street Stratford

Tickets: All tickets $55 (includes a three course meal + entertainment)

Banquet goers will be treated to a sumptuous feast, witness illuminating entertainment, and then be able to dance the night away under the blacklights as DJ Shakey drops some beats. 

Fresh from the Adelaide Fringe Festival, The RAW Shakespeare Project will delight the audience with their unique take on the Bard with their two short live performances. Book early for this popular event.

For one night only The Bard's Bar will be open selling locally crafted beers, wine, and ciders.

Be sure to book early for this always popular, sell out event. 

traditional evensong

Sunday, April 23, 4.30pm
Holy Trinity Church, 26 McFarlane Street, Stratford

Tickets: Free event, no booking required

Evensong at the Holy Trinity Church is a Shakespeare on the River Festival tradition. Come along and celebrate this ecumenical service with us.

vocal nosh

Sunday, April 30, 12pm-3pm
Mechanics Hall, Hobson Street, Stratford

Tickets: All tickets $15 (includes a hot lunch)

The welcome return of this popular event, made possible by the support of Stratford Sister Cities Victoria. This year’s nosh will combine song, soup and dance.  UK contemporary folk singer Kirsty Bromley will join local music teacher Jenny Candy in leading the workshop. Participants will work up an appetite learning new songs and also the basics of a Morris Dance. For catering purposes we ask that you pre-book. 




Sunday May 7, 10am-3pm
Hobson Street, Stratford

Tickets: Free event, no booking required.

A grand variety of traditional arts and crafts, food and beverages, fresh produce, together with exhibitions, lost trade displays, theatre, kids games and workshops.

For more information on Faire Day, head to our dedicated Faire Day page here.

Performances on the day:

RAW Shakespeare Project

The Raw Shakespeare Project present two of their short vignettes adapted from the Bard’s most famous plays.  Each vignette is 20 minutes and performed in the stripped-back and bawdy style we feel respects how traveling troupes, avoiding the latest outbreak of the plague in London, would have performed 400 years ago

"Beatrice & Benedick"

Shakespeare’s most dysfunctional lovers are thrown together for our voyeuristic entertainment - proving that anger, lies, deceit and bad poetry are the surest road to true love.  ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ has been raided to showcase this feisty, and timeless, battle of the sexes.

"Bottom’s Dream"

All the important moments of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ as told through the eyes of Bottom as he relives his adventures and vaguest memories of his time in the forest outside Athens walls.  Community actors, love potions, warring fairies and one lucky donkey star, before ending with ‘that play’…

Show times:

10:15am: "Beatrice & Benedick"
10:50am: "Beatrice & Benedick"
11:30am: "Bottom’s Dream"
12:10pm: "Bottom’s Dream"
2:30pm: "Beatrice & Benedick"

All shows performed in Mechanics Hall, Hobson Street Stratford
Tickets: Adults $10 // Under 15 FREE (when accompanied by a paying adult)



Saturday, May 6, 1pm
Sunday, May 7, 1pm
Stratford Courthouse Theatre, 66 Princes Highway, Stratford
All Tickets: $20

Visiting touring company The Rude Mechanicals bring their original work that imagines events after the curtain has fallen.

After The Tempest nothing is the same …

Prospero has returned to Milan with the winds of change swirling at his feet. This time the threat is one of war, concealment and accusations. Once more his dukedom is under threat, his daughter banished from Naples. It will take all his wisdom and forethought to save himself and Milan from this tempest.

"a midsummer's nightmare" 

Saturday April 22, 8pm
Sunday April 23, 1pm
Stratford Courthouse Theatre, 66 Princes Highway, Stratford

Tickets: All tickets $15

Groundwork Youth Theatre gives us an adaptation of a Shakespearean classic with their original work, "A Midsummer's Nightmare" (based, of course, on the Bard's "A Midsummer Night's Dream"). When things take a surprising turn toward the more sinister, how will an overworked, under appreciated pixie make things right before the end?

Directed by Lauren Reid. 


"The tempest"

Tuesday May 2, 1.30pm
Wednesday May 3, 1.30pm
Friday May 5, 6pm
Sunday, May 7, 10.30am
Mechanics Hall, Hobson Street Stratford

Tickets: All tickets $5

In this production, local grade 6 students will bring to life the story of the powerful sorcerer Prospero on his magical island with his daughter, sprites, monsters and storms.

Directed by Joanne Watt.