Set within the grounds of the house where William Shakespeare was born, Sarner has brought the Bard to life with sets, scenery, lighting and audio visual presentations in an automated dark walk attraction that shows Shakespeare’s journey from Tudor Stratford to London and how his life’s work has influenced the world of literature and theatre.

Stratford-Upon-Avon, UK
- Story, Research & Interpretation - Concept Design & Visualisation - Architectural & MEP Coordination - Masterplanning - Scheme & Detailed Design - Project Engineering & Technical Design - Interior Design - Brand Development - Lighting, Audio, Video, Network Design - Set and Staging Design - Writing & Content Development - Media & Film Production - Interactive Technologies - Graphics - Lighting - Audiovisual - Theming - Art Direction - Installation Supervision - Programming - Construction & Installation - Support & Maintenance - Ongoing Upgrades and Extensions - Training

Client's brief

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust was formed in 19th century to purchase and care for Shakespeare’s first house in Henley Street in Stratford-upon-Avon, which became a successful visitor attraction. However, Stratford’s tourist numbers began to drop after Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre opened in London. Stratford-upon-Avon was no longer the only place of pilgrimage for Shakespeare seekers. It was time to take a hard look at the ‘experience’ and ways in which it could be made more compelling, more competitive.

The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust commissioned Sarner to create a new introduction to Shakespeare’s house, replacing the somewhat academic presentation that had been in place for almost two decades, to help reshape this visitor experience for the 21st century. Sarner's brief was to give the Bard a modern makeover and bring the story of Shakespeare to life.

Our Solution

Sarner designed a fully automated dark walk-through experience using the latest in AV technology to present fascinating artefacts in a dynamic way that encapsulates the excitement and passion of the man himself. The experience features powerful show productions, created for each of the zones, that creatively educate and inform the visitors as they make their way through the centre. Actual artefacts are revealed as part of the show sequences which help to enhance the whole experience.

Zone 1: Reception and Pre-Show

As visitors enter the refreshed facade they are greeted by a contemporary reception and ticketing area, designed to aid efficiency and flow into the attraction. This leads into Zone 1, the Pre-Show, which is concealed behind Tudor patterned voile banners, the design of which is based on the wall coverings of the room in which Shakespeare was born. Setting the scene for the main ‘Acts’ of the exhibition, Zone 1 features a 50” screen with a brief glimpse of what lies ahead. The eye is drawn to an illuminated glass case displaying a gold ‘wax seal’ ring with the initials ‘WS’ which is believed to be the only personal item in existence. Shakespeare himself, in many different guises, looks down from a selection of contrasting styles of paintings by various artists. After 4 minutes, the automatic doors open to allow the group of visitors to move into Zone 2.

Zone 2: Shakespeare’s Life

Visitors are transported into the forest of Arden, set in quaint Tudor Stratford, and the very beginnings of Shakespearian history. The room is dominated by an imposing 3 metre tall oak tree, with its branches forming a ceiling canopy and, as the doors close, the dramatic show of Shakespeare’s journey begins. Renowned Shakespearian actors Patrick Stewart and Juliet Stevenson narrated all of the productions which were written and scripted by Dr. Paul Edmondson, Head of Learning at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. The show begins on a 2.5 metre wide projection screen and throughout the production various artefacts are identified, appearing through a transition gauze which, at first, looks like a building within the set but is in fact a secure case housing the artefacts.

Zone 3: The Legacy

Visitors follow in Shakespeare’s footsteps, making their way from Stratford to Tudor London, as he himself did in the 16th Century. A large panoramic 3D silhouette set depicts the view across the River Thames, ending with a detailed cross-section model of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. Here cannon-fire and flame audio surrounds the set while red hot lighting effects burn in the background. A 4 metre wide projection screen fills the room, continuing the show production. A life size set of Shakespeare’s study shows the writer working at his desk and artefacts are exposed when prompted by the narration. As the real First Folio is illuminated, the screen above it shows a cgi animation sequence of the pages turning, and from this emerges the wonderful legacy of Shakespeare. The First Folio is regarded as one of the most important books in the English Language and is considered to be a national treasure.

Zone 4: Worldwide Influences

Visitors are met with the final projection screen and suspended images portraying a variety of Shakespeare’s influences on the modern world. A Japanese production, modern-day film scenes and portrayals of Shakespeare’s works through painting are all displayed, making this area a mix of history and modern global interest.

Zone 5: The Hall of Fame

This zone is a fitting tribute to William Shakespeare and a perfect legacy. Each of William Shakespeare’s plays can be performed using just 13 actors and this final zone features 13 floor-to-ceiling banners depicting some of the most iconic actors and artists who have been influenced by Shakespeare or his plays. Dame Judi Dench, Sir Laurence Olivier and Akira Kurosawa are featured, among others, and the 13th actor, voted for by Guardian readers, is David Tennant. Visitors then exit directly into the gardens and journey on through to a tour of Shakespeare’s Birthplace itself.
'This project has been extremely important to us as it’s the centrepiece of the five houses that The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust opened to the public in and around Stratford. We’re thrilled with what Sarner has created to give visitors a spectacular new visual experience and insight into the life of our greatest playwright, William Shakespeare.'
Lincoln Clarke Head of Tourism and Marketing, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
'Sarner followed the brief to the letter, and even came in within the budget. From the ticket hall through to the ‘Hall of Fame,’ Sarner has managed to engage the visitor and take them on an immersive journey through Shakespeare’s life, work and global influence.'
Richard Kemp Project Manager, The Shakespeare Birthplace Trust