The Summer 2014 season for the RSC has been announced,there are many exciting productions to look forward to here is an insight to what lies ahead.


The RSC’s Artistic Director, Gregory Doran, and Executive Director, Catherine Mallyon, announce the RSC’s artistic programme for Summer 2014, their first full season of programming since taking over the Company.

Royal Shakespeare Theatre: 18 March – 6 September 2014

Gregory Doran follows his production of Richard II with Henry IV Parts I & II in his six year journey across the entire First Folio of 36 plays. RSC Associate Artist, Antony Sher, returns to the Company to play the infamous knight Falstaff. Antony Sher last performed as Prospero in the acclaimed co-production with Baxter Theatre Company of The Tempest in 2009 and is currently appearing in a new production of Hysteria at Hampstead Theatre. He will be joined by Alex Hassell, who returns to the company as Prince Hal, having performed at the RSC in 2011 in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The City Madam, and Gregory Doran’s production of Cardenio. Jasper Britton will play Henry IV, following his last appearance at the RSC as the Marquis de Sade in Marat/Sade in 2011. Paola Dionisotti plays Mistress Quickly, following her performances as Pandulph in King John and Margaret in Richard III last year.

These two plays, with a cross-cast ensemble of actors, will transfer into the Barbican in London in December 2014, after runs in Stratford, Newcastle upon Tyne’s Theatre Royal and a five week UK tour of Number One theatres. The RSC extends its relationship with the Barbican for a further two years following the transfer of Richard II this December. Alongside the plays, both organisations will collaborate on an extensive creative learning programme. The RSC Education and Events & Exhibitions departments will work in partnership with Barbican Guildhall Creative Learning to engage new and existing audiences with events, workshops and special projects in east London schools and communities.

Shakespeare’s early exuberant romantic comedy about friendship and betrayal, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, will join the Royal Shakespeare Theatre repertoire from July 2014. Performed on the RST stage for the first time in 45 years, the production will be directed by Simon Godwin, making his RSC debut. Simon is an Associate Director at the Royal Court and at Bristol Old Vic. His production of Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude recently played to critical acclaim at the National Theatre.

All three productions will be broadcast ‘Live from Stratford-upon-Avon’ to cinemas around the world, through a continued partnership with Picturehouse Entertainment, and streamed free to schools, with the support of Ravensbourne College.

Swan Theatre: 5 April – 4 October 2014

The Swan Theatre returns to its original purpose as a home for the plays of Shakespeare’s contemporaries with ‘Roaring Girls’, a season of three rarely performed Jacobethan plays. Led by Deputy Artistic Director, Erica Whyman, the season reveals some of the great parts written for and about women.

The repertoire opens in April with The Roaring Girl by Thomas Middleton and Thomas Dekker, directed by Jo Davies. This delightfully subversive city comedy was written around 1607 about the fearless and feisty Moll Cutpurse who unmans all who cross her path. It is based on real life character Mary Frith and drawn from the slang ‘roaring boy’ for a carousing young man with exceptional fighting skills. It has only been performed once at the RSC; Barry Kyle directed Helen Mirren in the title role for a production which played in Stratford and London in 1983. Jo Davies began her career as an RSC Assistant Director and recently directed Opera North’s acclaimed production of Carousel. She is currently working on Silly Kings for National Theatre Wales, which opens in Cardiff later this year.

The second play in the season is Arden of Faversham, written in 1592 and published anonymously, but attributed variously to Thomas Kyd, Christopher Marlowe and Shakespeare. This wonderfully dark and dirty story of domestic portrayal is based on a true story of a successful businessman who was murdered by his wife Alice and her lover. The part of Alice Arden is the largest role for a woman in all Elizabethan drama. The play has only been performed twice by the RSC, in 1982, directed by Terry Hands at The Other Place, and in 1970, directed by Buzz Goodbody in a landmark production at the Roundhouse as part of the Theatregoround Festival. Polly Findlay makes her RSC directorial debut with this production, having recently directed the Olivier-award winning Derren Brown: Svengali and Antigone for the National Theatre. She is directing War Horse for the National in Berlin and will direct a new play by Tim Price at the National Theatre Shed later this year.

The final play in the season is The White Devil. Maria Aberg, who has recently directed As You Like It and King John for the RSC, will take a gloriously bold approach to this bloodthirsty tale of murder and revenge by John Webster. One of the great works of Jacobean theatre, the play made its stage debut in 1612 and was described as a ‘compellingly dangerous and fascinating play’. It has only had one previous production at the RSC, in 1996 directed by Gale Edwards.

The ‘Roaring Girls’ season will also include a limited run of our award-winning production of The Rape of Lucrece featuring internationally-acclaimed performer and singer Camille O’Sullivan. The provocative and politically-charged epic poem has been adapted for the stage by Elizabeth Freestone, Feargal Murray and Camille O’Sullivan and is directed by Elizabeth Freestone. It was originally performed as part of the reopening of the RSC’s Stratford theatres and has since been a hit at the Edinburgh and Sydney Festivals. The production’s international tour continues to Dublin, Derry/Londonderry and the Netherlands during the autumn 2013.


Why not head on over to the RSC website to check their availability and make your bookings for  Greg Doran’s first full year as Artistic Director. Then once you have your places booked you can book in with us we are just a 5 minute stroll to the RSC and we assure a warm welcome.

A little insight into all the people who have helped us transform the Bed and Breakfast over the past two years.

When we moved to Stratford-upon-Avon to run a Bed & Breakfast we were initially unaware of how many fantastic suppliers and local businesses were on our door step. As we started looking around to find the best suppliers for our breakfast and local businesses to help with the renovation on Avonlea we found some fantastic people. So today here is a little shout out for all of the locals that have helped us move Avonlea forward over the past 2 years.

Many of the people mentioned below we have met through Twitter. Those of you who follow us on Twitter will already know I like to chat and there is a fantastic community that has built up around Twitter. I would also class many of the people as friends too. If you are interested in finding out any more about the people mentioned you will find their Twitter names and websites at the bottom of the page where available.

I would first like to mention our local food suppliers; I could not start this without mentioning Anne & Chris for Monsoon Estates Coffee. They hand roast some of the best coffee I have ever tasted, and they have built their business up through their local markets and the Stratford Twitter community. We are proud to serve their coffee at breakfast to wake you up for a busy day enjoying Stratford.

Next up are Peter and Bill of Moss Cottage Preserves, Peter hand makes some wonderful Jams and Marmalades that we serve at breakfast. Along with the normal flavours there is often some more unusual ones like Quince Jam and Spiced Pumpkin Marmalade, the latter of which actually won an award at the International Marmalade Awards.

Obviously to go with the Jam or Marmalade (“JarMalade” as Bill and I like to refer to them!) is some freshly baked bread. Grants bakery deliver fantastic bread right to our door 6 days a week, these guys start work at 10pm to ensure they can be delivering fresh bread in time for breakfast. If you ever pop out for a morning stroll and notice it on the door step please feel free to bring it in.

Now the main event at breakfast is the Sausage and Bacon, we had to look a little further afield for this but we still only had to go as far as Broadway to the fantastic Willersey Provisions. When it comes to a breakfast sausage we believe that it should be high quality but not too herby such is the current trend with most places. Willersey seem to have the balance just right. When it comes to bacon they cut theirs extra thick for us, this rasher of bacon is so much more pleasing than the paper thin stuff.

To complete the Avonlea breakfast experience we get our Eggs from Vanessa of Country Eggs. Again another supplier just over the border into the Cotswolds but the hens on her farm are of great quality and she supplies us with fresh eggs every week that we will cook to your liking. Many people take the easy way out and microwave their scrambled eggs, we are firm believers in doing it the traditional way in a pan with just a little butter, they stay so much softer.

Our final local food supplier is Franks Biscuits. They hand make luxury Oaties, Butter Bites or Shortbread that we provide on our hospitality trays. They have won many gold stars in The Great Taste Awards over recent years. They are just the perfect little pick me up after a long day exploring Stratford sights.


That is everyone with regards to local food here at Avonlea but they are not the only local businesses that have helped us transform Avonlea. Over the past 2 years we have been through various stages of refurbishment. Please see my news feed from April for more about “our refurbishment”.

The main contributor to our transformation was Charlie Budd and his team who spent over a month decorating the B&B from top to bottom. He could have actually done it bottom to top for all I know! We were away at the time and Charlie does like to do things differently! Anyway, he spent a great amount of time painting all of the rooms so they felt bright and fresh. We got back in Charlies’ final week and it seemed that what had got them through the job was Charlie’s wit and Monsoon Estates Coffee.

Now we had all the walls and ceilings ship shape, it was time to focus on the flooring. We sourced Barbers Flooring of Stratford to take on the task of carpeting the entire Bed and Breakfast. We have gone for soft luxury carpet in all of the bedrooms and slightly more contemporary sisal in the hallway, without detracting from the Victorian roots of the property. Finally, we chose Karndean flooring for in the Breakfast room to make the most of the natural light that floods in through the conservatory.

The final flourish to our refurbishment was to change the curtains, so this is when we called upon Fiona Tait. She came round and we gave her the brief that all curtains had to be black out and showed her the colour schemes for each room. Fiona came back with some fantastic suggestions and a few weeks later she came back and fitted them all. We were really happy to find Fiona as she seemed to really understand our style and chose some fantastic fabric and made us some lovely curtains.

Once the refurbishment was complete we had to show everyone who looks at our website so we knew exactly who to call. Sally Crane, she had already done the initial website shots when we first moved in to Avonlea and she also did our wedding a few months later. Sally has such a good eye and always picks out shots you wouldn’t normally think of. All of the shots currently on our website are by Sally and we are hoping to convince her to do a few more local scenes for us on canvas for the bedrooms.

Without all of these people if would not have been possible to make Avonlea the place it is today, if you would like to find out anything else about any of our suppliers please see the links below.


Monsoon Estates – @MonsoonEstates or

Grants Bakeries – @GrantsBakeries or

Franks Biscuits – @FranksBiscuits or

Charlie Budd – @charliebudd or

Barbers Flooring –

Fiona Tait – @Fionainteriors or

Sally Crane – @SallyCranePhoto or

We have been lucky enough to have @David_Tennant write a guest blog for us and below you will find an insight into the impact that David Tennant has had on Stratford in his previous visits;

David Tennant will star in Richard II in Stratford-upon-Avon from Thursday 10th October to Saturday 15th November 2013. During that time, including previews, he will play 39 performances before the production transfers to The Barbican Centre in London for another 46 performances.

This will be the fourth season that David has played for the Royal Shakespeare Company. The first was in 1996 when he played Touchstone in As You Like It, Jack Lane in The Herbal Bed and Colonel Hamilton in The General From America. During 2000 he played Jack Absolute in The Rivals, Antipholus of Syracuse in Comedy Of Errors and the title role of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet

Of course his most famous season in Stratford was in 2008 when he played the title role of Hamlet, as well as Berowne in Love’s Labour’s Lost. Hamlet, and David especially, received great reviews from both theatre critics and audiences. In fact, The Guardian theatre critic called David ‘The greatest Hamlet of his generation.’

Each of the performances that season were sold out and queues for returns formed for each performance, even midweek. Towards the end of the run people even slept overnight outside the theatre (in November!) in order to get a return ticket and some changed hands on eBay for several hundreds of pounds despite the Royal Shakespeare Company’s best efforts to stop profiteering.

Reports about the Press Night for Hamlet was an item on the front of most of the broadsheet newspapers the following morning and it was even mentioned on Newsnight on BBC Two! David’s fame as the most popular Doctor Who actor was so extensive that a Stratford fish and chip shop put a photo of a Dalek in its window with the sign ‘Exterminate your hunger!’ and even that was mentioned in some national newspapers! The then Prime Minister Gordon Brown even attended the First Night too!

That season the Royal Shakespeare Company announced on the first night that both David and Patrick Stewart (who played Claudius) would only sign Royal Shakespeare Company merchandise but, after the first preview. When it became obvious that it was David Tennant that people had come to see, Patrick did not appear at the stage door again during the run. David signed for about 10 minutes after most performances and a barrier was erected around the area to make it safe for the large crowds that gathered. By the end of the run, lots of fans realised that the only way to get an autograph was to start queuing during the performance so they would go to the stage door on nights when they were not watching a performance!

It was during the interval of a performance of Hamlet in October 2008 that David appeared from the stage door in Stratford to accept the Most Popular Actor Award via a live satellite link to the National Television Awards in London and it was during his acceptance speech that he announced that he would be leaving Doctor Who the following year. He then returned to play the second half of Hamlet with nobody in the audience aware of the bombshell he had dropped!

The RSC’s annual accounts noted an increase in profits during that season and local hotels and traders reported the same which they are hoping will occur again this year.

That seems likely to happen because, as soon as David was officially announced to play Richard II, the Royal Shakespeare Company reported that they had experienced a massive surge in applications for Memberships as fans knew from last time that that was the best way to get tickets.

When tickets went on sale, both for Members and later for the general public, the Royal Shakespeare Company website could not cope with the demand and, despite turning off the rest of their website, fans reported it was taking over an hour to process their orders so that people lost the seats they had as all transactions had to be completed within the hour.

There were fears by some regular theatre-goers during the 2008 season that fans of David might disrupt the performances, but, despite even having some young children in the audiences, this never happened as they all complied with theatre etiquette and were well behaved.

Even now the Stratford Walks walking tour of Stratford mentions the great effect that David Tennant had on the town that season, as does a backstage tour of the theatre even though David played in the Courtyard Theatre.

If you are lucky enough to have secured tickets for Richard II or you would like to join in the chilly queues for the chance of a returned ticket a warm welcome is assured for you at Avonlea.

To celebrate David Tennant’s return to Stratford we are offering 1 night FREE Bed & Breakfast accommodation when you book 5 or more nights in total. This offer is available Thursday 10th October to Saturday 15thNovember 2013.

We would like to thank @David_Tennant for this wonderful insight into the effect David has had over the years on Stratford. If you would like to learn more about David’s work please see the following site and follow @David_Tennant on Twitter


David Tennant - To Visit Stratford Upon Avon

Since moving in we have spent much time and effort planning our refurbishment.

Last year we changed all of the beds, we had great fun finding “the right bed”. The only way to test the true quality of a bed is kick your shoes off and jump on and lay as you would at home. We did get some funny looks. In the end we found the ideal bed whilst staying at a hotel, we slept so well, in the morning we looked under the sheets to find out where it had come from. We contacted the company and arranged for them to meet us at Avonlea. They had a vast range and we ended up choosing their stylish deluxe divan base with luxury pocket sprung mattresses. This was the best investment we made in our 1st year as many of our guests say it’s “the best nights sleep they have had in a long time”

We knew after changing the beds there would be a long list of changes still to come and the biggest job was to redecorate the whole house. Fortunately we know Charlie, a local decorator who told us the job would take at least a month. Unfortunately this meant that we had to close in the New Year and have a holiday ourselves, what a shame! (more about our holiday in another post)

So at the beginning of this year we closed for 7 weeks so we could re-decorate and re-carpet throughout the whole house. Charlie lent us his colour chart so we could choose the best colours; I never thought choosing the right shade of cream could be so difficult. (50 shades of cream springs to mind!).Whilst we were away Charlie and his team including a Spaniel called Freddie, set to on the work.  After returning from our time away we were blown away by how light and airy the house looked, all that time choosing the right shade had paid off!

We also used the time whilst we were closed to change all of the flooring throughout. We decided on plush carpets for the bedrooms so that they would feel warm and snuggly under foot. In the hallway we decided on sisal because we love the look of this fantastic natural fibre. We wanted to change the breakfast room to hard wood but when a previous extension had been added it wasn’t put on the same level so this ruled hard wood out. We found a fantastic product called Karndeen that looks just like real wood but is flexible this meant it would go down our slight slope from the conservatory.

All in all we are happy with the new look of the B&B, there was just one more thing that needed doing….curtains. So I asked round some friends and found a lovely lady called Fiona. Fiona came round and helped us choose the curtains for each room, the only thing we told her is that they had to done in be black out material (a must in our opinion). She came up with some fantastic choices and 6 weeks later we had some lovely new curtains. We think this has now finished off all of our hard work, making Avonlea look stylish and comfy yet not detracting from the buildings Victorian heritage.

We are just now waiting for our photographer to return from holiday and we will be able to share with you all how wonderful Avonlea now looks, I did consider taking the pictures myself but I do not think that I would do any of the work justice. So watch this space for a future post with picture of the B&B.


We have reached a milestone we now have 100 reviews on TripAdvisor.

We wish to thank all of our previous guests who have taken to time to rate us on TripAdvisor. Not only has this meant that we have reached the milestone of 100 reviews we have moved up a massive 20 places from when we took over Avonlea a year ago.  We are now 13th out of a possible 90 B&B’s in Stratford Upon Avon which is a great achievement in just a year.

Also last week we were honoured to be mentioned in Vanishing Points “Globetrotter Postcards” blog. Why not see what she has to say about Avonlea B&B and also visiting Stratford Upon Avon in general.

We really love to hear everyone’s feedback about their stay at Avonlea so we know what we are doing right and any future improvements that can be made to make your stay in Stratford even better.

The Chef’s Dozen an Amazing restaurant just 20 mins drive from Avonlea B&B and worth the trip.

When we first decided to recommend restaurants to our guests we decided that they would have to be within walking distance from Avonlea. However we were so blown by the Chef’s Dozen we have decided to add it to our list.

I have wanted to go to the Chefs Dozen for ages now, it had been recommended by a friend and after seeing their website and reviews I got very excited. We finally got the opportunity to go and I was hoping that it would live up to the high expectations that I had set for it.

All I can say it that it didn’t only meet expectations it dramatically exceeded them. We walked in and were warmly welcomed by the front of house half of the 2 person owner/partner team (Solanche) the other half being the Chef (Richard). Many times I have been to restaurants where a chef had decided to set up on their own have their partner working out front and it just does not work because the partner does not have the knowledge to run front of house. It was quickly apparent that this was not the case as we guided through the unique menu and offered some fantastic wine that had been personally chosen by her.

We decided to go for the 5 course option as this was the best way we could get to try every dish on the menu by sharing everything between us. The idea is a sort of build your own tasting menu from any of the 12 dishes on offer.

Now down to the food we were firstly presented with a pre appetiser that was a curried parsnip ice-cream, we all instantly knew we were in for a treat. From then on every course was faultless even dishes we were slightly unsure about when reading the menu surprised us and were fantastic. My favourite dish was Brill with lovely crispy skin and a lovely zesty lemon a perfect marriage. Another awesome dish was the Shropshire chicken with wild garlic and candid walnuts that were just sublime.

We were sat finishing our meal deciding exactly where in our “best ever meal list” the Chefs dozen would rank the only this we could agree on it that with would be in our top 5. We love to dine out and we have eaten a many Michelin 1 star and even 2 star restaurants (and one 3 star for myself) and we have even worked for Michelin star restaurant so to be in our top 5 is something special.

I truly believe that the Michelin man will be knocking on the door of the chefs dozen very soon. Part of me does want him not to find them in this sleepy Warwickshire backwater just so that I can get a table but I think with cooking as fine as this very soon they will have many accolades from not only Michelin but AA and Hardens and I will have to start to plan well in advance when we want to go back again.

Olympic news from Stratford Upon Avon (NOT Stratford east London)What’s been happening happening near Avonlea B&B

At the beginning of the month the Olympic torch went right past the door of Avonlea. In the centre of town the crowds were out in force and some people were 10 deep trying to get a view. We thought with all the other Bed & Breakfasts on our road it would be hard to get a space too. But fortunately we managed to get a great spot right outside the front of the B&B.

There was a great atmosphere and all of our family who came to visit for the occasion had a really great day. It really made us realise the countdown is on. The next big Olympic event in Stratford Upon Avon is the installation of the big screen in Bancroft Gardens just a 5 min walk from Avonlea. The screen will be up on the 27th of July to celebrate the opening ceremony and they will be a part in Bancroft gardens too. If the weather finally decides to surprise us with “summer” we are looking forward to a great atmosphere.

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