TWO icons of British film and theatre will be given the freedom of Stratford as they unveil one of the town’s most famous Shakespeare statues after a long restoration project.
Dame Judi Dench and Sir Kenneth Branagh will be granted the honour as they unveil the restored David Garrick statue of Shakespeare on Friday April 22 – a day before the Bard’s birthday celebrations.
The statue, donated to the town by Garrick in the 18th century, had been taken away to London for much-needed restoration work.
A project led by Dr Paul Edmondson from the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, called ‘Shakespeare’s Coming Home’, helped raise part of the £45,000 needed to restore the statue, which involved actors, businesses and residents all reading the complete works of Shakespeare in the space of just 12 days.
Sarah Summers, Stratford Town Council clerk, said: “We’re delighted that Dame Judi Dench and Sir Kenneth Branagh will be unveiling the statue, which was in serious need of restoration.
“It was amazing how the town came together to raise the money to restore the statue which local jeweller George Pragnell Limited match funded, and to have Dame Judi and Sir Kenneth coming here to unveil it will be the icing on the cake.
“And with David Garrick being given the freedom of the town when he donated the statue around 250 years ago, it’s only right that Dame Judi and Sir Kenneth are also given the privilege especially considering the immense contributions they’ve made to Shakespeare’s work.
“It will be a fitting way to mark Shakespeare’s birthday celebrations this year, and we are really looking forward to welcoming these two stars of British film and theatre back to our town. They may well be arriving having won in the Oscars too – we’ve got our fingers crossed.”
Dame Judi Dench has starred in many Shakespearean performances at the RSC and the National Theatre across a career spanning decades, and won an Oscar for her role in Shakespeare in Love in 1998.
And Sir Kenneth Branagh has acted and directed in a host of Shakespeare plays and film adaptations, receiving widespread acclaim across his career.
His latest film Belfast took home the BAFTA for Outstanding British Film, and has been nominated for seven Academy Awards including Best Director for Sir Kenneth, as well as Best Supporting Actress for Dame Judi’s performance in the film.
The unveiling will take place outside Stratford Town Hall at 1pm.