Posts Tagged ‘Richard III’

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Richard III Trafalgar Transformed – Cardiff Shakespeare Review

July 30, 2014

Review by Emily Garside (Cardiff Metropolitan University)

Richard III directed by Jamie Lloyd as part of his third ‘Trafalgar Transformed’ series, sees an updated and bloody account of the history play. Lloyd aims with his ‘Transformed’ season to ‘thrill audiences while stimulating open debate and dialogue around the issues central to each play’ For Richard III with Martin Freeman in the title role and a fast-paced and bloody direction, there also seems to be an emphasis on the director’s desire to develop a new more diverse audience.

The production moves fast, at 2 hours 30 minutes, and it feels like a pacey political drama with added violence. Substantial cuts made to the text would probably go unnoticed to those unfamiliar with the text, and the narrative flows well making this an accessible engaging version of the play. In addition to the cuts, many of the off stage deaths are brought on stage, often in graphic detail. Much has been made of the violence and sheer volume of blood in this production (those in the first three rows are warned of being in a ‘splash zone’) and while, yes there was quite a bit of blood it didn’t’ feel particularly gratuitous. Seeing some of the usual off-stage deaths also brought characterisation or motivation home, further fleshing out what we already knew or felt about some characters. The end fight-‘showdown’ actually seems more appropriate, made good use of an issue that troubles many modern-dress Shakespeare plays, how to deal with the imbalance between guns and swords. In this case effective use of guns versus the knives (rather than swords) across the play makes a profound statement of violence at its close.

The 1970s political setting works well for Lloyd’s pacey production. It also works well in some of the slower scenes, in fitting with the back and forth and posturing of political debate. The claustrophobic set – the entirety of the action set in a cabinet office – also works well with the political heat and (literal) back-stabbing of the narrative.

The cast is strong, with a reduced cast fitting the edited nature of the text – stand out performance in particular from Jo Stone-Fewings as Buckingham who delivered a conniving and dark performance. Gina McKee as Queen Elizabeth and Maggie Steed as Queen Margret also provide strong female roles in this testosterone filled play. Freeman’s Richard goes against a more common approach to bring a more cautious, calmer but no less nasty Richard to life. I fully believed his attitude, inspired by his physical deformities. In his scheming he is a carefully planned and poisonous, in that sense a true politician Richard. Personally I missed the charismatic scheming Richard I’ve come to associate with this play. It is still an accomplished performance and fully in fitting with what Jamie Lloyd is trying to achieve with this modern political production.

 

Find out more here.

 

 

p.s. Cardiff Shakespeare has a new twitter account – at the same handle @CardiffShakes. Please re-follow!

 

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Shakespeare and Theory: Special Issue II (Published in English Studies)

November 13, 2013

Shakespeare and Theory: Special Issue II

Guest Editors: François-Xavier Gleyzon and Johann Gregory

The latest issue of English Studies is a special issue on Shakespeare and Theory.

The first issue (94.3, 2013)

The second issue (94.7, 2013)

Contents of the Second Issue

Listening to the Body …: Transitioning to Shakespeare and Theory (Special Issue II)

François-Xavier Gleyzon (University of Central Florida) and

Johann Gregory (Cardiff University)

Performing Disability and Theorizing Deformity

Katherine Schaap Williams (Rutgers University)

Ship of Fools: Foucault and the Shakespeareans

Richard Wilson (Kingston University)

“Untimely Ripp’d”: On Natality, Sovereignty and Unbearable Life

Arthur Bradley (Lancaster University)

Syllogisms and Tears in Timon of Athens

Drew Daniel (Johns Hopkins University)

Opening the Sacred Body or the Profaned Host in The Merchant of Venice

François-Xavier Gleyzon (University of Central Florida)

Download Shakespeare & Theory Special Issue II Poster pdf

 

For more information about the first issue, click here.

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Richard III: “To Prove a Villain” ~ by Michael Goodman

February 6, 2013

‘It doesn’t look like the face of a tyrant’, declared Phillipa Langley as she stared  longingly at the reconstructed head of Richard III at the end of Channel 4’s extraordinary documentary Richard III: The King in the Car Park. Langley, whose passion for Richard led to the discovery of the Plantagenet King’s skeleton in a car park in Leicester, had finally found the Richard she was looking for and was overcome with emotion, ‘You can kind of see the man really, can’t you…and there’s no Tudor mythology all over him.’ By ‘Tudor mythology’ Langley implicitly means Shakespeare’s play Richard III.

The Tragedy of Richard III, one of Shakespeare’s most enduring and compelling explorations of villainy and performance, has become, for the public imagination at least, historical record. As the play opens we are greeted by a ‘deformed’ and ‘unfinished’ ‘bunch-backed toad’ who is so morally repugnant and so full of malice he has no cares in confiding to the audience – in one of the most famous speeches in all literature – that he is ‘subtle false and treacherous’.  And, remarkably, he charms us. Shakespeare’s Richard straddles the play and theatrical history like a colossus. His physical deformity, as Freud would later demonstrate, is entwined with his psychological state: Richard is a villain because of his of his disfigurement. It is no wonder, then, that one of the central assertions of the Richard III Society is that the King never had a ‘hunch-back’. And, by implication, if he never had a hunch-back then he could not possibly have been the ‘murderous Machiavel’ as depicted in Shakespeare’s ‘Tudor Myth’.

Much has already been written about the Channel 4 documentary – mostly of the negative sort. The main focus of this negativity has been the lack of thorough scientific investigation and Phillipa Langley herself, whose histrionics led the reviewer from The Telegraph to write ‘the level of emotion she had invested in every twist and turn, you could have mistaken for the dead king’s widow.’ To bemoan the documentary for its lack of scientific rigour, however, is to miss the point of the programme: this was a story less about Richard III and more about a woman who obtained the object of her desire only to find, in a cruel Shakespearian twist, that the object was defined by the very feature she, and the Richard III Society, had sought to eliminate form the discourse surrounding the King. The documentary was, in truth, a fascinating character study.

When the archaeologist explains to Langley that when she was excavating the skeleton she discovered an abnormal curvature of the spine and ‘what we are seeing here is that this skeleton has a hunch-back’, Langley stares into the grave open- mouthed and lets out an incredulous cry of ‘No!’, before asking the presenter does he mind if she sits on a mound of mud to gather her thoughts. Realising that the house of cards on which the Society is based is about to come crashing down, the presenter, Simon Farnaby (appropriately from The Mighty Boosh, a surreal BBC comedy) tries to reassure Langley by suggesting ‘he could still have a hunch-back and still be a nice guy’. But it is too late. Langley has realised the implications of the evidence she sees before her and starts clutching at straws: ‘It’s funny…we have descriptions of Richard by people who met him, and they don’t mention it…’

It is unusual for television to actually confront a person directly with hard-evidence that absolutely contradicts their almost religious faith in the ‘truth’ of their opinion. In the world of Shakespeare Studies, where fabrication and conjecture are mostly the default modes of biographical analysis, Langley’s response is the equivalent of someone hypothetically presenting Derek Jacobi, an ardent Oxfordian, with a signed confession by William Shakespeare of Stratford saying ‘I wrote Hamlet and here’s a video-tape of me doing it.’  What is of interest in both Langley’s and the anti-Stratfordian’s cases is they feel the need to diminish ‘Shakespeare’, whether by saying he was a Tudor propagandist, or simply the front man for the Earl of Oxford.

‘It doesn’t look like the face of a tyrant’…we will never know. Yet if there is one element that is powerfully present in all of Shakespeare’s plays it is this: always be wary of representations and, indeed, ghosts.

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Michael Goodman is a PhD candidate at Cardiff University.

Follow @CardiffShakes

(© Michael Goodman, 2013)
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Richard III dig: DNA confirms bones are king

February 4, 2013

BBC NEWS:

Richard’s grave was marked for decades after his death but was then lost for 400 years

A skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park has been confirmed as that of English king Richard III.

Experts from the University of Leicester said DNA from the bones matched that of descendants of the monarch’s family.

Richard was killed in battle in 1485 but his grave was lost when the church around it was demolished in the 16th Century.

The skeleton had suffered 10 injuries, including eight to the skull.

The bones, which are of a man in his late 20s or early 30s, have been carbon dated to a period from 1455-1540.

Richard was 32 when he died at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

Find out more here.

For “a note of sceptism” see here.

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Paper Accepted for Cambridge Conference

December 12, 2010

Alun Thomas and Johann Gregory have had their joint paper accepted for the Cambridge Shakespeare conference in September (2011). Their paper is entitled “Playing with Precedents in Shakespeare: Expectations in Richard III and Troilus and Cressida

SHAKESPEARE: SOURCES AND ADAPTATION

In September 2011 the Cambridge University Faculty of Education, in association with the Cambridge University Faculty of English, The Marlowe Society and the Association of Adaptation Studies will host an interdisciplinary three day conference entitled ‘Shakespeare: Sources and Adaptation’.

The conference will explore some of the classical and vernacular drama and poetry and the historical sources that inspired Shakespeare’s work, and the work – literary, artistic, musical and filmic – that has in turn been influenced by Shakespeare’s plays.

This event seeks to unite theatre practitioners, academics, teachers, students and Shakespeare enthusiasts in a series of lectures, workshops, seminars, rehearsed readings and performances.  It is hoped that the theme will encourage participants from a range of disciplines – English, Drama, Education, Music, Modern Languages, Classics, History, Art and Film.

Speakers include: Carol Ann Duffy, Michael Rosen, Professor Helen Cooper, Professor Graham Holderness, Professor Stuart Sillars, actress Imogen Stubbs and directors Rupert Goold and Sir Trevor Nunn (subject to other commitments).

The conference will include an exhibition of painting and poetry inspired by Shakespeare by artist Tom de Freston and poet Kiran Millwood-Hargrave.  There will also be a display of paintings and poetry by students from local Cambridge schools, with whom Tom and Kiran will run a series of workshops.

Find out more here.

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Shakespeare paper at Visions and Visionaries

November 19, 2010

Alun Thomas – a PhD student at Cardiff University – will be presenting a paper at Visions and Visionaries on Monday (Nov 22nd). His paper is entitled “The Ghosts of History in Richard III“.

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