Richard @RoseTheatreSE1

Posted: April 6, 2014 in A Bit of Everything

Shakespeare London, Rose Playhouse Bankside, Heritage London, Archaeology London, history bankside, Marie Rabe, Charley Willow, Vicky Allies, Rosemary Tross, Charlotte Ive, Elizabeth Graham, things to do in London, Fringe London, Shakespeare In LoveI have just come from a theatre full of people I don’t know.

Not something unusual you might think.  But this is significant as the theatre in question was The Rose Playhouse and the production we were watching was our very own version of Richard III.

It feels like a big step, that we can fill a venue not with our friends and relatives and other such dependents who have to come along, but with people who’ve never met us before and simply heard about the show and wanted to see it.

I know that must sound like a natural place for a theatre company to head to, but it still feels significant and that needs to be acknowledged.

We’re a week into Richard and it’s been a month of very hard work.  Thankfully it has also been a month of much humour, copious amounts of creativity and the pleasure of working with some beautiful, talented, generous people.

Things to do in London, Richard III Society, Archaeology London, Historic London, London Theatre Heritage, All women Shakespeare, Shakespeare London, Fringe theatre London, Rose Playhouse London, Shakespeare in Love, Heritage London, Bankside Shakespeare, Shakespeare London, Rose Playhouse Bankside, Heritage London, Archaeology London, history bankside, Marie Rabe, Charley Willow, Vicky Allies, Rosemary Tross, Charlotte Ive, Elizabeth Graham, things to do in London, Fringe London, Shakespeare In Love, puppet theatreOur Richard III is a four women production.  We, well I, have cut the script so that it runs at an hour and a half.  The four actresses, Vicky Allies, Marie Rabe, Rosemary Tross and Charley Willow, all play Richard at different points, whilst also playing the main female characters of Margaret, Lady Anne, The Duchess of York and Queen Elizabeth respectively.  The rest of the roles are shared between them based on a number of factors – what works thematically, what works in terms of the shape of the piece, i.e. Marie plays Anne to Charley’s Richard as he tries to seduce her and later they swap round with Marie seducing Charley’s Elizabeth with a view to marrying her daughter.  And at other times it is slightly a little bit because with only four people, there’s only so many potential combinations you can do and I hoped to give each of them a moments breath now and then.  There is a fifth woman, the wonderful Elizabeth Graham, who is an opera singer and composer and wanders around the archaeological space singing sorrowful song from it’s depth and providing a poignant, powerful atmosphere to the proceedings.

Shakespeare London, Rose Playhouse Bankside, Heritage London, Archaeology London, history bankside, Marie Rabe, Charley Willow, Vicky Allies, Rosemary Tross, Charlotte Ive, Elizabeth Graham, things to do in London, Fringe LondonShakespeare In LoveThings to do in London, Richard III Society, Archaeology London, Historic London, London Theatre Heritage, All women Shakespeare, Shakespeare London, Fringe theatre London, Rose Playhouse London, Shakespeare in Love, Heritage London, Bankside ShakespeareWe started out with the aim of exploring who the real Richard was, but over the course of the process it’s become a lot more about performance, performing a role and how we define that, when the performance begins and ends and what narrative, what story you can tell through artifice.

I’d initially had the idea of doing Richard III because of the King in the Car Park discovery.  What is thought to be his body being found buried under concrete in deepest, darkest Leicestershire last year.  When I was much much younger, I had read a book called The Sunne in Splendour, by Sharon Penman.  The book is very pro Richard and, having read it as an impressionable twelve year old, I’ve been a bit of a Richard geek every since.  I’d resisted the play for a long time, because it’s renowned for how anti Richard it is.  But once I finally read it, I realised what a brilliantly written piece of theatre it is.  The words.  They are magnificent.  I begrudgingly loved it.  And once I have a bee in my bonnet, the buzz doesn’t seem to stop until the thing is done.

Shakespeare London, Rose Playhouse Bankside, Heritage London, Archaeology London, history bankside, Marie Rabe, Charley Willow, Vicky Allies, Rosemary Tross, Charlotte Ive, Elizabeth Graham, things to do in London, Fringe London, Shakespeare In Love, puppet theatreSo I thought of doing Richard.  Then, one day when I was feeling particularly brave, I decided to send an email to The Rose Bankside, just on the off chance that they might take a sympathetic view of some Scrawny Cats trying to make a bit of theatre.

The Rose Playhouse is the ruins of one of the first Elizabethan playhouses.  Before the Globe, there was the Rose.  It was where Shakespeare began his career.  If you’ve seen Shakespeare in Love, then you know it, it’s that theatre.  But now, all that remains, are its foundations.  Buried for centuries, they were discovered in the 80’s when an office block was knocked down ahead of redevelopment.  Now they are preserved but further digging is required, so to keep its profile up, one of the things the Rose does is allow productions to use the intimate 50 seater stage for a run.

Exploring the impact of one of the most important archaeological finds in recent years in one of the most important archaeological sites in our country, fabulous!  I don’t know that we’ve managed to find any answers, but hopefully we’ve asked the audience to be attentive, to ask a couple of questions and engage with what we’re saying.  I can cope with not providing answers so long as I can manage to inspire the asking.

Shakespeare London, Rose Playhouse Bankside, Heritage London, Archaeology London, history bankside, Marie Rabe, Charley Willow, Vicky Allies, Rosemary Tross, Charlotte Ive, Elizabeth Graham, things to do in London, Fringe London, Shakespeare In LoveSo that’s what we’ve been up to.  Making and staging Richard.  And that’s the reason I got to sit in a theatre full of people I didn’t know.  Whether they had an interest in the play, an interest  in the way we’ve staged it, or an interest in the space itself, we are lucky to have been given the chance to perform here.  Not simply because it means we’re putting a show in a space that is better located, better known and with higher status than anywhere we have before.  But also because we’re putting on a show in a space that Shakespeare once worked in.  We’re putting on a Shakespeare in a space that Shakespeare once worked in, in fact. That’s progress.

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