York dramatically ramps up its claim to Richard III

Hands off… Ian Batholomew plays the title role in the Theatre Royal production of Richard III. Photograph: Robert Day / York Theatre Royal
26 Nov 2013 @ 12.15 pm
| News
Hands off… Ian Batholomew plays the title role in the Theatre Royal production of Richard III. Photograph: Robert Day / York Theatre Royal
Hands off… Ian Batholomew plays the title role in the Theatre Royal production of Richard III. Photograph: Robert Day / York Theatre Royal

As the battle to bring the remains of Richard III to York reaches its latest stage in the local and the national press.

And there are two special events this week which further prove York’s loyalty to this most misunderstood Plantagenet, all part of the year-long Richard III: Rumour And Reality project.

The silent treatment

On Wednesday night, in the first performance of its kind, a silent film about the king will be given a voice by the actors of the Theatre Royal production.

Starring legendary Shakespearean actor Frank Benson as the eponymous king it is the earliest surviving British movie version of the play. It was filmed in 1911 by the Co-operative Cinematograph Company.

Thirteen short scenes were filmed at Stratford’s Shakespeare Memorial Theatre, to create a concise summary of the Shakespeare play.

As well as being accompanied by live music, the cast of the current Theatre Royal production will give voice to the film, using a specially commissioned script from Professor Judith Buchanan, an expert in Shakespearean performance histories and silent cinema.

“One of the challenges for the actors will be to find a vocal ‘gear’ that will work with the tone and dimensions of the performances on screen in order to help this old film live again, and as never before, for a contemporary audience,” Professor Buchanan said.

“I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Ian Bartholomew collaborate with Frank Benson as Richard – an unprecedented collaboration between actors across a gap of more than a hundred years.”

Brave King Dick

Shakespeare’s Richard III is the most famous fictionalised life of the king, in which he is portrayed as a fiendish plotter.

But there are more sympathetic versions, notably Dickon which was both a 1929 historical novel by Marjorie Bowen and a 1953 play by Gordon Daviot.

These tell the story of a king who was brave and audacious, and who fought for his country until the bitter end.

Award winning director Michael Oakley, a former York University graduate, will give an illustrated talk with the cast performing extracts from Richard III and Daviot’s Dickon.

Oakley will discuss sides of Richard that are rarely talked about, most notably his domestic life, and compare and contrast the two plays.

Theatre Royal chief executive Liz Wilson said: “We feel it’s important to acknowledge that Shakespeare’s Richard III is a version of the king and that many people feel very strongly that he has been misrepresented for many years.

“This fascinating event will give the public in York a chance to examine this part of our history from a different perspective.”