Richard III discovery inspires performers at Curve

Posted by er134 at Nov 22, 2013 03:20 PM |
Shakespeare Schools Festival staging influenced by Grey Friars discoveries

The University of Leicester’s landmark discovery of Richard III inspired students to put their own spin on Richard III at the Curve Theatre, Leicester on 14 and 15 November 2013.

Students rehearse for the big night
Students rehearse for the big night. Credit: Rita Pancholi Photography
This took place as part of the Shakespeare Schools Festival 2013, but had students looking beyond Shakespeare’s version of history by starting and finishing the play at the King’s final resting place itself at Grey Friars.

Rachel Barstow, a teacher at Bushloe High School, said: “The festival has always inspired a great deal of interest in the pupils, but without doubt that interest has multiplied this year due to the impact of the amazing local history story uncovered by the University. Consequently, our cast and crew are the maximum allowed by the festival, and we have 15 boys and 18 girls taking part.

“Our choice of play this year was directly influenced by the University’s work and the finding of Richard’s remains at Grey Friars: when we knew the performance was to be in Leicester, at Curve, during the interim between the discovery and the proposed reburial, we instantly knew that it had to be Richard III!”

The Grey Friars discovery got the students questioning Shakespeare’s version of history, and so the production culminated with the unceremonious casting of the play into Richard III’s own grave.

Rachel Barstow added: “The decision was taken quite early on to let the audience know that we did not ‘buy into’ Shakespeare’s version entirely, despite the festival’s strict rules that the language of the play should remain as Shakespeare wrote it.

“We also hope having the site recreated on stage will reference how important a part this real piece of history has played in our understanding and working of our drama.”

Richard III and Lady Anne in rehearsal
Richard III and Lady Anne in rehearsal. Credit: Rita Pancholi Photography

Shakespeare may have been a master playwright, but as with many writers in the Elizabethan Age, he was not a historian. Accounts of the age were coloured by Tudor propaganda.

Indeed, Shakespeare’s image of Richard, as the Machiavellian schemer the murderer of the Princes in the Tower, and the man who drowned Clarence in wine—was the dominant one.

Richard Buckley, of University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS), said: “Richard III was probably only as ruthless as most kings at the time—indeed, including Henry VII. Finding Richard was about more than just hunting a named individual: like all archaeology it was about uncovering the truth.

“With that in mind it’s great to see that our discovery has got students so interested in Shakespeare’s play, and so willing to question the story it tells.”


About Shakespeare Schools Festival

This is the largest youth drama festival in the UK, offering students from all backgrounds the opportunity to perform Shakespeare on their local professional stage.

About Curve

Established on the 6 December 2008, Curve is a theatre which aims to establish a reputation for awe-inspiring theatre from the heart of the UK.

  • The Dig for Richard III was led by the University of Leicester, working with Leicester City Council and in association with the Richard III Society. The originator of the Search project was Philippa Langley of the Richard III Society.

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