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Renowned theatre cast including actor Ralph Fiennes pay tribute to the University of Leicester in their reimagining of Shakespeare's Richard III

Posted by ap507 at Jul 12, 2016 10:25 AM |
University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) co-director Dr Richard Buckley said he welcomed the alternative retelling

Issued by the University of Leicester Press Office on 12 July

  • New London play includes a scene showing the 2012 discovery of King Richard III in a Leicester car park
  • Lead actor Ralph Fiennes and director Rupert Goold both claim the find shaped the way the production is told
  • University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) co-director Dr Richard Buckley said he welcomed the alternative retelling

A stellar acting cast featuring Hollywood stars has paid homage to the University of Leicester in its unconventional retelling of Shakespeare's Richard III.

A star-studded line up of actors including Harry Potter villain Ralph Fiennes (Richard III) and Vanessa Redgrave (Queen Margaret) are currently at the Almeida theatre, in London, to perform the Bard's eponymous Machiavellian play about the notorious “poisonous bunch-back'd toad”, King Richard III.

However, the production, directed by Rupert Goold, features added scenes which show the 2012 discovery made by the University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) which brought the lost monarch back from historical obscurity, and thrust him once more into the public's consciousness.

The play begins with University archaeologists unearthing the Last Plantagenet's skeleton at the New Street car park, in Leicester's city centre.

The man behind the project of locating and exhuming the 500-year-old remains, Dr Richard Buckley, said he loved the idea that their achievement had been documented in the play.

“It’s great,” he said. “Absolutely. It’s a tough call meddling with Shakespeare – you don’t want to get it wrong. But other people have done it and got away with it, so good luck to them.

“Above all, though, if it highlights the work that we, the University, did then that’s fantastic. Even after four years, people are still recognising our achievement and the amazing discovery.”

As well as the homage to Leicester, the production has been commended for its “timeless” approach to the 17th century play, with swords and armour appearing alongside mobile phones and tailored suits.

But it was the idea of using the car park and the evidence that the ULAS team identified, such as confirmation of Richard’s scoliosis, which helped lead actor Fiennes with his preparation for the role.

In an interview with the Evening Standard newspaper, earlier this year, he said: “We talked about this idea of the discovery in the car park, and we thought it could be a useful framework to contain the production.

“We know for sure there was a spinal deformity and we could embrace that.”

Director Rupert Goold also cited the University's groundbreaking discoveries as a source of inspiration when imagining the production.

In the same interview, he also told the Evening Standard about how on an earlier trip to Leicester to stage the satirical play, King Charles III, in January 2015, he found the King Richard III Visitor Centre.

“The amazing thing about the discovery of the real body is they found the spine and it is very curved,” said Goold. “So we tried to base his physicality as close as possible to the evidence that came out of the excavation in Leicester.

“I was struggling with a way into it and then King Charles III – a satirical play starring Robert Powell – opened in Leicester.

“I went to the Richard III visitor centre and a lot of the inspiration for the production came out of that visit.”


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