Rose Theatre Kingston today announces the full company for The Wars of the Roses, which runs 16 September to 31 October 2015.
Trevor Nunn will direct Oscar Batterham (John Talbot/Son who killed his father), Freddy Carter (company), Kåre Conradi (Dauphin/Edward IV), Oliver Cotton (Winchester/Clifford/Hastings), Jim Creighton (Burgandy/Simpcox/Stafford/Father who killed his son/Ely), Imogen Daines (Joan of Arc/Lady Bona/Lady Anne), Harry Egan (company), Alexandra Gilbreath (Eleanor, Duchess of Gloucester/Elizabeth), Alexander Hanson (Richard, Duke of York/Buckingham), Rufus Hound (Bedford/Bolingbroke/Jack Cade/Rivers), James de Lauch Hay (company), Geoff Leesley (Exeter/Mortimer/Lord Mayor/Lt of the Tower), Owen Oakeshott (Somerset/Ratcliff), Joely Richardson (Margaret), Robert Sheehan (Alencon/Richard III), James Simmons (Talbot/John Hume/Norfolk/First Murderer), Laurence Spellman (Bastard of Orleans/Young Clifford/Richmond/Second Murderer), Susan Tracy (Margery Jourdain/Duchess of York), Alex Waldmann (Henry VI/Tyrrel), Timothy Walker (Warwick/Catesby), Andrew Woodall (Gloucester/Iden/Derby) and Michael Xavier (Suffolk/George of Clarence).
This autumn the Rose stage will be transformed into a battleground for The Wars of the Roses, a gripping adaptation of four of Shakespeare’s history plays, directed by Trevor Nunn. The productions will play in rep from 16 September until 31 October, with press performances for all three plays on 3 October.
A spectacular theatrical event not seen since it was first produced at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1963 by the founders of the company John Barton and Peter Hall – The Wars of the Roses is a trilogy of plays about one of the most tumultuous and intriguing periods of British history – the 15th Century conflict between the House of York and the House of Lancaster for the throne of England.
Through these plays Shakespeare examines the very essence of human conflict. A tale of feuding families, murderous kings and adulterous queens, of scheming and betrayal, revolts and battles, The Wars of the Roses chronicles the final struggle for power in medieval England.
With an acting company of over 20 professional actors, combined with a local community chorus to complete the ensemble, it will be the largest company to play the Rose’s stage since the theatre opened. The production also reunites Nunn with his long term collaborator designer John Napier who, with Mark Friend, will transform the Rose’s auditorium.
To complement the season, there will be an exhibition of the artist John Link’s work relating to Shakespeare’s characters and plays, and the Rose will appoint an Artist in Residence and a Writer in Residence to document the project. Educational workshops will be made available to local schools. In addition, a series of masterclasses and extra events will be announced shortly to run alongside the performances.
HENRY VI -In the first play, Henry V, the ‘star of England’ after triumphant conquests in France, is dead. His heir is an infant, whose throne must be protected by regents against the counterclaims of the most powerful baronial families in the country – the House of York, whose symbol is a white rose, and the House of Lancaster, represented by a red rose. Conflict is inevitable. The young King Henry VI is married, against his inclination, to a beautiful French princess, Margaret of Anjou, who has already fallen passionately in love with another man. Meanwhile in France, young Joan of Arc wins historic victories over the English as, at home, the country drifts into Civil War. So begins a saga of violence and intrigue, of political and sexual deception, as the protagonists compete for both the English and French crowns – competitors in what has been described as Shakespeare’s game of thrones.
EDWARD IV -The second play, adapted from Shakespeare’s Henry VI Parts II and III, intensifies the conflict between all those grasping for power. The Civil War ebbs and flows as the throne changes hands. A powerless Henry VI becomes a pacifist appalled by the fighting; his beautiful French wife becomes a warrior queen, leading her army into battle. The white rose triumphs, promoting the accession of young Edward IV, but the red rose fights back and Henry VI is king again. As the white rose counter-attacks, nobody quite notices the emergence of an ambitious crookback youngster… called Richard. Father is at war with son, husband with wife, brother with brother, and the game becomes yet more deadly serious.
RICHARD III – So often presented as a standalone drama, the third play in the cycle is the climax of Shakespeare’s great chronicle of the fifty-year conflict between York and Lancaster, between roses white and red. Still in his twenties, the ruthlessly ambitious Richard murders and betrays his way to power. The tortured, tragic Margaret – abused by Richard as a ‘withered hag’ – is the self-same beautiful princess whose story we have followed throughout these plays. The ghosts that haunt the King before the final decisive Battle of Bosworth Field are all the leading characters of this epic story, returning for their final utterances. With crushing finality, we witness the very last part of Shakespeare’s gripping saga, the conclusion of his game of thrones.
From 1968 to 1986, Trevor Nunn was the youngest ever Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, directing over thirty productions, including most of the Shakespeare canon, as well as Nicholas Nickleby and Les Miserables. From 1997 to 2003, he was Director of the National Theatre, where his productions included Troilus and Cressida, Oklahoma!, The Merchant of Venice, Summerfolk, My Fair Lady, A Streetcar Named Desire, Anything Goes and Love’s Labour’s Lost. He has directed the world premieres of Tom Stoppard’s plays Arcadia, The Coast of Utopia and Rock n Roll; and of Cats, Sunset Boulevard, Starlight Express and Aspects of Love by Andrew Lloyd Webber. Other theatre includes Timon of Athens, Skellig (Young Vic); The Lady From The Sea (Almeida); Hamlet, Richard II, Inherit the Wind (Old Vic); A Little Night Music (Menier Chocolate Factor & New York); Cyrano de Bergerac, Kiss Me Kate (Chichester); Heartbreak House, Flare Path, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, The Tempest (Theatre Royal, Haymarket); Scenes from a Marriage (Coventry & St James); All That Fall (Jermyn Street & New York); A Chorus of Disapproval and Relative Values (West End). Work for television includes Antony and Cleopatra, The Comedy of Errors, Macbeth, Three Sisters, Othello, The Merchant of Venice and King Lear, and on film, Hedda, Lady Jane and Twelfth Night.
In 1960, along with Peter Hall, John Barton co-founded the Royal Shakespeare Company and over the next 40 years directed more than 30 productions either on his own or in collaboration with Peter Hall and Trevor Nunn including Twelfth Night with Judi Dench as Viola and Donald Sinden as Malvolio and A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Patrick Stewart as Oberon. In 1982, working with 21 RSC company members, including Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Patrick Stewart, Ben Kingsley and Jane Lapotaire, John Barton recorded nine workshop sessions for London Weekend Television. The recordings, along with the accompanying book, became Playing Shakespeare; an invaluable guide and tool used by many actors to this day. Throughout his career, he has written and adapted works for theatre, notably: The Hollow Crown (1961), The Wars of The Roses, with Peter Hall (1963), The Greeks (1980), Morte D’Arthur (1983) and Tantalus (2000). Tantalus, which took over a decade to complete, is a 10-play cycle developed from The Greeks. It deals with the Trojan War in the context of myth and storytelling and includes hitherto unknown material from fragmentary sources. Tantalus received its premier in Denver, Colorado in October 2000 and the UK in 2001. In 2001, he was awarded the Sam Wanamaker Prize for pioneering work in Shakespearean theatre. He continues as an RSC Advisory Director, still gives workshops and masterclasses on Shakespeare to UK and international theatre companies and in 2014 published a revised edition of Tantalus: An Ancient Greek Cycle Retold in Ten Plays.
Peter Hall is an internationally renowned director. He was the Founding Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company (1960-68) where his productions included the acclaimed Wars of the Roses, first seen at Stratford in 1963 and 1964 with subsequent performances in London and on BBC TV in 1965. This trilogy of plays, adapted by John Barton (in collaboration with Peter Hall) from Shakespeare’s Henry VI Parts I, II and III and Richard III, was to become one of the most influential stagings in the history of the RSC. Peter Hall was Director of the National Theatre (1973-88) and Artistic Director of Glyndebourne Opera (1984-90). In 1988 he founded The Peter Hall Company working in partnership with leading West End and regional producers on more than 40 productions. In 2003 he was invited to be the Founding Director of Rose Theatre Kingston, becoming Director Emeritus in 2008. His productions at the Rose include Uncle Vanya, the theatre’s opening production, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream starring Judi Dench. He has received many awards in the UK and Europe for his work in theatre and opera, as well as two Tonys on Broadway. He was knighted in 1977 for services to the British theatre.