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Welsh Arts News
David Lee-Jones in the title role is believed to be the first British-Chinese actor to take on the mantle of one of Shakespeare's most famous villains.
"David Lee-Jones plays the title role with bravado and cunning" – The Stage
"Lee-Jones's witty, clever Richard damn nearly made evil beguiling. The production was absolutely wonderful. I loved it. I could watch it again in a heartbeat." – Remote Goat.co.uk
Their final show in Wales for this tour will see the cast heading for Raglan Castle, Monmouthshire on Tuesday, August 14th. Advance tickets for the show, which is in aid of St John Ambulance, Gwent, are available from Abergavenny TIC on (01873) 853254 price £12.50. Tickets on the door will be £15 and children's tickets £8.50.
The Players, in their 27th year of touring outdoor Shakespeare, recently took over London's long-established Theatre Set-Up company, enabling them to stage the two tours this year. Worcestershire-based Michael Dyer, Artistic Director of The Festival Players, will direct both. The former director of Cornwall's Minack Open Air Theatre says: "In a year where the focus falls firmly on London in terms of both the Olympic and regal celebrations, what better "royal" Shakespeare play to perform than Richard III, which is set largely in the capital. Ours will be a colourful and lively take of the Bard's most villainous monarch."
Shakespeare grippingly immortalised Richard III, a hunchbacked king betrayed, unhorsed and surrounded by enemies and finally calling out one of the Bard's best known lines "A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse."
The coveted role has been played down the years by actors from David Garrick to Sir Kenneth Branagh, Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir Ian Mckellen, Anthony Sher and Mark Rylance.
Power-crazed and bitter about his physical deformity, Richard stopped at nothing and no one in order to become king and the night before the battle had a nightmare in which the ghosts of all the people he had murdered haunt and curse him.
The inimitable Festival Players, who aim to make Shakespeare accessible to all, will transport audiences in England, Scotland, and Wales to the medieval London of Richard III. Returning to the company to take the title role will be David Lee-Jones, last seen in the Players 2009 production of The Merchant of Venice in which he played Antonio, the merchant of the title.
Thought to be the first British-Chinese actor to play the last Plantagenet king, he has an interesting family heritage involving China, America and Wales. Excelling at Shakespearean roles, David has also appeared with the Festival Players as Rosalind in As You Like It and Benedick in Much Ado about Nothing.
More recently David has been working with acclaimed East Asian theatre producers Yellow Earth, notably in their Japanese version of A Midsummer Night's Dream at Southwark Playhouse, in which he played Demetrius. Another highlight for David was working on Shaw's challenging After Methuselah five-play cycle.
With a cast of just six, the actors can have up to three roles and some quick fire costume and gender changes! Players' stalwart Martin Tomms from Walsall returns in the production as both Lord Hastings and Margaret of Anjou, widow of Henry VI, while Giles Stoakley who appeared in the Players' 2010 The Tempest, returns to play King Edward IV. Other cast members will include Cheltenham's Tom Middler who graduated from Trinity College University of Wales last year. He will play George Duke of Clarence, and Queen Elizabeth's brother, Lord Rivers. Scott Smith (Duke of Buckingham) and Anthony Pinnick (Queen Elizabeth) complete the cast.
It is Dyer's eighth all-male production in a row for the Players. "It is of course totally authentic. We are following in the footsteps of Shakespeare's own Globe Theatre when all roles were taken by men."
The shows will be played out an at increasingly varied number of locations from Scottish castles to English village greens, famous Welsh gardens to London squares, Peckham cafes to Roman amphitheatres.
Some of the performances will be as part of festivals including Hereford Three Choirs Festival, Worcester Festival and Caerleon Arts Festival – and many of the shows will raise funds for local, national and international charities.
More information at www.thefestivalplayers.co.uk