The Dell

Richard III: tragedy, comedy or an Abba-inspired musical?

June 4, 2013

This week my family and I have mainly been trying to find an Italian duke and a sailing ship - wrong play I know but we were camping near a storm tossed sea! Meanwhile, our director has been putting on Mamma Mia in a field in North Yorkshire, Elizabeth Wodeville is in Corfu and we have only 1896 hours left to learn our lines...

I'm playing Margaret, she has some great lines. She is full of hatred because her husband and son have been killed by Richard, but she is responsible for the deaths of his father and young brother.

Richard III's family treeIn the preceding play (Henry VI, Part 3) Richard III's brother Rutland is captured and killed by Clifford (a commander in Margaret's army); Richard's father is captured by Clifford and Margaret, she offers him a handkerchief dipped in his son's blood and challenges him to wipe his tears with it and when he calls her unatural she stabs him to death.

Shakespeare's audiences would have been familiar with these events and known that Margaret is not the wronged widow she claims to be. I want to use my costume as a visual cue to Margaret's character - maybe a mixture of Medusa, Lucretia Borgia and Snow White's wicked stepmother.

We have been marching up a nearby hill chanting 'a HORSE a HORSE my KINGdom FOR a HORSE' to help us understand the rhythm. We also love Prince Edward's line 'I do not like the Tower, of any place. Did Julius Caesar build that place, my lord?'

Our prince(ss) in the tower, Nancy, wants to add on 'will there be fluffy kittens Uncle? Will you tuck us in at night Uncle? '. She changed her mind about which character she was playing mid play once, so adding in a few lines is quite tame by her standards!

Richard, playing Richard III, explaining the family tree to childrenWe combined a birthday party for the Duke of Clarence (my son Connall) with an impromptu rehearsal today. Richard III (luckily played by Richard or we might get confused) came around and gave us a great rendition of his opening speech and we ran through the plot and list of who kills who.

Richard is married to our Director Mary, their daughter Amy has been learning stilt walking for our performance which will add variety, flamboyance (and height). Now if only we could get Buckingham to learn trapeeze...

After learning some more lines my next task will be to invent Plantagenet Pies and Executioner Eclairs for our upcoming Richard III quiz night ...

by Ellen Mateer  |  No comments yet

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Teaching Shakespeare