Director Q&A

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Roxana Silbert is curating the Nations at War series of plays, part of the World Shakespeare Festival.

What is 'Nations at War'?

A series of three plays, King John, Richard III and A Soldier in Every Son – The Rise of the Aztecs – a new Mexican play by Luis Mario Moncada. The new play is one of the central commissions for the World Shakespeare Festival and we wanted to stage it in the context of the Shakespeare History plays which inspired it.

The season explores ambition, power, leadership and family loyalties and betrayals - themes which unite all three plays. They all have a dynamic political and personal landscape with a really strong emotional centre.

A Soldier in Every Son – can you tell us more?

It was inspired by the Wars of the Roses which amalgamated all the Histories together in three acts.

The play covers the three decades, from the Aztecs arriving in the valley of Mexico (now Mexico City) as fierce war-like nomadic mercenaries when they get sent to the lake by the other tribes, to establishing the Aztec Empire, which rules for 100 years until the Spaniards arrive.

Has it already been written – and does it exist in Spanish?

It's an RSC commission and it's been written in Spanish, adapted by the playwright, Gary Owen.

Who will perform it?

It will be performed by the British actors from King John and Richard III, joined by six actors from the National Theatre of Mexico.

The play is a co-production with Compagna Nacional de Teatro de Mexico. The set designer, the costume designer and the composer are from the National Theatre of Mexico and the rest of the creative team is from the UK.

The three Kings are cast – two are Mexican actors and the third is Brian Ferguson (who also plays Buckingham in Richard III).

Will the Mexican actors be performing in English?

The play will be translated into English, so yes. A lot of Mexican actors work in American movies, so it's essential for their careers that they can speak English. The actors in our company are the best in Mexico, and because of that they are often in Hollywood films.

They will join us in May when the Richard III and King John have opened.

Why Mexico?

The brief for the World Shakespeare Festival was international responses to Shakespeare. One thing that Shakespeare has done for us as a nation is to give us a sense of our historical and political background, even though some of the stories are historically inaccurate.

South American countries, because of the nature of their politics, don't have the same sense of their own political and historical background. I was interested in going to South America and finding someone who was willing to take Shakespeare as inspiration.

Why Moncada?

I had worked with Luis Mario Moncada when I was at the Royal Court Theatre. He loves Shakespeare and had already written a play inspired by King John. It was an extraordinary coincidence that we were both looking for responses to Shakespeare.

These plays are set in their time – in the 15th century – but they say much about contemporary Mexico. Moncada has done what Shakespeare did; Richard III was a medieval king, but Shakespeare's writing was relevant to his contemporaries – with Moncada's work, he is writing about Mexico now.

When they leave Stratford the plays will go into the National Theatre of Mexico repertory season.

And the Aztecs?

One of my concerns was that they are stories that we know very little about – we are taught very little about Aztec lives. But the same is true in Mexico. In Mexican schools, history is taught from the point when the Spanish arrived, and pre-history is almost a taboo subject.

The play is based on historical truth. There are some invented characters, but basically it is a pretty accurate telling of the stories.

The Aztecs were hilarious – they invented things like chocolate, for which I am eternally grateful! For that reason alone, I think we should celebrate them.

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