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The story of Richard III, king of England, has pertinent lessons for leaders today. The Shakespearean tragedy is set for a run at the Market.
COMING to the Market Theatre, The Tragedy of Richard ІІІ had a critically acclaimed season at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown and a limited run at Cape Town’s Artscape Arena.


Striking costumesStriking costumes characterise The Tragedy of Richard IIIPresented by Abrahamse Meyer Productions, the play will be at the Barney Simon Theatre from 15 March to 24 April. By William Shakespeare, it begins with Richard describing the accession to the throne of his brother, King Edward ІV of England, the eldest son of the late Richard, Duke of York.

“Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour'd upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.”

This speech reveals Richard’s jealousy and ambition to take over his brother’s throne. He describes himself as “rudely stamp’d” and “deformed, unfinish’d”, who cannot, “strut before a wanton ambling nymph”.

He says: “I am determined to prove a villain. And hate the idle pleasures of these days.”

Directed by Fred Abrahamse, The Tragedy of Richard ІІІ stars David Dennis in the roles of the Duke of Buckingham, the Duchess of York, Queen Margaret, Edward ІV and Lady Anne, among others; Marcel Meyer is Richard ІІІ; and Anelisa Phewa plays the Earl of Richmond, Queen Elizabeth and Lord Hastings.

It is a fast-paced political thriller that makes use of the variety of talents of the three actors, ably assisted by inventive and striking design concepts, with masks created by Izelle Grobler and puppets by Hillette Stapelberg, says Allison Foat, the spokesperson for the play.

“The production drew praise from theatregoers and critics who described it as ingenious, brilliant and mesmerizing when it premiered at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown last year.”

She says: “Ismail Mahomed, the director of the National Arts Festival, rated Richard ІІІ as the most inventive production he saw in 2010 … It was also one of the highlights at the South African Schools Festival, receiving an overwhelming response from both learners and teachers.”

Both Dennis and Meyer have notable experience as classical actors. Dennis’s previous roles include Malvolio in Twelfth Night, Hortensio in The Taming of the Shrew and Launce in Two Gentlemen of Verona.

Meyer’s roles include Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, Don John in Much Ado About Nothing and Rosencrantz in Janet Suzman’s Hamlet. Phewa’s previous roles include Fabian in Twelfth Night and Victor in Noël Coward’s Private Lives.

The plot
After years of civil war between Britain’s royal houses of York and Lancaster – the Wars of the Roses – King Edward ІV is on the throne and his youngest brother Richard, the Duke of Gloucester, is plotting to kill him.

It will not be Richard’s first murder; he has already had his brother Clarence killed. He has also seduced Lady Anne, the widow of the Lancasterian Edward of Westminster, Prince of Wales.

When King Edward ІV dies of natural causes, Richard, assisted by his cousin, the Duke of Buckingham, plots to succeed him. Queen Elizabeth, the widow of King Edward ІV, mistrusts Richard and is proved right when he is behind the execution of her brothers, Rivers and Grey.

Richard then has Elizabeth’s sons imprisoned in the Tower of London and seizes the throne. Once crowned, he orders the murder of the two princes. Henry Tudor, the Earl of Richmond and heir to the House of Lancaster, prepares to invade England.

The increasingly paranoid Richard III loses his popularity and soon faces rebellion, first by Buckingham and then by Richmond. Buckingham is captured and executed. Henry and Richard III arrive for battle at Bosworth Field.

But the night before the battle, the ghosts of the king’s previous victims – Prince Edward Lancaster, King Henry VI, Clarence, Rivers, Grey, Vaughan, Hastings, the princes, his former wife Anne, and his former best friend Buckingham – come to haunt him. They tell him to “despair and die”.

Richard III is unhorsed in battle at Bosworth Field the next day, uttering the oft quoted line: “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse.”

Henry Tudor, the Earl of Richmond, takes the throne and is crowned Henry VІІ. He marries Elizabeth and unites their houses of Lancaster and York, thus ending the Wars of the Roses.

Foat points to the relevance of the tragedy today: “History is filled with despotic leaders who have risen to power and then succumbed to megalomania, paranoia and corruption. Across Africa and the world, corruption and political power struggles are rife. The exploration of this theme and examination of why power corrupts is particularly pertinent to South Africa today.”

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