‘Read o’er these articles’

Ever wondered what’s on those bits of paper that actors wave around onstage?

Every time the script calls for a letter or document or diary entry, I refuse to let the actors use a blank piece of paper. Firstly, it looks rubbish to an audience member if they notice that the letter a character has so desperately been clinging to turns out to be non-existent, but also because, without knowledge of what’s on that paper, how can an actor convincingly pretend that there is? Sometimes though, when you’ve been working with someone for a while and have a good enough relationship with them and their character, you can have a bit of fun.

In our recent show, Fall of Kings, King Richard must read a document, presented to him by Lord Northumberland before the court, that details his crimes and the reasons for his deposition. By this point in the play it is clear that Richard and Northumberland are not the best of friends, and it is left to the audiences to interpret why. The articles, written by Northumberland himself, might offer some clues…

To be hereby read by the former King, Richard II of Bordeaux, as further proof of his crimes against the crown, his people, this State and his friends.
I, Richard of Bordeaux, formerly King Richard II of England, of Ireland and of France, here in the presence of the now rightful King Henry Bolingbroke and the Commons, accept the declaration that I was an utterly crap king.
I understand that no one blames me for this fault, but accept that they are all quite pissed off with me and that I must be sentenced to some alone time in the Tower to think about what I have done.
I will now read a list of crimes that the Commons, the King and State here accuse me of, as well as a few extra that the Earl of Northumberland has added in.
The Commons hath I piled with grievous taxes, and quite lost their hearts. I admit that I have spent all of these taxes and so will have to submit an I.O.U. to all of those involved until further notice.
The nobles hath I fined for ancient quarrels, and quite lost their hearts, but really those rich bastards can afford it so I won’t be paying any of that back. In fact, Bolingbroke will probably use some of it to buy a boat. The rest can go towards family counselling for York and Aumerle.
I have devised daily new exactions, bonds, benevolences and Lord Ross wots not what. But in all fairness, Lord Ross wots not much and actually all of that was 100% legal and did the country quite a bit of good so Lord Ross can go screw himself.
I spent a shit tonne of money on “peace missions” to Ireland, which everyone knows were just week-long benders in Dublin where I spent all of the Crown’s money on hookers and margaritas.
I married Isabella while knowing full well that Northumberland fancied her, and now she will never want to go out with him as she’s about to be shipped off to France to die alone (until Henry V is born and decides he quite fancies her too. But she’ll probably reject him anyway. She’s so strong and independent.)
All this and much, much more I here confess to and declare that I am really sorry for all of it. I will go and think about what I’ve done and return when I am ready to apologise to Bolingbroke, the people of England and Northumberland. Unless some stupid bastard murders me in the meantime or something.
Former King and country-ruiner, Richard.

– by Lord Henry Percy of Northumberland, Fall of Kings, Burdall’s Yard 2018

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