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
Introducing the cast of our 2018 production Fall of Kings!
Toby Underwood as KING RICHARD II
Russell Eccleston as HENRY BOLINGBROKE
Gabrielle Finnegan as QUEEN ISABELLA and the BISHOP of CARLISLE
Mike Harley as JOHN of GAUNT
James Leyshon as LORD AUMERLE and ROSS
Ross Scott as the DUKE of YORK
Kian Pollard as the EARL of NORTHUMBERLAND
Adam Lloyd-James as THOMAS MOWBRAY and BUSHY
Aesthetic Decisions Behind the Fall of Kings Production Shots
Meet Dan, the kind actor who willingly followed us down a damp mile-long tunnel with a camera, a change of clothes and a tripod. The Two Tunnels Greenway, located just outside Bath, were central to our mood board for this production. Pinned alongside it were abandoned rail tunnels, 90’s grunge icons with greasy hair, and the odd stained-glass window.
These images were born from a need to give the show a visual style that would allow us to play with androgynous costuming and a desire to present a tarnished, decaying version of the illustrious Catholicism depicted in Shakespeare’s Richard II.
Fall of Kings is a story about a King’s relationship with his god, about the nature of man’s relationship with the divine. For this reason we wanted to ground the world of Richard and his adversaries in the earth and the gritty, mortal world of medieval England – or one that resembles it anyway. We thought a dark, coarse setting would really exaggerate the divide between the heightened, heavenly world of God and the monarchy, and the human world.
The images that came from the Two Tunnels shoot are more industrial than that, but they capture the grime and the morally polluted feeling that runs beneath the surface of the play. Dan’s knowledge of the play helped. He understood the tone and character of the writing and was able to play on that with his movement and embodiment.
One of the requirements for the production shots was ambiguity. We didn’t know how our Richard would end up looking as a character, so it was important that the images reflected this mystery and didn’t give too much away. The gloomy setting was useful, making it easy with long exposure settings to blur parts of the image and imitate the atmosphere of the Tunnels.
Unfortunately we can’t perform in the Two Tunnels Greenway – too many cyclists! – but wherever we go we will hopefully be able to recreate the earthiness of these images, and make a show that is raw and powerful.
Let us know what you think on Twitter @ApricityTheatre or Facebook @apricitytheatrecompany!
Meet the Creatives
With this exciting new stage in Apricity’s development comes a growing team of creatives and collaborators joining us on our journey. A fresh new website seems then like the perfect opportunity for an introduction to those people whose hard work and wonderful brains will soon be decorating our blog with their ideas.
Hattie Taylor – Associate Artist
Hattie has recently joined Apricity as a Director and Dramaturg for our in-progress production of Grief. She is a director, writer and dramaturg, specialising in theatre for young people. Hattie studied a BA in Drama Studies at Bath Spa University, before carrying on with an MA in Theatre for Young Audiences.
Hattie has worked as an Assistant Director on Antigone for Theatre Royal Bath Theatre School, Assistant Writer for Under A Cardboard Sea at the Bristol Old Vic, and is currently working as Assistant Director for a group of young people from the TRB Theatre School on the egg 2017 Christmas show Aurora.
Her debut play, Went the Day Well?, inspired by the stories of soldiers commemorated on the St Saviour’s School war memorial in Bath, was recently performed at the egg theatre in association with the with TRB Creative Learning department.
Hattie’s writing is daring, and dark at times, drawing influence from Greek tragedy and Sarah Kane. Her involvement in Grief will guarantee a truly soulful story, with a bit of bite!
Charlotte Turner-McMullan – Director
Charlotte is Director and Co-founder of Apricity Theatre. She is an actor, writer and director, specialising in physical performance techniques and Shakespeare. After studying a BA in Drama Studies and Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, she stayed on for an MA in Performing Shakespeare, and has recently begun her PhD in gender and performance studies.
Charlotte has acted with various companies, including Beyond the Horizon and The Barded Ladies, who she directed Henry VI Part III for at the 2016 Bristol Shakespeare Festival. She worked as Assistant Director on the TRB Theatre School’s production of Enron, and on Thy Name is Woman with the TRB Engage programme and Screenology Film School.
Her academic study is focused on the performance on the monarch-God connection in Shakespeare’s history plays. Apricity’s 2018 production Fall of Kings will involve part of this research into gender performance, which aims to explore new ways of reading gender through action.
Kat Hipkiss – Associate Artist
Kat is the Managing Director of The Barded Ladies, an all-female theatre company that will be collaborating with Apricity on Fall of Kings in 2018. Kat is a PhD Researcher and Associate Lecturer at Bath Spa University. Her research focuses on the performance of mothers in Shakespeare’s history plays, making her the perfect collaborator for Fall of Kings!
Kat studied a BA in Drama Studies and English Literature at Bath Spa, where she stayed to do her MA in Performing Shakespeare, and now her PhD. She co-founded The Barded Ladies in 2014 alongside Alice Tripp, Sophie Cox and Giverny O’Brine. Since then she has directed and performed in various productions for The Barded Ladies, including A Midsummer Night’s Dream and their Five-woman Hamlet at Shakespeare’s Globe in 2016.
Apricity are excited to welcome Kat on board as Assistant Director for Fall of Kings, which brings with it the privilege of her expertise on traditional approaches to performing Shakespeare’s text, as well as her awesome creative power.
We hope that you are as excited about these upcoming projects as we are. We will be keeping you posted with regular updates, as well as inviting our new (and old) creatives to provide insights into our explorations and developments as we go along. Adventures are coming, watch this space.