‘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

Fall of Kings Casting Announcement

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


Behind the Camera

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.


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