Skirmishes over, Trevor Nunn’s his epic three-parter of the Wars of the Roses has its official opening at Kingston’s Rose Theatre this week.
Four of Shakespeare’s plays – Henry VI Parts I, II & III and Richard III – have been adapted by John Barton, in collaboration with Peter Hall, for separate productions Henry VI, Edward IV and Richard III.
The Rose stage has been transformed into a battleground for The Wars of the Roses which plays in rep until October 31.
In the first play, Henry V, the ‘star of England’ after triumphant conquests in France, is dead. His heir is an infant, whose throne must be protected by regents against the counterclaims of the most powerful baronial families in the country – the House of York, whose symbol is a white rose, and the House of Lancaster, represented by a red rose.
So begins a saga of violence and intrigue, of political and sexual deception, as the protagonists compete for both the English and French crowns – competitors in what has been described as Shakespeare’s game of thrones.
The second play, adapted from Shakespeare’s Henry VI Parts II and III, intensifies the conflict between all those grasping for power.
The climax comes in Richard III. The ruthlessly ambitious Richard murders and betrays his way to power. The ghosts that haunt the King before the final decisive Battle of Bosworth Field are all the leading characters of this epic story, returning for their final utterances.
This spectacular theatrical event has not been seen since it was first produced at the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1963 by the founders of the company, John Barton and Peter Hall.
The Wars of the Roses is a trilogy about one of the most tumultuous and intriguing periods of British history – the 15th Century conflict between the House of York and the House of Lancaster – for the throne of England.
Through the plays Shakespeare examines the very essence of human conflict. A tale of feuding families, murderous kings and adulterous queens, of scheming and betrayal, revolts and battles, The Wars of the Roses chronicles the final struggle for power in medieval England.
The all-star company, who appear in all three plays, are Oscar Batterham,Freddy Carter, Kåre Conradi, Oliver Cotton, Jim Creighton, Imogen Daines, Harry Egan, Alexandra Gilbreath, Alexander Hanson, Rufus Hound, James de Lauch Hay, Geoff Leesley, Owen Oakeshott, Joely Richardson, Robert Sheehan, James Simmons, Laurence Spellman, Susan Tracy, Alex Waldmann, Timothy Walker, Andrew Woodall and Michael Xavier.
The professional actors are accompanied by an ensemble of local community players. It is the largest company to play the Rose’s stage since the theatre opened.
To complement the season, there is an exhibition of the artist John Link’s work relating to Shakespeare’s characters and plays.