Fall of the House of Plantagenets, Rise of the Tudors
Last Leaf Productions opened their summer Shakespeare in the Park season with a wonderful production of The tragedy of Richard III. During Elizabethan times, Shakespeare’s play Richard III, was a piece of the propaganda. The “party line” was an attempt to legitimize the Tudor dynasty and stabilize England after the dynastic clashes known as the War of the Roses. Historically King Richard III was the last of the Plantagenet dynasty and the last member of the House of York, defeated by the champion of the House of Lancaster, Henry Tudor-later Henry VII, father of Henry VIII.
The play Richard III recounts how Richard usurped the throne from his brothers and nephews, but was later killed at the Battle of Bosworth’s Field, in 1485, by Henry’s forces resulting in a semblance of dynastic stability and ending the Middle Ages. Since Henry Tudor had virtually no claim to the throne, Shakespeare, as well as the other leading intellectuals during the Tudor dynasty, portrayed Richard III as a totally ruthless piece of work. In reality, he was probably only a little worse than everybody else during those turbulent times.
Although knowledge of the historical context is helpful when watching this play, when it is stripped of the historical context, it is simply a marvelous portrait of an individual, with no moral compass, who is so driven by ambition, that he spectacularly brings about his own grizzly destruction.
Last Leaf’s Production was blessedly short, without sacrificing any of the necessary plot points, with solid performances and direction. Generally the history plays are a little too tedious for Shakespeare in the Park, but because of the shortened length, and solid performances-all the actors were audible-the audience was enthralled.
Jay Rairigh as the Duke of Gloucester-later Richard III put in an impressive performance and epitomized the tragic hero, he portrayed Richard as a man of great gifts, intelligent, charming and witty, but whose tragic flaw ultimately leads to his own demise.
However, Stephanie Hagarty Moran, the director, should avail herself of the spoken online dictionaries for the correct pronunciation of some of the English place names. There is no reason why anyone should use a 21st Century RP British Pronunciation for Shakespeare but to pronounce Hereford to rhyme with “her” instead of “hair” really stuck out.
I would recommend this Shakespeare in the Park to everyone but particularly to parents who would like to introduce their children to Shakespeare-there is plenty of drama, sex, and something like rock and roll. It is entertaining.!!!! ( no drugs or alcohol)
Richard III. Shakespeare in the Park. Last Leaf Productions. For a schedule: lastleaf99.org