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Best-selling historical author Philippa Gregory will make her playwrighting debut in 2024 with RICHARD, MY RICHARD – an innovative new stage play inspired by Shakespeare’s Richard III, that will bring to life one of history’s most twisted and enigmatic characters; a passionate, tender portrait of man in his time, surrounded by the women who determine his fate.
This world premiere, directed by Katie Posner, will launch at Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot 8 – 30 March, with a national press night on 12 March, and then play from 12 – 27 April at Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds.
With an explosion of tarmac Leicester City Car park erupts and Richard III crashes from his lost tomb to meet the character who has ruined his reputation: History – the record keeper who doesn’t always have his mind on the task.
Richard believes he has risen from the grave to heaven with an unstained conscience, and the awkward task falls to History (sorry History)- to tell the Undead King that all is not as he imagines.
As Richard challenges, History admits he has his own doubts. He is often revered as the bearer of truth. Yet, his perspective is skewed. History overlooks people and stories.
Funny, poignant, and underpinned by the facts of the past, Richard’s secrets may have died with him, here he rises up to tell us the story, his story, History.
Dr Philippa Gregory CBE is one of the world’s foremost historical novelists. She wrote her first ever novel, Wideacre, when she was completing her PhD in eighteenth-century literature and it sold worldwide, heralding a new era for historical fiction. Her flair for blending history and imagination developed into a signature style and Philippa went on to write many bestselling novels, including The Other Boleyn Girl and The White Queen. Now a recognised authority on women’s history, Philippa graduated from the University of Sussex and received a PhD from the University of Edinburgh, where she is a Regent and was made Alumna of the Year in 2009. She holds honorary degrees from Teesside University and the University of Sussex. She is a fellow of the Universities of Sussex and Cardiff and an honorary research fellow at Birkbeck University of London. In 2020 she was made a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for her services to literature and charity. Philippa is a member of the Society of Authors and in 2016, was presented with the Outstanding Contribution to Historical Fiction Award by the Historical Writers’ Association. In 2018, she was awarded an Honorary Platinum Award by Nielsen for achieving significant lifetime sales across her entire book output.
Philippa’s latest book, NORMAL WOMEN – 900 YEARS OF MAKING HISTORY, due to be published 26 October 2023 with HarperCollins, is a history of women in England over nine centuries, from the Norman invasion in 1066 to women’s ordination into the Church of England in 1994.
Philippa Gregory said, “I was inspired to write this play after having the privilege to attend the internment of Richard lll at Leicester. I wanted to write a play about the real Richard and the people – especially the influential women- around him. Then the most important character walked into the play – History – who in an absent-minded moment has given us such a dark picture of the king whose motto was loyalty and whose passion was chivalry.”
This producing partnership between Shakespeare North Playhouse – a replica Shakespearean Playhouse opened in 2022 – and Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds – the last working Regency theatre in England – showcases their shared ambition to stage great contemporary theatre in historic settings.
Laura Collier, Creative Director of Shakespeare North Playhouse said, “We’re thrilled to be co-producing the world premiere of Richard My Richard at Shakespeare North Playhouse. Phillipa Gregory’s gripping narrative fearlessly challenges the prevailing portrayal of Richard III as the worst of villains, a reputation unjustly tarnished by the Tudors, and famously echoed by William Shakespeare.
As a masterful and internationally renowned storyteller, Philippa’s foray into the realm of theatre brings to life a captivating narrative that unravels the enigmatic persona of Richard III.
At Shakespeare North Playhouse we strive to spark debate and be bold with our programming. Phillipa’s unique perspective challenges Shakespeare’s Richard III, questioning conventional beliefs, reinterpreting the car-park King’s story, and inviting audiences to question history’s reliability.
Co-producing with our friends from Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, we believe this play will captivate audiences and leave them with a deeper appreciation of the complexities of history. Richard My Richard promises an unforgettable experience that celebrates the power of storytelling and its ability to reshape the past.”
Owen Calvert-Lyons, Artistic Director of Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds said, “Philippa Gregory is an extraordinary writer. Generations of readers have discovered the history of our country through her writing and fans of Philippa’s novels are going to be just as excited by her first play. Philippa has a great skill in humanising historical characters, allowing us to understand their world and their choices. Now she is taking on one of history’s most notorious villains and inviting us to reassess what we know, or think we know about him. I’m delighted that we will be embarking on this adventure with Shakespeare North Playhouse. We will be transforming our auditorium ‘in the round’ with seating on the stage, providing audiences in Bury St Edmunds with a new theatre experience and making our two unique theatres the perfect settings for this brilliant new play.”
Richard, My Richard is produced by Shakespeare Playhouse North and Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds, in association with Daniel Schumann.