After years of civil unrest between the royal Houses of York and Lancaster, the Yorkist Edward IV is undisputed king. His brother, Richard Duke of Gloucester, plots to seize the throne for himself, removing anybody in his path. Richard decides he needs a wife and sets out to woo Lady Anne, widow of Henry VI’s heir. Against all the odds he wins her and celebrates by having his brother Clarence covertly killed in the Tower.
On hearing of Clarence’s death, Edward IV is taken ill and dies. In his new role as Lord Protector, Richard has Edward’s heirs confined in the Tower, supposedly for safe-keeping and to await the coronation. Edward IV’s widow, Queen Elizabeth, mistrusts Richard and is proved right when he orders the execution of her brother Rivers and son (by her first marriage) Grey.
The Duke of Buckingham becomes Richard’s chief adviser and together they mastermind and manipulate Richard’s accession to the throne. Richard promises Buckingham an earldom for his help but refuses to grant it when Buckingham will not kill the princes held in the Tower. Richard finds other killers. Fearing for his safety, Buckingham flees to join the last Lancastrian heir Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond, who is leading an army from France against Richard.
Having willed the death of his wife Anne, Richard plans to marry Edward IV’s daughter (also Elizabeth, not seen in the play) in order to prevent Richmond from doing so and thereby strengthening his claim to the throne; Queen Elizabeth tricks him by pretending that she will assist him in this. Richmond and his followers arrive in England and the two armies’ camp close at Bosworth Field. The night before the battle, the Ghosts of his victims torment Richard in his dreams. The next day Richard is killed in battle and Richmond claims the crown as Henry VII. He announces he will marry Elizabeth of York and finally unite the two warring factions.
Opening night review
CHILLING TALE HAD AUDIENCE CAPTURED
In some ways it was a pity that last night was a perfect summer’s evening. With the birds trilling and the sun still warm, the backdrop on the Church Green in Much Wenlock was far too pleasant for this murderous tale. Glowering skies would have perhaps been more suited to a production of Richard III. But in fact it showeed just how powewrful is this production by the Shropshire Drama Company. Belief was indeed suspended for the dark forces in this blood-soaked tale of a villain king, portrayed so well by Peter Beechey.
Evil at full intensity hit us with his opening speech – “Now is the winter of our discontent…” could scarecly have been more chilling. This actor was Richard III as portrayed by Shakespeare. He caught the audience in the palm of his hand and had us utterley convinced. We wanted to know what this evil man was going to do next and, even when we laughed at the humour, we were expecting the twist of the “hunchback’s” knife as he dispatched the next body. Director Ken Allden has created a clever and fast-paced production and, while big brother Ludlow Festival is to open with a professional company, it will be hard to better our home-grown Richard III.