“O thou well skilled in curses, stay awhile,
And teach me how to curse mine enemies…”
In the midst of war, young Margaret of Anjou finds herself married off to the King of England, Henry VI. The ambitious new queen soon rises to power and prominence, but before long her country is plunged into fresh conflict: the bloody War of the Roses.
IN THE TOP 10 SHOWS OF THE YEAR on the “PLANES, TRAINS, AND PLANTAGENETS” BLOG:
I’m still so delighted and amazed that this little thoughtful piece of work could take a character and text I’m so familiar with and pick it up and shake it out and re-fold it and make me go “Oh! OHHHHHHHHH.”
Read Kerry’s original November review here.
Award-winning company By Jove take over Battersea’s Gallery on the Corner to tell the full story of Shakespeare’s infamous She-Wolf of France, drawing on the Henry VI trilogy and Richard III. Featuring an all-female cast in an intimate setting that combines live performance with installation art, Margaret’s cataclysmic rise and fall is By Jove’s contribution to a year of celebrations marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
1st-6th NOVEMBER 2016 @ the Gallery on the Corner
Adapted from Shakespeare’s Henry VI trilogy and Richard III, with new material by Wendy Haines and Alexander Woodward. Margaret of Anjou was originally developed by Elizabeth Schafer and Philippa Kelly.
Director David Bullen
Dramaturg Sara Reimers
Movement Director Susanna Dye
Assistant Movement Director Marcus Bell
Designer James Walker-Black
Producers Vanessa Szymanska (Press Contact) & Sinead Costelloe
Listen to the post-show discussion with the cast from Saturday 5th November, chaired by the project’s creator, Professor Elizabeth Schafer.
From left to right:
Gloucester / Warwick / Richard III SJ Brady
Suffolk / York / Duchess of York Ella Garland
Margaret Adi Lev
Henry VI / Edward IV / Elizabeth Woodville Siân Mayhall-Purvis
The company would like to thank Maureen & Douglas Dyer, Richard Wilson, and the Vic-Wells Association for their generous support for the production.
From the By Jove Blog – Shakespeare 400: the Year of the She-Wolf
2016 marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death. It may seem a little odd to commemorate the playwright’s death, but it has provided ample opportunity for pretty much every theatrical institution in the country to do something bard-oriented. This has meant a whole range of top quality events from the likes of the Royal Shakespeare Company and Shakespeare’s Globe. Even the BBC has been involved, with ex-Doctor Who show-runner Russell T. Davies riffing on A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a second season of the highly successful mini-series The Hollow Crown. The latter first appeared in 2012 (the last time Britain went bonkers for the bard during the cultural Olympiad) and presented glossy, big-budget versions of some the history plays, tracing the fortunes of the English crown from Richard II through to Henry V. This new season picks up with the reign of Henry V’s son – another Henry – and covers the tumultuous War of the Roses, ending with establishment of the Tudor dynasty that was in power when Shakespeare was writing.
The Hollow Crown draws on the texts of the three Henry VI plays as well as Richard III. Current mega-thesp, the Sherlockian soon-to-be superhero Benedict Cumberbatch, stars as the villainous Richard and as you can see in the trailer for the series, was much touted as the main event of the whole affair. According to executive producer Pippa Harris, the lure of Shakespeare’s “mis-shapen Dick” (the bard’s ACTUAL words, Henry VI Part 3 Act 5 Scene 5) was one of the reasons behind doing the second season: “By filming the ‘Henry VI’ plays as well as ‘Richard III,’ we will allow viewers to fully appreciate how such a monstrous tyrant could find his way to power, bringing even more weight and depth to this iconic character.” The goal was to add more weight and depth to Shakespeare’s villain – who, by the way, can currently be seen embodied by former Dark Lord Ralph Fiennes at the Almeida, where Rupert Goold has added weight and depth to Dickie by – spoiler alert! – having him sexually assault a woman.
There is, of course, someone else in the Henry VI-Richard III tetralogy that has significant weight and depth added to her by bringing the whole narrative together: Margaret of Anjou. Unlike Richard, Margaret is in all four plays; in fact, she appears in more of Shakespeare’s works than any other character, and has more lines than anyone else when put together. Many of them were gutted from The Hollow Crown, despite Sophie Okonedo’s tremendous performance. This is understandable, of course, when you consider that the project was focused on Richard – but it does also reveal something quite uncomfortable about Shakespeare and his legacy. The bard’s works as they stand are male-heavy, and while there are a few meaty roles for women, most are marginalised, disenfranchised, or come with some deeply sexist baggage. Margaret is the exception (one that proves the rule). She is “stern, obdurate, flinty, rough, remorseless”; she is a “tiger’s heart wrapped in a woman’s hide”; she is a flawed and ruthless political game-player whose rise and fall is as epic as any of Shakespeare’s men.
This was the conviction of Elizabeth Schafer, Professor of Drama and Theatre Studies at Royal Holloway University of London, and Philippa Kelly, dramaturg at the renowned California Shakespeare Theater, when they set out to put Margaret’s story together from start to finish. Essentially this was the same kind of dramaturgical project as undertaken by the BBC – but the crucial difference is that they sought to foreground a woman’s story, rather than one that has been heard and seen and read countless times. One of their goals was to prove that Shakespeare did, in fact, write a woman whose was an ‘Everest’ role on a par with the likes of Lear – you just have to look for it. They were keen to unearth and present the shrew that could not be tamed, the character Shakespeare seemed so interested in that he kept her alive in Richard III contrary to historical fact. Moreover, they found a character who is a consummate survivor. All the men who oppose her in the War of the Roses – Gloucester, York, Warwick, Edward IV, Richard III – are killed, but she goes on, leaving the stage with a quip: “these English woes will make me smile in France.”
Thanks to Schafer and Kelly, the year of Shakespeare 400 is rapidly becoming the year of Margaret. Theatre groups all over the world have responded to their call to counter the legions of Hamlets, Macbeths, and Richards with their woman-oriented play the bard didn’t even realise he had penned. It has become an act of resistance against an androcentric canon, a way of celebrating the rich artistic legacy left to us by Shakespeare without having to accept the often sub-standard position allotted to women within it. What’s more, it has become a means of pointing to the way culture post-Shakespeare has curated that legacy to further privilege his male characters – where we are willing to stage sexual violence against a woman to aid a man’s characterisation, but we aren’t able to see that when you put the Henry VI plays and Richard III together the overriding arc is obviously not about villainous old Dickie.
Schafer invited By Jove to be involved in the world premiere of the ‘good quarto’ (the long – and we mean long – version) of Margaret of Anjou at a staged reading on International Women’s Day back in March this year. Now By Jove will be the first in the UK to present a full staging of the project, using a version of the script put together by scholar and dramaturg Sara Reimers. Elsewhere, there have been readings near and far: in Catford and Egham in Britain, as well as Perth and Sydney in Australia, and Berkeley in California. You can keep up with them all on twitter – in a surprising turn, Margaret has got herself online, and is tweeting @MegAnjou.
Whatever way you engage with Shakespeare this year, whether it’s on the BBC or at the Gallery on the Corner in Battersea, one thing is certain: all over the world, the She-Wolf of France is howling.