King Richard III: Timed-play retells legend

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Trisha Black, Robin Holcomb and Mark Powell appear in the staged production Richard & the Lionheart

Richard III’s claim to the throne of England in Shakespeare’s play, and his later triumphant invasion of France in her famed 1453 crusade are playing out in a very modern fashion in the UK.

In a staged production on the north bank of the Thames at London’s Oval Cafe, an actor named King Richard is played by 48-year-old Robin Holcomb.

King Richard is a prime mover behind The Lionheart of England, a group promoted by his friend Edward IV of England who conquered France and conquered England, during the 1454-55 French invasion.

But the real Richard III is of course a historical figure and did not lead The Lionheart.

Robin has created a complex character who appears to be the young and growing leader of a white-haired King Edward in 1604.

The Parisian playhouses of that era featured an acting troupe who claimed to have made their living portraying archetypes from history – and that has certainly been the case for his character Richard III.

This production has also had an accompanying web series called The Lionheart of England – available on YouTube.

“In the documentary I try to kind of humanise a tough, cold, man who still retained his compassion,” says Mr Holcomb.

“He was an amazing military leader – so bloody crazy.

“But he was an amazing humanitarian – and that’s what I tried to portray in the documentary as well.”

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Robin Holcomb is the youngest actor to appear in the production

In his eight roles on stage and on screen the youngest actor to appear has played “Peter Pan”, a king called Augustus II, and the character “Henderson” who appears in the musical Matilda in the West End.

But playing King Richard also makes him the youngest ever to play a king on stage in London.

“I’m going to go crazy now!” says Mr Holcomb, smiling broadly.

“This has been a massive challenge.

“I had to learn all the lines before filming the show, and it took me a lot of effort to do that.

“It’s something I’ve never been able to do before, so I tried to understand it as well as I could.”

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Billy Wallace, 47, plays an elder Edward in the recreation of Richard III’s conquest of France in the 1454-55 French invasion

“I get to play all these characters – Edward IV, Henry II, Richard III – and every time I come to a stage it’s the same journey,” says 38-year-old Billy Wallace who plays a young Edward IV of England.

“You get to relive that magic as well and with a great group of people who don’t let you miss a detail.

“You would think it’s easy – but it’s not.”

In the Oval Cafe the back wall is covered with French wartime posters from the 1605 Battle of the Dukes – the final battle of the French invasion which the LTCLEN seem to relish.

“That was kind of when France and England really started to have an identity,” says 43-year-old actor Mark Powell.

“English kings had had all these statues of them in France… so to be able to bring them back home… it has a lot of historical context.

“As well as the play, the documentary and the series, it just added to it.”

Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Carl McWilliams created the director of the production

It was actor Carl McWilliams who put together the production.

“I’ve done several before but none with such an eye on history,” he says.

“I found the drama in between the stereotypes and these days I find myself cast in multiple roles, and when I do they are all different.

“So it’s been a lot of fun.”

And the final showdown, viewed in 1810 by Professor Edward Thorndyke in London’s Natural History Museum, remains the most iconic image of the 1454-55 French invasion of England.

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