Trevor Nunn returns to the Rose to direct Jamie Ballard as King John, Howard Charles as Philip the Bastard, Lisa Dillon as Constance and Maggie Steed as Queen Eleanor.
Richard the Lionheart is dead. His youngest brother John has become King of England despite claims from the French that the throne should go to his nephew, Prince Arthur. As war is declared between England and France an inheritance dispute is brought before the King by Richard’s illegitimate son, Philip the Bastard.
With scheming, ruthless politics and some of Shakespeare’s most striking characters – this is a classic that feels contemporary in its strong parallels to modern day Britain. A unique opportunity to see this rarely performed history play brought to life on the stage.
Q&A with Maggie Steed:
You are in the cast of King John at The Rose Theatre playing the role of Queen Eleanor. Which aspects of her character have you looked to focus on in your portrayal?
Eleanor of Aquitaine was a very strong, extraordinary woman of her times. Powerful, educated and rich. Also a very political animal. She was very cultured and witty. I have tried to look for moments in the play that might bring that across and fortunately Shakespeare has written her like this.
How does Queen Eleanor fit into the storyline?
Queen Eleanor is the mother of John and had ruled England whilst her first son Richard was away at the Crusades. In this play she is a strong influence on John and stands behind him to educate and support him. When she dies he sort of falls apart.
How much of a challenge is it to wear royal clothes during a production?
None, except you have to remember not to fall over your train! I think the crown does give me spots on my forehead!
What can you tell us about the story of King John?
King John was a weak, though clever, man not suited to be king. He succeeded to the crown and fought many battles to hold onto it – mostly against France who supported his nephew Arthur who also claimed the throne. The play deals with these times and the corrupt power of the church.
What makes this a must-see production?
It is full of good actors, the language is fantastic – and it is mainly interesting because Shakespeare shows the political waywardness of the times and such waywardness is still relevant today.
Maggie Smith: Theatre credits include Richard III (Trafalgar Studios), Birthday Party (Royal Exchange Theatre),Trelawney of the Wells (Donmar Warehouse), School for Scandal Uncle Vanya, Waltz of the Toreadors (Chichester Festival Theatre), The Belle’s Stratagem (Southwark Playhouse), 24 Hour Plays / Big Bird (The Old Vic), Hayfever (West Yorkshire Playhouse), The History Boys(National Theatre/Tour), The Heiress (National Theatre/Tour), The Storm (Almeida Theatre), Cloud Nine, Women Beware Women (Royal Court), Small Change, Whale, Game of Love & Chance (National Theatre), The War Plays, Crimes in Hot Countries, The Comedy of Errors, Hamlet and Much Ado About Nothing (RSC). Television credits include Chewing Gum, Stella, 32 Brinkburn Street, Whites, My Family,Larkrise to Candleford, Coco Chanel, Jam & Jerusalem, Sensitive Skin, French & Saunders, Meat Extract, Let Them Eat Cake, French & Saunders, Inspector Morse, Pie in the Sky, Martin Chuzzlewit, The Scott Enquiry, Shine on Harvey Moon, The History Man, Clapperclaw, Brideshead Revisited, Hard Cases, All Change, Blood Rights, Lovejoy, Gravy Train, Growing Rich, Little Richard Wrecked my Marriage and Red Dwarf.
The production marks Shakespeare’s 400th anniversary and is the penultimate play in Nunn’s undertaking to direct all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays. King John opened on 18th May at the Rose Theatre Kingston, playing until 5th June 2016.
The cast is completed by Ignatius Anthony (Austria/Bigot), Joe Bannister (Lewis The Dauphin), Burt Caesar (Pandolph), Tom Chapman (Robert Faulconbridge/Prince Henry), Elisabeth Hopper (Blanche), Stephen Kennedy (Hubert), Dominic Mafham (Salisbury), Chris Andrew Mellon (Citizen), Dale Rapley (Philip Of France) Miles Richardson (Pembroke), Carmen Rodriguez (Lady Faulconbridge), David Shelley (Chatillion/ Melun), Jon Tarcy (Messenger/Monk), Harry Marcus and Sebastian Croft (Prince Arthur).