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RichardRocks a Rock Opera Based on Shakespeare’s Most Infamous Villain

RichardRocksThey buried him in Leicester… but in London, Richard Rocks!
Viper Island Production in collaboration with From Sweden Productions present the World Premiere of a major new rock opera RICHARDROCKS

King Richard III was at last laid to rest this month with a suitable majestic ceremony in Leicester Cathedral. But England’s last Plantagenet king will be brought vividly back to life later this year with the world premiere in London of a major new Swedish rock opera, RichardRocks.

Having cutting edge lighting, sound design, video and computer animation, RichardRocks will open for a five-week season from October 3rd in the 770-seat Great Hall of The People’s Palace, a superb Art Deco theatre in the East End.

RichardRocks, with 35 original songs and a cast of 28, has been inspired by both Shakespeare’s Richard III and by Al Pacino’s 1996 film, Looking for Richard. It has music by Peter Robsahm, book and lyrics by Maria Robsahm, and is directed by Staffan Aspegren. It is produced by Viper Island Production in collaboration with London-based producer and promoter, From Sweden Productions.

Swedish musical theatre star Fred Johanson will play Richard III. The rest of the roles will be cast in London. “Don’t expect this Richard to be a hunchback with a bad haircut,” warns writer Maria Robsahm. “Our Richard is a manipulative Machiavellian prince – a modern psychopath. Externally he is charismatic, handsome and witty. It’s inside – morally and psychologically – that he’s distorted. He knows how to get what he wants, whatever the cost. He sees the people around him either as a means to an end or as obstacles to be removed.

Composer Peter Robsahm added: “The story of Richard III has often been reduced to a one-man-show portraying evil. And no doubt the question of evil is very interesting. But how does it feel to be a boy of 13 suddenly becoming king? And how does it feel to be a mother and realise your son has done horrible things? I was also interested in the people around Richard. RichardRocks is something out of the ordinary – both artistically and technologically. The show’s music combines heavy rock with beautiful harmonies of a more classical cut. The flavours in my music range from German metal band Rammstein, Deep Purple, the Kinks and Eminem to Beethoven, Tchaikovsky and Elgar.”

Fred Johansson
Fred Johansson (Richard III)

Fred Johanson (Richard III)
Fred Johanson has starred in several major musicals in both his native Sweden and London’s West End. He played Peron in Evita, Javert in Les Miserables, Max in Sunset Boulevard, Old Deuteronomy in Cats, Reverend Shaw in Footloose, The Beast in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Louis B. Meyer in Garbo and Frollo in Notre Dame de Paris. He played Pontius Pilate in Jesus Christ Superstar both on stage and in the British-made film version in 2000 that went on to win an Emmy Award. As a soloist he has performed at the Royal Albert Hall, the Berwaldhallen

Concert Hall and the Stockholm Concert Hall. He has released two solo albums and reached number 1 on the Australian charts with the group Scandal’us, achieving double platinum status. He has also written songs for ABBA’s Annifrid Lyngstad.

Peter Robsahm (Composer)
As a member of his own rock band, Robb & Friends, from 1978 to 1984, Peter Robsham wrote and staged Childhood Gardens, a multi-media themed concert combining dance, art and poetry. In 1993-4 he went on to write and star (as Quasimodo) in his first musical, Notre Dame, which was staged in the Swedish cities of Skövde and Jönköping. From 1997 to 1999 he was a member of the Swedish National Theatre’s regional board and has also been active as a concert promoter and as a reporter for the music magazine Showtime. He was originally inspired to create a rock opera based on Shakespeare’s play Richard III when he saw Al Pacino’s film Looking for Richard in 1997; RichardRocks germinated over a number of years and its completion coincided with the discovery of the remains of the real King Richard III in Leicester in 2012.

Maria Robsahm (Book, Lyrics, Conceptual Director)
An award-winning journalist and author, Maria Robsahm spent a number of years as a respected news reporter and news anchor for the Swedish national broadcasting companies TV4 and SVT. She was also on the editorial team of Dagens Nyheter, the leading daily newspaper in Sweden, and a writer for the monthly magazine Moderna Tider, receiving the Great Journalist Award (Stora Journalistpriset) in 1996. She has written two books and also made several acclaimed documentaries for Swedish TV, including a trilogy about the 1994 sinking of the cruise ferry Estonia. From 2004 to 2009 she was a Member of the European Parliament (MEP). RichardRocks marks her debut as a lyricist.

Staffan Aspegren (Director)
Staffan Aspegren is one of Scandinavia’s leading directors of musicals and opera. In 1994 he directed the inaugural performance at the Göteborg Opera House, which was broadcast live on Swedish National Television, and his subsequent productions at the house have included Madama Butterfly, Macbeth, Die Fledermaus, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, A Chorus Line and Kiss Me Kate. He has worked at every opera house in Sweden and at a number of others around the world, directing Sweeney Todd at the Finnish National Opera in Helsinki, La traviata at the Danish Øresund Opera, West Side Story at the Teatro dell’Opera in Rome and Dvořák’s Rusalka and Massenet’s Werther at Cape Town Opera in South Africa. Among the many theatrical productions he has directed are Tosca, Chess, Cats, Aspects of Love, Eugene Onegin, The Snow Queen, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Amadeus and Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Helena Hvistendahl Philipson (Choreographer)
Helena Hvistendahl Philipson has choreographed numerous musicals including Oliver, Fame, The Wizard of Oz, Annie, Snow White, Robin the Robber’s Daughter, Pippi Longstocking, When the Robbers Came to Cardamom Town, Peter Pan and Cinderella – and the operetta The Czardas Princess.

The People’s Palace
Part of Queen Mary University of London in Mile End Road, E1, The People’s Palace opened in 1887 and boasts a remarkable history. Seen as the answer to arts, culture and education in poverty-stricken 19th century East London, it held everything from art exhibitions to tea dances and lectures and featured a swimming pool and indoor garden. Almost half a century later, a fire destroyed the venue and its Great Hall. The People’s Palace was reborn in 1936, and the art-deco facade that can be seen today, was a striking addition. The venue has recently been refurbished at a cost of £6million, including renovation of The Great Hall to match its 1930s décor and the exciting restoration of its original 1936 Spurden-Rutt organ. Up-to-date technology in sound, lighting and ventilation has been installed, along with a new and extended foyer.

Viper Island Production
Viper Island Production AB, based in Hjo, Sweden, was formed in 2013 by composer Peter Robsahm and librettist Maria Robsahm as a production company for producing and managing their own creative activities. RichardRocks is their debut production.

From Sweden Productions
Creative, dynamic and innovative, London-based From Sweden Productions is a leading promoter of classical music and the performing arts. The company specialises in the management of events with a Swedish connection, including international festivals, concerts, and musical theatre, and also offers consultancy services covering fundraising strategy, branding, PR and marketing. From Sweden Productions was founded in London in 2009 by Swedish producer Sofie Haag, who had been inspired by the From-Sweden Festival, which took place in London in 2004/05 and explored the musical common ground between Sweden and Britain. In March 2015, From Sweden Productions received the AI Business Excellence Award 2015 for Performing Arts Promotion in the UK.

The People’s Palace
Queen Mary, University of London
Mile End Road
London E1 4NS

Saturday 3 October – Saturday 7 November
Press night: Wednesday 7 October at 7.30pm

Tuesday – Saturday at 7.30pm
Sunday at 5.00pm
Matinee Saturday at 2.30pm
No performance 9 – 11 October
Tickets: www.richardrocks.com

Tuesday 31st March 2015


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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