A History of Shakespeare at Richmond Theatre
By Mary Pollard
Shakespeare is a very familiar figure at Richmond. He and his work have a long connection with the town and with the theatre.
It is known that Shakespeare and a company of actors
performed at Richmond Palace for Queen Elizabeth and the Court on
several occasions. The last time was in
February 1603 just before the death of Queen Elizabeth the following month.
In 1765 a new theatre opened on the far corner of Richmond Green, with a prologue especially written by David Garrick. Numerous productions of Shakespeare's plays were to be performed here. Mrs Jordan was in the audience on 8 September 1793, when Charles Matthews the elder made his debut. He had paid the management seven guineas for the privilege of playing the Earl of Richmond in Richard III. In order to get his money's worth he made the fight scene last for one hour. The audience laughed and shouted and a fellow in the gallery taking everything for real shouted 'Hang it! Why don't he shoot him?'
There was a production of Hamlet there in 1787 when an inexperienced actor playing the title role was so overcome with nerves that on the second night he could not go on. However the play did, without anyone playing the lead!
1995 saw Macbeth starring the amazing Mark Rylance and Jane Horrocks, and the following year father and son Timothy and Sam West starred in Henry IV parts I and II.
Derek Jacobi returned to Richmond Theatre to play an incredibly moving King Lear in 2011, a performance which sold out every seat in the house for a week! King Lear returns to our stage on May 9 this year, with four-time Olivier Award nominated Michael Pennington playing the lead role. His performance is guaranteed to break your heart.
King Lear is at Richmond Theatre from Monday 9th - Saturday 14th May. There will be an exclusive post show Q&A with Michael Pennington on Thursday 12 May.