There couldn’t be a more evocative, beautiful or provocative place to mount a production of Shakespeare’s Richard III than amidst the ruins of Middleham Castle, the North Yorkshire castle where the real Richard III grew up and made his marital home.
At the invitation of English Heritage, Silents Now revived their performed screening of the Frank Benson Richard III film in the ruined Great Hall of Middleham Castle. Playing across Bank Holiday weekend in August 2014, the Middleham Castle show featured the early silent film of celebrated classical actor Frank Benson performing his grim, vigorous, funny and self-consciously wicked Richard on stage in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1910.
A cast of professional actors live-voiced the film, bringing it back into the space of modern audiences. John Sweeney provided live musical accompaniment working in carefully choreographed collaboration with the actor voices. In a post-show Q&A, audience members asked actors and experts about Richard, Middleham, Shakespeare and silent film.
Inviting History’s Richard and Shakespeare’s Richard to cohabit in such evocative space for the weekend was not without its historical delicacies. The film certainly played quite differently in this historically invested space than it had done in York Theatre Royal the year before and it was tempting to imagine a few antagonistic ghosts ricocheting around the stones of the old castle as a result of this provocative, but interesting, co-habitation.